Overcoming energy drainers

Low energy levels, caused by internal and external factors can have a negative impact on multiple levels and can leave us demotivated and frustrated. Although most of the time we can control our energy supply, we often continue with our habits that leave us drained rather than being focused on energy boosting activities. Some of the most common energy drainers include:

1. Multi-tasking

Contrary to a popular belief, multi-tasking is not an effective way to get things done. A study found that people suffer from something like a writer’s block each time they switch from one activity to another, requiring them to take time to “reset” their minds. The more complex the task being switched to or from, the higher the time cost involved in switching. Even very brief distractions add up. An effective way to overcome this issue is to stop doing activities that don’t generate a return on investment for results, estimate how long it will take to accomplish an activity and block dedicated periods of time for it in your calendar and train yourself to focus on the task at hand during time-blocked periods.

2. Lack of clear goals and conflicting priorities

A lot of work gets done without the benefit of clearly defined goals and objectives. But, without clarity, it is difficult to know whether the right work is getting done and without a clear focus on goals and objectives priorities easily conflict. To get more focus, list your goals and objectives as you understand them and highlight conflicts among them. Then make yourself reminders – post your business and personal goals and objectives in a place where you can see them, or choose representative artwork or other objects to place in your office space as a reminder.

3. Over commitment

People over commit for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to disappoint others by saying no; they feel they have no choice but to commit; they have an unrealistic idea of current commitments or of what is involved in the new commitment– to name a few. Being overcommitted can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling; rather, it communicates that you are responsible and take your commitments seriously. Avoid the automatic yes when asked to make another commitment. State that you need to check your other commitments and time frames before you can give an answer. Before committing to anything, be sure you have a realistic and detailed idea of what the commitment entails. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

4. Distractions

We are constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions in the workplace. Think of these events as forcing the mind into a multi-tasking mode, with each event either preventing or breaking concentration. The result is time lost to constant task switching. To eliminate distractions, find a quiet place to work on projects that require concentration, set aside specific time periods for specific activities, and discourage interruptions and save e-mail and voicemail checking for the transition time between other tasks.

5. Lack of Organisation

“Everything in its place and a place for everything” is a good energy-boosting adage. For some people, organisation means files, drawers, cubbies, neat stacks or no stacks at all, and a complete lack of clutter. For others, organisation simply means knowing where to look and being able to find what they need right away – for them a neat desk is alien. The point of organisation is not to fit someone else’s definition of “organised,” but to have what you need in an easily accessible place. Recognise that disorganisation is an energy drain and organise yourself in a way that makes sense to you.

6. Lack of reflection time

Failing to reflect is a vicious cycle that leads to less time for reflection, because without reflection time, it is difficult to know whether one is working on the right activities; it may even be difficult to have a clear idea of what one’s goals and objectives really are. A lack of time to reflect, refresh, and rest can also lead to stress and work overload. Use an existing activity such as regular workouts, walks, gardening, or another hobby as an opportunity for reflection or find a coach or mentor. This doesn’t have to be someone you hire; it could be a manager, colleague, or friend outside work. Set aside specific time periodically to reflect on your work, self, long-term goals and objectives, and so on.

7. Sense of meaninglessness

An important source of energy for many is the pursuit of meaningful goals and objectives. As we become busier and busier, however, it is easy for meaningful goals to be displaced by urgent things. The longer this goes on, the more stress one feels. To re-establish your goals, build fun activities into your schedule. Set long-term personal goals, but don’t become imprisoned by them. Put them in a prominent place – they will become implicit priority-setters and create a standing, flexible weekly schedule in terms of categories of activities: job, chores, exercise, family, unstructured relaxation, and so on.

8. Perfectionism

The drive for perfection can be very draining. Perfection is an indefinable and unobtainable goal that while it can increase the quality of one’s output, also increases workload. Establish objective quality measures; ask others to help you define “good enough” and identify the point of diminishing returns – that point when you stop adding measurable value by continuing to work on something. Before you “make it better,” ask yourself whether a person whose opinion you respect would notice a meaningful qualitative difference if you invest more time and effort.