Why energy matters
The amount of energy you have at the start and end of your day determines a lot.
How creative are you going to be?
Your motivation. Are you going to go to the gym? Are you going to stay focused during the meeting? How productive are you going to be?
Your mood. Are you going to be cheerful and open? Are you going to listen, or are you going to react? How patient are you going to be in your interactions with co-workers and family How patient and kind are you going to be with yourself, when things are not going to plan?
Your willpower. Are you going to reach for that piece of candy?
While the goal can be to always do your best, that varies each day. And it is also affected by the previous task(s). If you did something mentally draining, the next task might see your "best" drop. Especially if that is another task that requires a lot out of you.
Your morning ritual
Some days, you wake up not feeling that motivated.
Some days, you jump out of bed and are ready to go.
Almost all days, you have work that needs completion. I am not referring only to "office work" but anything that needs your time, energy, and attention.
A morning ritual goes a long way in getting you settled and finding your groove, especially on those days when motivation is low. In a workout, the warmup serves the same function. Not only does it warm up your muscles and gets your joints moving, it is diagnostic for you to figure out what kinda day you are having.
Based on the information and feedback, you can decide if today's the kinda day to attempt to lift heavy, or punch the clock and go home.
Likewise, certain low-energy days might not be the best time to work on something important. Remember, important things should be scheduled well in advance and given a bigger window to work. And more often than not, a ritual plus the advance notice has allowed your brain to work on it already. On rare occasions, you might not be ready. If you have a high fever, not the day to be pushing yourself.
Of course, it is not straightforward. How do you know the difference between being lazy and being kind? Well, this is amongst the hardest questions for me.
How do you know if you need to sit at the task until the task is done versus taking a break?
Coming back to the heuristic of "Am I doing my best?", coupled with "Am I being kind to myself?" has been something I have spent the better part of last year working on.
My big goal is self-kindness.
And some days, the best thing I could be doing is taking the day off. Choosing NOT to work on the work scheduled for that day.
When I started working with my therapist, one of the concerns I raised about my style of work was the self-criticism involved. But I was also reluctant to shelve it. If I didn't occasionally wield the whip, what would stop me from vegetating on the couch all day?!?! This blog post is NOT going to edit and publish on a Sunday morning, is it?!?
Well, funnily, it does (barring unexpected emergencies like last weekend.)
Numerous examples have shown me that I am not going to run away. I am not going to vegetate on the couch for the rest of the week. I will show up to my scheduled meetings and complete the work I've committed to. This means it is a good idea to shelve the irrational and unkind thoughts associated with not feeling great.
How many quality reps can you do? In life and in training, you need to do the work and you need to do your best all the time. Junk reps do not do anything useful. Junk reps do not produce forward motion.
When I choose to skip a (work) rep, that counts as a self-kindness rep. Why - I am listening to my body, to my energy, to my emotions. And giving myself permission to stop.
Previously, it would be associated with guilt. Or self-criticism. Or all of the above. While completing the task. Thus, I have often completed the work but nowhere close to my best. Coupled with not feeling good at the end of it, mentally.
Being aware = a better me
Paying attention to my body and my energy has been useful for me - in the quality of work, and in the quality of my interactions with friends and family.
For example, being aware of my grumpiness after a draining work. Previously, I would be in a bad mood and it would be impossible to pull words from my mouth. But a combination of awareness and having an evening ritual has made all the difference.
I've found one or more of the following to get me out of my funk when I have days like these.
- Breathing drills.
- OS Resets.
- A 45-minute stretching session.
- And of course, the occasional evening of being a sloth.
Honestly, the last one is the least impactful. The other methods leave me better off than where I started. While my energy levels might not be replenished, the bad effects of the energy drain are removed. And I find myself in a much better frame of mind. I might still not be ready to head out and hang out with friends but I am not a grumpy goose anymore.
Understanding my energy levels, paying attention it, and then setting my "best" for the day has made a big difference. It has led to the larger goal of self-kindness be more effective. Instead of having an absolute mark for my best, understanding that it is relative has made it possible to be okay with different levels of output.
What about you? Is this something that bothers you at all? Or if not, you have a natural way of solving this. Can you dig deeper to look at how you do. I, for one, would love to hear about it.