Blog Post No. 48
1st May 2017
Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017
Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A star technique for saving your energy: Wiping the slate clean each day
Every day we all are involved in the business of energy management, (physical and mental) whether we are aware of it or not, as we juggle different tasks, time pressures and negotiating with other people. We are all expected to engage in ‘multi-tasking’, which is actually virtually impossible, but the pressure of life is certainly intense.
So how, in such a demanding environment, do we manage our energy successfully? So that we optimise our productivity, but conserve our energy and protect our physical and mental health.
What I know is that if we don’t manage our energy carefully, we become the victim of burnout and stress, and unhappiness and ill health, and who wants that?
One successful energy-management strategy
Here is a great suggestion from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.
“This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterday”.
When I was a tutor in a college, I had a variety of challenges to face every day in my job, just like everyone else has to face in their jobs. I needed a very high energy level to keep going in the face of the challenges at work, and to adapt and adjust to the needs of the different learners I worked with.
To preserve my energy, so that I could face the following day’s work feeling refreshed, I developed a strategy that served me well for a long time and I want to pass it on to you.
Each day, at the end of the final teaching session, I would wipe the whiteboard clean of all the information that was on it, and I would remember all the outstanding events of the day, good and bad, and wipe them away in my mind at the same time.
I wiped away my hopes for successfully getting information across to people, and disappointments and mistakes.
This left my mind, and the whiteboard, empty and this action created a calm, white, clear mental space on which I could start anew, again, the following day. After all, I couldn’t change what I had done (or hadn’t managed to do). I could only learn from my experience.
I call this my ‘blank slate’ technique.
The other aspect of this approach was this: I was asserting my boundaries with my job. In other words, I was taking responsibility for managing upwards. I was not allowing myself to develop ‘leaky boundaries’ through which outside forces could use up my precious reserves of energy!
The ‘Blank slate’ technique is a very powerful, effective visualisation process. It requires effort, determination and insistence that ‘it’s over!’ But it works only if you work it!
Quality recovery time
Once we have finished work, (if we want to return to our work the following day with strength and vigour), we are then into ‘Quality recovery time’.
Some years ago I found this idea was used by Olympic athletes. After they had been working on the skills they wanted to develop, then they needed time to rest and recover. The human body needs proper recovery for sustained and improved performance, for development, and even for preventing injuries.
For those athletes, the athletic skills practice time and the recovery time were a partnership – they were absolutely intertwined, if you wanted to become really accomplished in what you were doing. Their conviction was that, if you neglected your recovery time, your ability to sustain high levels of energy to achieve your goals would quickly run out.
Part of quality recovery time is mentally and physically completing the day’s work, whether paid or unpaid, and then moving into regeneration of our energy: getting the most nutritious food we can afford; having a decent night’s sleep; having a mental break; spending time with our loved ones; and generally recharging our batteries.
Boundaries between work and quality recovery time are essential, and people can be very vulnerable if they don’t create boundaries. Their employers will not do it for them: I recently read of an American estate agency that has moved into London, and insists that its staff answer their mobile phones in the middle of the night, if a client wanted to speak to them or make an enquiry about a house purchase.
The agency is proud of their customer service! What about the mental and physical health of their employees? This is arrant exploitation of people’s need for a job.
Far from being a good form of work/life balance, this employer is only interested in work/work imbalance.
If you want to have a good quality of life; to have real work/life balance; and to preserve your physical and mental health in the process, then there is no alternative but to create our own boundaries between work and recovery time. This is also necessary if you want to be creative and productive in your work time!
Thinking back to my ‘blank slate’ (or ‘blank whiteboard’ technique), if you learn to use this technique at the end of each day, this will ensure that you don’t leak lots of energy away when you need to be into quality recovery time.
What you need to create is some physical representation that the end of the day’s work has arrived (like my cleaning of the white board). An example would be creating a clear desk; or unplugging a piece of equipment; or putting your diary in a locked drawer; etc.
There is a lawyer in a novel by Charles Dickens who, when he got home after a day’s work, would spend a long time washing his hands, getting rid of the accumulations of the day’s work from his body and, symbolically, from his mind.
Reflection and leaky boundaries
Reflecting at regular intervals on how happy you are with your work/life balance will give you valuable clues as to whether you are managing your life energies in the best way for you.
If you are aware of leaky boundaries in your life, and are giving your energies away to others, (without your full consent), then you could consider the strengthening skills of assertiveness and negotiation.
Strengthening these skills will make you happier and more confident as you manage your life in the face of pressures from others (and pressure from your own Inner Critic).
Contact me if you want to learn some very useful techniques for managing your energy for better work/life balance; for increased creativity and productivity.
Telephone: 01422 843 629