Are you feeling burned out these days? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day to get everything done that you need to. While we’re often encouraged to get more done We all have the same amount of time in a day, but we don’t all have the same amount of energy.
Even though it’s now springtime and the weather is getting nicer every day, lots of people are still dealing with serious burnout. The past two years of the pandemic have shifted our lives in a major way, and our responsibilities haven’t always caught up.
Many of us are trying to deal with pre-pandemic expectations for ourselves and others, and those expectations are setting us up for disappointment. Two years of chronic stress and trauma adds up and can result in feeling burned out.
What is burnout?
According to HelpGuide, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”
What is energy management?
We all have energy. There are even different types of energy that we all have: mental, physical, and emotional. Your energy levels may vary based on what’s going on in your life. We don’t always have the same amount of energy or the same type of energy as someone else though. Your energy levels can vary based on a lot of factors.
For example, you might be physically very tired after a day of spring gardening, but you might have a ton of mental energy since pulling weeds doesn’t take a ton of thought. You might feel emotionally drained after a tough conversation with a friend, but you might be overflowing with jittery physical energy that you want to work out.
Energy management lets you check in with your energy levels to figure out what you have the capacity to do. Instead of assuming your productivity stays the same day in and day out, checking in with your energy levels allows you to make more informed decisions. Instead of managing your tasks through the amount of time you have available, energy management asks you to manage your tasks based on the type and amount of energy you currently have.
A lot of productivity advice assumes that we all work the same. There’s sayings like, “You have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce,” which do little but shame folks for not being a multi-talented superstar. But remember: we aren’t all starting from the same place. Some folks have access to more support than others, which makes it easier to outsource draining tasks and leaves more time for big things, like creative endeavors. Burnout is also usually not considered when talking about productivity. We’re not machines that can be endlessly productive. We’re humans, and we have thoughts, needs, and feelings. We don’t need to be productive to have value.
Using energy management to your advantage
If you are looking for ways to use energy management to your advantage, it can be helpful when it comes to productivity. Remember, we’re all different. There’s lots of advice out there about waking up early, batching tasks, and managing time to boost productivity, but that doesn’t take into account the differing needs that people have. Not everyone is a morning person. Some people take medications that make it harder to wake up or experience chronic pain that makes getting started in the morning a big task. If you’re going through something emotionally tough, you might not be as productive as you normally feel. Fluctuations in your productivity are normal. Once again, we’re not robots!
While most productivity advice assumes everyone works in the same way, energy management allows you to make decisions based on how much energy you have for certain tasks.
Some tasks are low mental energy, while others take up a lot of brain space. Understanding when you have the most energy and when your ideal work time is can help you get more done in a shorter amount of time. When you work based on your energy level, you won’t be wasting time fighting your body’s natural signals that now isn’t a good time to do things. Knowing how you function best can help you set up a new routine that works for you. You can brainstorm ways to adjust your schedule to accommodate for your energy levels, instead of the other way around.
Everyone’s energy is different, so everyone will manage their energy differently.
Instead of forcing yourself to work early in the morning when you’re not able to focus or do good work, try working during a time when you feel naturally energized and focused. Most of our lives are built around the traditional 9-5 workday, but that is becoming more and more flexible. If you find yourself with lots of mental energy in the late afternoon, try to move your big tasks or responsibilities to that time of day. If you tend to wake up with a lot of energy, use that time to do any physical activities, like cleaning or working out.
Have you ever been suddenly overcome with burnout?
It can be scary to realize that you’re in a state of distress when you didn’t notice the signs along the way. Sometimes that draining feeling sneaks up on us before we notice something is off. When you’re more familiar with your own energy levels, it will be easier for you to see where your energy is lacking before you get burned out. You have a chance to make adjustments before you hit burnout.
When you understand how your own energy levels work, it will be easier for you to understand and enforce your boundaries. Only you know what it’s like to live with your physical, mental, and emotional energy, so it’s up to you to understand what your limits are. You’ll have a better understanding of what leads to burnout for you, so you can do your best to avoid it by practicing self-care.
Learning how to manage your energy takes practice, but it can be done.
For more support with your personal energy management, try working with a therapist. Therapy is a powerful way to learn what works for you in all aspects of life, from values to relationships to the workplace. Contact our office to get started today.