I recently told our mailing list this amazing secret: Your energy is finite.
I know, I didn't believe it either. A teacher of mine, the amazing Renee Trudeau, broke this news to me a few weeks ago. It was hard to take in. She has this idea that I might not be able to do it all...
Lover of self-care and boundaries that I am, I did have a sense this might be true. I have done things to protect my time and my family life: change my work schedule, charge more and take fewer clients, change the clientele I take so that I am working more daytime hours... but this discussion brought up a whole new way of thinking about my energy.
Imagine your energy is an object. Something you can hold, trade, earn, give, and store. Every thing you do, all day and night, either takes energy from your store or gives you energy.
Common things can give you energy: sleep, healthy food, receiving love from certain people. Likewise, common things can take energy: being sick, being injured, being around certain other people...
Our job doesn't fall simply into one category or the other. We can't just say "My job gives me energy" or "My job takes energy" because it is composed of so many parts. Instead, aspects of our job take energy, and aspects of our job give energy.
To make it more confusing, sometimes things we enjoy and value take energy.
And, all of this is dynamic! So what gives you energy today might be an energy taker in another season of life! Geesh.
So, here's the cruz of it... Without being mindful of what we choose to do, we can easily end up spending all of our energy on things that we don't really want to prioritize and end up depleted by noon!
To solve this conundrum, I created this handy dandy grid. Think of the aspects of your job as falling into one of the boxes on the grid below: Things That Make Money but Take Energy, Things That Make Money that Give Energy, Things That Make Money and Take Energy, Things That Make Money and Give Energy.
This was when my mind was blown.
As I started filling out this chart, I started realizing some of the things that make me the most money are also currently the most draining.
This was a new revelation for me. See, usually psychological testing brings me joy, and I really find it energy giving. This year though, a lot has happened in my personal life that has been very draining. I have two sick family members I have been caring for in addition to my "normal life" tasks. Testing hasn't felt as good as it had before, and I hadn't really noticed that and given it my full attention.
I was in autopilot: I was doing what worked before.
But there it was! Right in the "Take Energy and Make Money" column. It wasn't working anymore. Now, the real question was, "Is the money worth it?" and "Can I 'earn' the energy elsewhere else to spend on testing if the money is worth it,"
After a lot of thought, and a lot of soul searching, I decided to take a hiatus from testing until after the holidays when I anticipated that some family things would shift that would allow me to have more resources available.
I also realized that I needed to hire someone to cover my phones. I'd always been VERY reluctant to do that. I had prided myself on the personal touch of getting to talk to me. People even told me how grateful they were that they could talk to me directly.
After really digging in, I realized that this value that I held -- the personal touch -- was getting eaten alive by the time I was spending on the task. I was growing resentful. Other things that I valued much more like family time and supporting my staff were getting short-shift. I had to make some changes. So, I hired someone to cover my phones. Now I have two extra hours a week -- I kid you not!! -- to spend on whatever I desire!
Clearly there are other factors at play besides energy and money -- I've alluded to another earlier when I spoke of my personal values. That said, we tend as a culture to prioritize what we do based on money. We connect everything from success to happiness to worth to money. I felt because of this it was the most important aspect to consider when contrasting against Energy. But, you might play around with your own grid to personalize it in a way that appeals to you.
However you approach it, just make sure you carve out the time to notice what happens throughout your day. Too many of us get home to the people that matter the most -- our family -- with our energy depleted.
Sending love and energy your way. :)