Managing Your Energy

The article below was excerpted from the book, The Essence of Leadership, by Mac Anderson. It is reprinted here with permission.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with best selling author John Maxwell. The conversation turned to how managing your energy can be one of the keys to leadership. John felt that leadership and energy were joined at the hip. It is impossible to have one without the other. He said that it all starts with knowing yourself, knowing your limitations, and knowing when you perform best. The key, for him, is to schedule his most crucial activities when his energy levels are at their peak. John, for example, schedules his important meetings and his writing time in the mornings when he feels the most energized. Activities of less urgency are scheduled in the afternoons.

Also, as he winds down at home in the evenings, he saves an hour or two for writing letters and for light reading. Of course, he said, a schedule doesn’t always cooperate, but following this general philosophy has served him well.

Speaker and author, Jim Cathcart, says that to be at your best, find your zone of optimum velocity by observing the pace and intensity at which you perform best. This is the zone at which you are most creative, unstressed, happy and productive.

• Above the zone: First you experience stress and frustration, then anxiety, and finally burnout. At this level you are overwhelming yourself with too much to accomplish at one time. Lighten up a bit to get back on track.

• In the zone: You are at your best. Not stressed, going with the flow of work naturally, productive and self-assured, challenged but not overwhelmed, motivated and able to roll with problems.

• Below the zone: First you experience boredom, then apathy, and finally depression. You feel useless and artificial; self-esteem suffers. Bite off more and take on a greater challenge to get back on track.

For me the key to managing my energy is exercise. It almost sounds too simple to be important, however, without exercise my energy levels and my attitude “take a hit.”

Lastly, protecting and replenishing your emotional energy is critical for every leader. Mira Kirshenbaum, in her book, The Emotional Energy Factor, offers a refreshing, down-to-earth approach:

First, you plug the leaks: learn to recognize what drains your energy –– life situations, toxic people, or habits such as worry, indecision or guilt. Second, you identify what fills your tank – pleasure, prayer, anticipation, or fun -– and give yourself more.”