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“The Scarcity of Will Power”: How to Prevent Energy Drain in Your Busy Day

Posted May 02 2011 2:27pm

By contributor Kristoph Matthews

how to avoid energy drainIn today’s world, with the heightened pace of technology and society, we’re expected to do so much—from our bosses, our friends, and even ourselves. This in turn leads to so many imbalances in our lives by draining us of energy. This energy is something we need not only to complete all of our tasks in our day for ourselves and loved ones, but also to enjoy life: otherwise, why are we here?

The biggest energy drain I experienced occurred when I recently began working with a startup in which I have to join my team at 6:00 a.m. every day and play several different roles in a single day, ranging from scientist to IT person to salesman. I did all of this while working on my own startup, working out at the gym on a serious fitness plan, and trying to maintain a healthy social life. Although my intention was to stay balanced, I began to feel sapped of energy. By mid-day I would find myself dosing off at my desk, increasingly irritable when approached by team members, and would experience an overall lack of motivation to do tasks for my work. By the time I got home I would feel like my free time passed by me in a heartbeat and I would have to go to sleep immediately or I’d be sleep-deprived beyond an acceptable amount. I knew I had to change something about this, but I still wanted to achieve balance by not sacrificing other areas of my life.

Through much research and self-reflection, I began to realize the source of my energy drain: depleted will power. You see, although as humans we may have infinite intelligence, creativity, and physical energy (depending on how much we eat), our mental energy, or “will power” is finite and only gets recharged after we sleep. Every time we run into an obstacle, a social conflict, every time we get frustrated looking for something we lose, and every time we think too much, we’re using will power.

So how do we survive and have fun in our busy days if our mental energy is finite? We utilize habit, leverage, and give ourselves energy boosts. By implementing these items into our lives, we minimize the use of will power to carry out our tasks and only spend mental energy when we really need it, because it’s so scarce and valuable.

1. Habit

Habit is powerful, because when set in place, it allows you to carry out your tasks on autopilot, instead of requiring you to think and get frustrated.

Try to take as many things as possible at home, at work, and in your social life and put them into positive routines. For example, you may check emails, browse web sites, run errands, and go out for a run whenever it is convenient, resulting in a rather haphazard sequence of events. In this case, you’re just reacting to life instead of planting scheduled positive habits. If you block out scheduled uninterrupted times when you execute planned sequences (i.e. habits) you will use less mental energy trying to switch from task to task. Likewise, you will want to take out habits that don’t serve you. Do you habitually watch the news before going into work and get in a bad mood because all you hear is murder stories or celebrity gossip? Do you tend to surround yourself around people or projects that cause energy-draining conflicts in your work life? Take a deep look at your own patterns and identify what’s holding you back.

2. Leverage

Leverage is the second powerful tool that you can use to conserve will power and derive more “fuel” for your day. If you find yourself pulling your hair out trying to solve a problem or plowing through time-consuming reams of data, enlist the help of others. Most overwhelming feelings can be attributed to trying to take on the world yourself—the surest way to deplete will power. We are not meant to do things alone as humans, and people are more than willing to help, especially if you offer to return the favor. If you are stuck on trying to formulate an idea or a paper, ask for others to brainstorm with you to get you over your writer’s block.

The most successful people in this world utilize leverage as much as they can. The current president of the United States, probably one of the busiest people in the world, has the same number of hours in the day as you do, and is still a human being, but he makes great use of leverage to accomplish his tasks. He has an amazing team of not only people who carry out tasks on his behalf, but also advisers to help him think. You also have a lot of power and purpose in life, whether or not you are aware of it. Start thinking about how you can surround yourself with people who you can help and be helped by, to maximize your leverage.

3. Personal boosts and motivation

Lastly, give yourself boosts throughout the day to keep yourself focused, balanced, and energetic. I recommend and personally practice five different boosts:

  • Music. Music has a power to change your state and to inspire you with new ideas if you listen to the right type. Start looking for music with not only energizing beats, but positive words. I can’t emphasize enough that listening to music with negative lyrics and vibes (no matter how catchy it is) can really take a toll on your day as well as your long term beliefs. Once you find some good stuff, use music on your MP3 player at work or at home to give yourself a quick 3 minute recharge every couple of hours.
  • Green drinks. Green drinks have the power of delivering nutrients to your body to refresh and alkalize you so that you can eliminate that sluggishness that’s holding you back. To many people, health is sort of an afterthought to their career, social life, etc., when it really should be looked at as the very foundation of their lives. Make sure to feed your body with healthy fuel if you want to have a constant stream of energy and experience “feel good” vibes.
  • Move. Our species was not designed to have our butts attached to chairs, sofas, and car seats all day (no matter how ergonomic they may be). By taking breaks every so often to walk around and move your arms and torso (preferably with some level of vigor), you raise your heart rate just a bit and increase your blood flow, getting your body to reignite systems that keep you feeling alert and energetic.
  • Breathe. The average person takes very shallow breaths. In this case, the brain doesn’t receive as much oxygen as it needs and therefore doesn’t run at its full capacity. The next time you start yawning or feeling sluggish and demotivated, take some deep breaths that you can feel all the way to your stomach.
  • Nap/meditate. Everyone has a unique biological clock. For me, I wake up and feel energized in the morning, but I suddenly hit a dip at around 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. when I get back home. Pay attention to these zones where your body needs to wind down and recharge, and take a quick nap or meditate during these times to clear your mind and give it some rest.
  • Visualize. Often when we feel drained of energy it’s linked to feeling overwhelmed. If that’s the case, it might be time to zoom out from whatever activities are burdening you and get back in touch with the big picture of what you’re trying to do. If I’m overloaded with way too many tasks in my business, I take a step back, close my eyes, and visualize what type of outcomes I want in my business and my life by the end of the year. Then I’m able to reframe what I’m doing into a new perspective and prioritize the tasks that will get me there.

By now I hope you’ve realized the important factors for staying vibrant and energetic throughout your day. If you can work on implementing a habit of putting these things into your day, you’ll start to automatically experience a positive, balanced “flow” in your life. Get to it!

Kristoph Matthewsis an entrepreneur and scientist, whose mission in life is to turn ideas into reality and inspire others to do the same. He believes that in the process of making the world a better place by creating solutions, it’s important to maintain passion for what you do and to have fun in life as well. Find him on his blog SmashingEntrepreneur.com – A blog about harnessing passion, leadership, and entrepreneurship for a rock star lifestyle.


Photo credit: The Round P eg


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