Back in 2020 I noticed the confinement was taking a toll on my personal wellbeing and satisfaction levels. I wanted to grow, do more and share more (millenials, am I right?). It was time to get things moving, so I started a master's program and an online magazine (this one!) all while still keeping my full-time corporate job.
Even though working from home had allowed me to gain some extra time each day, at the beginning I was really scared about how I'd be able to deliver and tackle it all in just 24h. Some psychologists say that when in the face of anxiety, you have to allow yourself to "feel the fear and do it anyway". So I jumped right into it.
And I discovered something: even though most of my days were exhausting, I felt oddly energized when working on master's projects or attending lectures after a working journey. I felt equally renewed after writing content for the magazine, even if sometimes these activities took place after 8-10h of work! I had never experienced something similar, so I started investigating in more detail so I would use it to my benefit.
Here's what I found: Many of us organize our workdays taking time as a basis. We set up meetings, create to-do lists for the day, schedule tasks, or stay late at work until we're satisfied with our achievements of the journey. However, working with time can easily wear you down, make you feel exhausted, disengaged, stressed and more prone to distractions and mistakes.
Why so? Time is constant (we get 24h per day) but energy is not. It fluctuates. Your energy reserve, which fuels your emotional state, capacity, and productivity, changes as the day goes on. Often it burns down. Therefore, working with a single focus on time, instead of managing your energy levels means missing a key element.
When you are energized, you feel more emotionally stable, focused, engaged and are more likely to complete a task quicker and with fewer mistakes. So, how do you bring your energy levels up?
Most literature focuses on pointing out the power of scheduling small breaks throughout the day. I believe that can work for some people but not for others. Every person finds value and energy in different activities. In my case, taking short coffee breaks throughout the day has little to no impact. I often find myself unable to disconnect, thinking about work situations or tasks I need to complete before the day ends.
I believe it's not just about resting, is about actively identifying when you need a recharge and which activities allow you to do so. Research and test until you find the actions or situations that allow you to get re-energized. Look for activities that trace back to your "why". Find things that interest you or help you become the person you're trying to be. Perhaps it might be an activity that brings you closer to your community or practicing gratitude and appreciation towards a friend or colleague. Maybe it's volunteering, teaching, exercising, or practicing mindfulness.
It's more important to look for quality instead of focusing on length. A few minutes practicing an activity that's spot-on can yield a great deal of energy and bring you back to high productivity and satisfaction. It doesn't necessarily have to take a long time. Any activity works as long as it allows you to disconnect and recharge.
Once it's clear to you what your positive triggers are, start working with it! Schedule an activity that brings energy back just after being in a draining situation (a tough day at work, an unpleasant conversation, a stressful situation, a conflict, etc). Make space for it.
And keep in mind that's not just about "stopping working". It's not about playing a Netflix show while scrolling on your phone. It's about actively and mindfully choosing activities that bring back your energy and allow you to regain the power to face what's ahead of you with eagerness, motivation, and confidence.