Leaders, Are You:
- Run down?
- Don’t have energy for important relationships?
- Can’t hold an idea in your head for more than a moment?
If so, you’re not alone.
Recently, several leaders from different organizations, with different responsibilities, and personalities have asked me variations on this question:
How do you maintain your energy and make sure you have enough for important decisions and relationships?
Does It Matter?
This is a vital question and its one I have had to learn repeatedly (the hard way!) over the years.
Let’s start with the premise: Is maintaining your energy truly important?
This isn’t a foolish question – in some situations it makes sense to expend your very last drop of effort. These are life and death situations and your core values had better be in play if you’re making this decision.
Apart from life and death “dive-on-the-grenade” moments, however, if you want to sustain your impact and accomplish your leadership goals, its essential that you maintain your energy.
So how do you do it?
Practical Ways to Increase Your Leadership Energy
1. Get rid of work / life balance.
I love Alan Weiss’s sentiment: there is no such thing as work / life balance. You have a life. Period.
If you’re trying to treat work and life as two separate categories with a strict line between them, you’re fighting reality. Work and life are not two different things.
When you think of work vs life, you often begin taking from one to supplement the other. In short order, you are literally fighting yourself.
You have a life.
Your work is a part of that life.
How does your work integrate with and serve your life?
I start here because having a healthy perspective on what you are doing and why you are doing it is vital to making healthy decisions.
2. Know your “why”
This is related to integrating your work and life and being a “whole” person, but it also provides the greatest source of leadership energy:
What is your big why?
Why are you doing what you’re doing?
This is the answer to many questions – especially when you don’t feel like it and it genuinely takes real effort to lead.
What is your purpose? Why did you sign up?
I frequently refer to the 4 Ps of leadership motivation – power, prestige, pennies, and people.
If the first three are your ‘big why’, you will often lack energy.
There is never enough power, fame, or money for your sacrifice and work – because you quickly become accustomed to it.
When you lack motivation, come back to your ‘big why’…let it ground you and motivate you.
3. Take responsibility for your energy
Even when you’re grounded with a healthy perspective and really tapped into your ‘big why’, you only have so much energy.
You’ve got to manage it…and that’s your responsibility. No one can do it for you.
The next steps are specific steps to take responsibility for your own energy.
4. Know yourself
What gives and depletes your energy?
I’m an introvert. I love being with people (I’m a speaker so I better love people, right?), but I also know that being with people depletes my energy. If I do it long enough, I can actually become physically ill.
When I conduct multi-day workshops, I will often explain that I want to be my best for the workshop and will forgo one night of fun to ensure I get the solitude necessary to recharge my emotional batteries.
If you’re an extrovert, are you spending time with people who energize and motivate you in the direction you want to go? Are you taking enough time to reflect on your relationships?
What are your energy cycles during a normal day? How can you leverage them?
5. Limit decision-making
Making decisions takes energy.
The more decisions you make in a day, the more difficult it becomes to make the next one.
Stop making decisions you don’t need to make.
- Insist that people on your team make decisions they should be making.
- Unsubscribe from unhelpful email that saps your decision-making energy.
- Make decisions when they take less energy. For example, if you have a meeting to attend across town, figure out the route ahead of time, not when you’re fifteen minutes late, stuck in traffic, and trying to remember whether the HOV lane is open.
- Make low-risk decisions quickly. If the consequences are minimal, make decisions quickly and move on.
- Make decisions once. This is an old and essential productivity tool: look at an email once. Then either delete it, act on it, schedule it for future action, put in a file related to its project, or put it in a ‘maybe read later’ file (which you probably never will). Just make that decision once – not every time you open your email.
- Use autopilot. When you know what makes you successful, put those things on “automatic” – where you don’t have to think about them anymore. For instance: you probably don’t expend any energy wondering whether or not you should brush your teeth. When it’s time, you just do it.
I know, I know – you already know you should sleep more and you don’t need me telling you to.
I get it – I really do. I hate having to go to sleep. The world is so interesting and full of amazing things to learn and do that for many years I operated on 5 or 6 hours of sleep.
But I paid a price. I would get sick, I gained weight, I was irritable, and I had less energy to make decisions.
People vary, but most adults thrive best with 7 – 8 hours of sleep. This is what it takes to renew your mind and physical health.
I spent many years “too busy to exercise”. I just didn’t know when I would fit it in.
So if that’s you, I understand. I’ve been there.
Here’s what I’ll tell you: it’s a paradox, but when you carve out time to exercise, that energy and time is returned to you many times over. Your thinking is more clear, your physical energy increases, you sleep better, and stress doesn’t bother you as much.
You don’t have to be an olympian. Do walking meetings rather than sit in a conference room. Exercise during your favorite show. Just do something.
8. Eat and drink…well
Again, people vary, but generally, the less processed food and the more water, the better.
I don’t make the rules…I just know these things help.
9. Start small
When an activity is huge and sucks your energy just thinking about it, give yourself permission to do the very smallest sliver of it and nothing more.
For example: when I’m struggling to get my writing done, I’ll give myself permission to just pick a topic or write a headline. More often than not, if I pick the topic or write the headline, it unlocks additional energy to do more.
Sometimes you just need to start small…very small.
10. Avoid negative people
Recently, I attended a seminar and sat next to a woman who spent the entire presentation scoffing at the presenter due to typos in the powerpoint.
The information presented was life-changing, but she missed it because of her negative focus. Had I allowed her to, she would easily have drawn me into her negativity and I too would have missed the value.
Sometimes you simply have to avoid spending time with people who are determined to be miserable and want to take you with them.
11. Get outside your bubble
This is critical – not only for your energy, but also for the value of your leadership decisions.
Get outside your own organization and team. See how what you’re doing relates to your community and the world.
12. Time with positive relationships
Time with my wife, daughter, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, mother, and good friends are essential to keep me healthy.
At the same time, I have to be intentional about scheduling and taking advantage of time together.
It doesn’t just happen…and if I treat it that way, months and years can easily slide by without connecting.
13. Be real
It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to be sad.
Being a leader doesn’t mean you leave your humanity at the door. It’s okay to be real with your team, while still expecting a level of service and professionalism in your self and your team.
If you’ve ever had a leader you knew was tired, but stayed present with you, then you know how inspiring and motivating that can be.
14. Mediation, mindfulness, or prayer
Whatever your tradition, taking time to be present and connect with the world beyond you is an essential source of energy and perspective.
15. Feed your brain
Even if you just read for fifteen minutes each day or listen to meaningful content while you drive or exercise, you’ll recharge your brain, keep it active, and boost your energy.
16. Cut it out
Acknowledge that you can’t possibly do everything…not everything you want to, not everything you think you should.
You just can’t.
There is freedom in saying no and conserving your energy for the most important things.
If you’ve done the first fifteen things on this list and you still lack energy, you’re probably trying to do too much. It’s time to say no or get help.
17. See a doctor
If you’re consistently struggling with low energy and you’ve addressed the other items on this list, please see a healthcare professional.
We need you! Take the time to take care of yourself.
I’ve personally used every item on this list and can vouch for their effectiveness, but I’m sure there are additional ideas you can suggest.
How do you maintain consistent leadership energy?
You might like:
- 7 Leadership Tools for When Today Stinks and Tomorrow is Forever Away
- How Can I Get My Team to Listen to Me the First Time, Every Time?
- 18 Truths You Really Can’t Avoid If You Want to Stay Relevant, Effective, and Connected
- How to Get Clarity, Accountability, and Results in 5 Minutes
- End Leadership Frustrations – By Focusing Less On Results (Video)