Boundaries and Energy Management

If you don’t manage your energy, it won’t matter how well you manage your time.

That point was brought home to me again this weekend when I was re-reading a great book called The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz..

Most of us realize that we have to balance our energy expenditures with energy renewal. But did you realize you must manage your energy input/outgo in all four areas of your life?

Not “One Recovery Fits All”

We’ve been talking lately about boundaries, and how you are a four-part person who needs boundaries in these areas: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Hopefully, between the blog posts and the e-book Boundaries for Writers, you are in the process of rebuilding protection around each of these areas.

You’ll need those boundaries in order to manage the ebb and flow of your energy in these four (very individual) quadrants.

You expend energy from each quadrant. And you need specific recovery of energy in each of the four quadrants.

Spend It…Recover It

Most of us know that after we work hard, we need to spend time in recovery. For a long time, I wondered why my various recovery systems really didn’t work. Maybe your system sounds like mine:

  • I edit a book on the computer for three hours, then when my neck and back are aching, I take a break and read a “fun” novel for fifteen minutes.
  • I spend hours with a very needy friend going through a crisis, then when I get home I eat a candy bar.
  • I work on figuring income taxes all morning, then take a break and pull weeds in the garden.

Nothing wrong with any of that really. Who can argue with fun reading, a candy bar on occasion, or pulling weeds?

It’s just that there is a mis-match. One kind of energy went out, but a different kind came back in.

Wrong Kind of Break

According to the authors of The Power of Full Engagement, we all expend energy in all four quadrants every day. The problem comes when, over time, we no longer replenish in all four quadrants.

For the examples above, I…

  • I was expending both mental energy (editing) and physical energy (hence the aching neck and back.) I only replenished my mind with some fun reading, but continuing to sit actually aggravated my neck and back further. I also needed some recovery that included physical exercise in the area of flexibility.
  • I spent myself emotionally with my friend, but I tried to replenish the emotional quadrant with food (physical). Because sugar gives a quick (but temporary) “high,” we mistake that for emotional recovery. It’s not.
  • I worked on income taxes (definite mental strain), and my recovery was physical only (pulling weeds.)

None of my breaks were ultimately very helpful because none of my breaks actually replenished the kind of energy I had expended.

Take a Break!

While “take a break!” is excellent advice, it needs to be the right kind of break for it to be ultimately helpful or renewing. It doesn’t work to try to recover physical energy by taking a mental break, or recover mental energy by nurturing my emotions. If my spirit is sagging, it needs its own kind of recovery as well.

To maximize how we use all four kinds of energy, we have to actually USE it too! Do you know how your energy capacity diminishes?

  • With overuse
  • With underuse

Yup! Overuse your body, and your energy diminishes. But if you underuse it—let it grow weak in stamina and strength—your energy also diminishes. Overuse your mental abilities without adequate recovery, and your strength diminishes. But if you underuse your mind—don’t require it to stretch and grow—your mental strength also diminishes. The same holds true for your emotional and spiritual quadrants.

Overstepping Energy Boundaries

“We hold ourselves accountable for the ways that we manage our time, and for that matter our money,” say the authors of The Power of Full Engagement. “We must learn to hold ourselves at least equally accountable for how we manage our energy physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”

I am fascinated by this way of managing energy. Now that I have my Boundaries for Writers in place, I’m ready to make sure that as much energy is coming back inside those boundary walls as is going outside!

Where do you suspect that you have energy drains that aren’t being refilled?

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4 Responses to Boundaries and Energy Management

  1. Vijaya says:

    Makes sense Kristi … I find mixing up the mental and physical works best for me. So pulling weeds after doing taxes would be rejuvenating. I find that repetitive physical tasks allow my mind to wander, solve plotting problems, or pray and be … Where I often fail is curling up with a book after I’ve already spent a couple of hours on the computer. Not good.

    • kwpadmin says:

      That’s the same mistake I make…relaxing after a mental job with another mental activity. I also forget after a day of sitting that my physical sphere needs both to SPEND and RECOVER some energy. I sit instead of moving too many times.

  2. Bonnie says:

    I buy more books than you can imagine because I read about them in your blog. It’s a good thing that I have Amazon Prime and that I can often get used books for as little as $4.00. This morning I ordered The Power of Full Engagement after a vain search at home because I thought I had that book. I suspect that I checked it out at the library years ago but they have since weeded it out of their collection. Thanks for your good suggestions and Amazon thanks you, too.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Bonnie, I should have been an affiliate for Amazon then! Yes, I have Prime too, and it pays for itself! I am doing a book study on this book now with a friend too. The older we get, the more we realize it’s got to be about managing energy, or it won’t matter how much time we have! :-)

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