After a long (but much needed) break from everything Internet, I’m excited to be back at the keyboard. OK, maybe not everything Internet…despite my conscious effort to stay off the grid these past few weeks, I still maintained near-daily twittering thanks to my blackberry. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve watched me make some major life changes over the last three or four weeks, including a rockin’ upgrade to a new job. Needless to say, I’m honored (and lucky) to have been offered such a great opportunity and I’m completely stoked to have made the jump. Although I will miss working with close friends at KPMG, I’m really looking forward to settling in to my new diggs. The new position comes not only with a whole set of exciting new challenges and learning opportunities, but also with the chance to make some positive lifestyle changes as well (a theme I will reflect on in a second).
The week I took off during the transition was particularly rewarding. Aside from getting some much deserved rest, it got me away from some of my (sub optimal) habits, and gave me a chance to regroup, reset and get back on track. I was reminded that a good forced period of being unplugged is necessary and healthy because it gets you out of your regular patterns and forces you to take a good look at what’s working for you and what’s not, and gives you a fresh perspective to help you re-evaluate your happiness as well as your goals and approaches to achieving them. And in the spirit of making changes that positively affect my life and happiness, the following are a few zen-ish themes I’ve been giving a lot of thought to in my time off (feel free to comment and contribute your own):
You Only Have So Much Energy In Your Tank
Managing and monitoring your own energy levels well is a core-skill that everyone should spend time mastering. Our energy tanks are not infinite (mine definitely isn’t) and energy levels are always in flux – we’re always in motion, either filling up our tank or burning through it. Keeping your tank full is largely about how you allocate attention and choose activities.
Different Activities Affect Each Of Us Differently
You don’t have to sit on your butt to recharge. Finding and engaging in activities that energize you and filling those energy reserves (whether it’s reading about something you’re interested in, pushing yourself to get a runners high, learning a new skill or engaging yourself creatively) is key to being happy(er) and effective when you have to do something that depletes your tank. The trick is learning which activities energize you. (Reading cool photoshop how-tos and books about the web, for example, is something odd that really gets my brain going and brings me to life…weird, maybe, but it’s an energy ++ when I’m feeling tired. On the other end of the spectrum, watching mindless TV actually drains me (think The Hills or The Real World, rather than the discovery channel). Everyone’s got their own energy boosters. What’s yours?)
Set Time Aside For Activities That Energize You
Obvious. Use energy boosters to manage your energy levels when you’re burn rate is highest. If you’ve reached the bottom of your tank, your productivity, efficiency and creativity will likely be equally low and it might be time to take a break and do something else. If you’re approaching empty, head it off by quitting a little early before you burn out. The most effective people strike a perfect balance so that they maximize the time that they are efficient, productive and energetic.
Manage Your Fill/Burn Rate
The same activity will never give you (or take) the same amount of energy every time you do it. Your fill and burn rates change depending on how much energy you have at any given time, especially when you’re running low. As you approach empty, your burn rate for activities that drain you goes up. Said another way, activities that drain you will drain you more quickly when you’re burnt out. We’ve all experienced this. Know when you’re approching burn out levels and focus on energy rich activites to keep you in a productive energy zone.
Make Time To Connect With Non-Work Friends During The Week
People often don’t realize how energy-rich the activity of connecting with friends can be. Feeling isolated can up your burn rate no matter where your energy and activity level is, and even limit your ability to recharge. It often becomes apparent after you’ve gone past the point of no return and loneliness sets in. Some people are natural loners, but even they can experience depression if a feeling of not being connected takes hold. Connecting periodically is a must for everyone.
Plan For Randomness
Doing the same activities over and over, no matter how energy rich they are, is futile. Repetitive experiences are always subject to diminishing returns. Keep things new to max out your fill rate.