We would never send a child to school with just a can of coke and a slice of cake in their lunch box, yet we think grabbing a coffee and donut for ourselves is OK. The reasons our energy levels are low are all around us but we ignore them and persist in putting other people’s needs before our own. That was a common theme expressed by the physicians attending executive coach Chris Obst’s recent presentation to VPSA members on Managing Your Energy.
“We could all use more time in our day, but even if we could have an extra hour or two, most of us would fill that up with other obligations,” said Chris. “It can be hard to swallow, but time management on its own is virtually worthless. What we actually need to do is manage our energy; that’s the fundamental currency of high performance.”
Chris, who teaches at the UBC Sauder School of Business and is the principal of Jump Management Coaching, has been helping people increase their effectiveness and achieve results since 1999. He credits authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz and their book The Power of Full Engagement for transforming his life.
Controlling what you can control builds resilience
It is in our power to decide how much sleep we get, what we put in our bodies, and what we do with our bodies. And, because the human brain likes to see a beginning and an end to tasks, setting a goal of as little as 10 minutes of meditation per day, for example, provides us with much needed renewed reserves of energy.
“Start small; don’t set grandiose goals of running 10 marathons a year,” advised Chris. “It’s not the big, gargantuan swings that help us manage energy. It’s the little things. We need those and we need to prioritize them and protect the time they require.”
“I preach self-care to my patients with passion yet, at the end of the day, I don’t know how to do it for myself,” admitted one of the physicians attending the workshop—a sentiment that was shared by many in the room.
Another offered a tip: she downloads relaxation apps for her patients. “I show them how to use them and we listen together as part of their appointment. It’s really helped me,” she said.
Getting over guilt
Learning to say “no” to professional or familial obligations can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in learning to manage our energy. Many physicians attending the workshop acknowledged wrestling with this and worrying about being labelled a slacker or being passed over for promotion if they turn down opportunities.
“Our society does not praise rest and recovery,” observed Chris. “And, we’ve conditioned our colleagues and our family members to expect us to always give more. That means we’ll inevitably run out of energy. You need to give yourself permission to put yourself first.”
Take a break
Many of us dive into work and never come up for air until a task is complete; we muscle through. We know intellectually that taking breaks will restore our energy capacity and our mental acuity will be better. Chris challenged everyone in the workshop to do small acts of kindness for their energy levels: drink some water; go for a short walk at lunch; don’t eat at your desk. These acts of self-care will provide renewed reserves of energy that will benefit us most during times when there are even greater demands on us.
Check out photos from the workshop here.