How energized do you feel in your career? How energized do you want to feel?
Whether you’re on fire in your work or feeling frustrated and stuck, you can start taking action right now to inject more energy into your career. It’s not rocket science, and you don’t have to quit your job to pursue that dream of being a rock star/ballerina/elephant trainer to do it.
Think “energy management”
It all starts with the way you look at it. The energy you feel in your work (or your life in general) isn’t the result of one big broad brush stroke. It’s the cumulative result of many separate elements, things that either give you energy or deplete it.
For example, you may love diving into creative projects, but feel your energy immediately sag when you think about budgeting (or vice versa). You may love working with a team, but at the same time feel depleted when you don’t get enough uninterrupted time to just sit and focus.
That’s good news if you want to energize your career, because it’s a lot easier to work with smaller chunks than with that broad brush perspective (in fact, managing your energy at the broad brush level is next to impossible – no wonder so many people feel stuck and overwhelmed!).
Maximize the Gain-to-Drain Ratio
There’s a simple concept I use when I do energy management work with my Passion Catalyst clients. I call it “maximizing your Gain-to-Drain Ratio.” It’s both deceptively simple and reliably effective.
The Gain-to-Drain Ratio is a fraction, Gain over Drain (see a deeper explanation). You want as much of what gives you energy (the Gain) and as little of what depletes your energy (the Drain) in the picture as possible. Simple, right?
Another way to think about it is that the overall energy you feel is the sum total of the energy gain minus the sum total of the energy drain. The more energy gain you have, and the less energy drain, the more net energy you’ll feel overall.
Do a Personal Energy Audit
The first step in maximizing your Gain-to-Drain Ratio is being aware of the details of what is actually happening. To start, do a “personal energy audit.” Take a look at your work and ask two questions: “What energizes me?” and “What drains my energy?”
Variations on those questions might include:
- What about this gives me energy?
- What about this is fun?
- What leaves me feeling engaged?
- What feels rewarding about this?
- What do I feel drawn to experiencing more of?
- What do I look forward to?
- What leaves me feeling confident?
- What feels in the groove with my natural way of working?
- What about this drains my energy?
- What about this is a drag for me?
- What about this do I dislike?
- What do I wish I could avoid?
- What leaves me feeling tired and flat?
- What leaves me feeling insecure and uncertain?
- What leaves me questioning my abilities?
- What feels counter to my natural way of working?
The purpose of the personal energy audit is to break it all down into discrete chunks. With that granular level of detail, you can start to make choices and take action to bring more of what energizes you into your work and decrease the amount of what drains you.
When you have identified specific Gains you can ask, “What can I do to bring more of each of these into my work? How can I build on these? Where are the opportunities moving forward that would involve more of these?”
When you have put your finger on the Drains you can ask, “How can I eliminate each of these? If I can’t eliminate them, how can I reduce them? What can I change moving forward that would involve less of these?”
So for example, the person I mentioned above who realizes that they love working with a team, but also needs the focused solo time might look for more opportunities to collaborate, but also commit to carving time out of their schedule where they have no interaction. That could be shutting their office door, leaving the office altogether to camp out at a coffee shop and work, or just donning headphones and hanging a sign on their cubicle wall that says, “Focused and undistracted right now – please come back at 3:00.”
Options for reducing the Drain
It helps to look at reducing the Drain from several different directions. These questions are a good place to start.
- What can I eliminate this altogether?
- How can I change how I do this so that it is less of a Drain for me? Is there any way you can make how you approach doing something that is more in line with how you naturally do things, or that makes it more fun?
- How can I change my story about this? Sometimes there is nothing you can do to change something that drains your energy. When that is the case, you have one last option – changing the story you have about it. If something irritates you, leaves you with steam coming out your ears, or has some other negative effect, ask yourself, “What other story could I tell here?” If part of what is draining your energy is a persistent story that things “should” be different than they are, you might consider shifting that story. As Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality I lose – but only 100% of the time.”
When you have gone through all of the Gains and Drains you identified in your personal energy audit, you have one more opportunity to bump up the Gain in your work. Look for ways to incorporate energizers that have nothing to do with your work itself.
If you get energized by interacting with people but don’t have enough of it in your work, for example, you might start instigating a group lunch hour. Or you might make it a habit to get up once an hour and move, taking a brisk walk or doing some stretches. You might decide to incorporate watching inspiring videos on YouTube into your lunch hour routine.
Make a list of possible energizers, and start incorporating them into your day.
It will be better!
None of this is a magic wand. If you truly have a crap job, it’s probably still going to be a crap job after doing all of this. But it will be better! Even if it’s only 20% less draining/more energizing, guess what? That’s 20% more energy than you had before you started! And that’s energy you can put into your continuing to work toward positive change – maybe even look for a new career.
And even if you already feel energized by your work, taking this approach can both help you make it even better and make sure that it stays that way.
So give it a shot! Take a look at the Gains and Drains in your work and start taking a conscious approach to managing your energy. You have nothing to lose, and nothing but energy to gain.
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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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