In preparation for my Power Up event (that took place at the end of June), I took some downtime and alone time before the event and some reflection time after. I ensured that the weekend after was all about resting, reflecting, recharging, having a lot of time to myself and planning purposefully.
I talk about energy a lot. For me I do believe energy management is more beneficial and helpful than trying to manage time. We all have different lives, different priorities and responsibilities. We all have 24 hours in a day, but some of us have more free time than others. Time happens and carries on regardless of what we are doing and how much we have to get done. Regardless of what priorities we have or how we are feeling. Whilst some of us appear to manage our time more effectively, what they are actually doing is managing their energy.
Time is out of our control, so trying to manage it is useless. We can’t lengthen the warm summer days, as much as we can’t reduce the dark grey nights of winter. Time happens anyway.
So when you stop focusing on trying to manage something that is not possible and instead focus on something that is easily managed- in this instance it’s your energy. Not only do we feel better in ourselves, we can also become calmer, more effective, more focussed, more efficient and more energised.
So what can we do to manage our energy?
I need to make sure I am productive for me, my clients and also my family. If I give all of my energy to clients during my working week, I won’t have anything left to give to anyone else.
I spent many years in corporate climbing the ladder where I missed out on so much family time with my sons. Even if I was home, I didn’t have the energy to give my sons what they deserved and 9 times out of 10, I felt guilty spending time with my family and not working. Whenever I used to take time off work, I would end up ill. If I went on holiday, I would end up ill. I wasn't getting the rest I needed and it would make me ill.
I now use the mistakes I made to help other women not follow the same path I did, or if they have followed the same path, I help them come out the other end and recover.
I don’t regret anything I did as I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today. I would change some things of course if I could go back, but I have no regrets.
In 2015 I was introduced to the work of Lisa Lister. In her works she talks about monthly cycles and how during different days and weeks during our cycles we can have different energy levels. I hated my monthly cycle every single month since the age of 10 and then it all stopped in 2013. When I first started reading her books, I kind of started to have a bit of mourning for the monthly cycle that I had lost. I hadn’t recognised what an honour it is to be a woman and have these cycles. But I had never paid attention to the times of the month where our energy levels change and acknowledged that we do have peaks and troughs of energy levels.
There was a book by Daniel Pink called ‘When’ and in this book he talks about the times of day that are best for certain tasks. Like, decision making, admin, creative, conversations, follow up work etc. Daniel looks at this from a business perspective and Lisa looks at it from a more feminine angle.
I love my yoga, starting in 2008 and qualified as a yoga teacher during lockdown (something I’d been wanting for ages). During the last few years I’ve also been really fascinated by the sister science to yoga called Ayurveda. It talks about different cycles during the day, week, month and year.
I’ve just published my 5th book called ‘Mind the Gap’, but when I was asked to write my first book, the title was ‘purpose driven time management’ which is about when we live and lead with purpose (which I now call your core), we can then manage our time more effectively. I touch on energy in that book, but when I look back I wish I had the guts to just talk about energy and not mention time at all.
I now block out time for me to get things done during the month. So sometimes it’s block record podcasts, block write blogs and articles, I have specific writing days for my books, I have days which are all about my clients, other days are blocked out for planning, weekly reflections and I have 3 hours a day that is non negotiable time just for me. An hour in the morning, an hour at lunch and an hour at the end of the day.
I used to fill all that time with a checklist of things to get done and it was like a self-care checklist and when I look back it wasn’t about self care at all. I was actually trying to kill myself by doing too many things and too many different methods of self care.
Reading a chapter of a book
Doing a visualisation exercise
Doing more yoga and meditation
This was my daily ‘self-care’ checklist, obviously not including any work and business stuff.
I hit burnout for the 2nd time in 2015 and I was so angry about how I had gotten to that place again. I had my self care checklist after all. I spent 2 years learning all of this and being able to help others to stop getting to burnout and recover from burnout.
But I burnt out for a 2nd time because I was being too prescriptive with the time for myself.
Giving myself permission to take the time and give myself what I need at that moment, was an absolute game changer. So I have the non negotiable time for me and I still do yoga, meditation and journaling, which helps with my anxiety and helps me think more positively.
It doesn’t necessarily mean an hour of each of them, sometimes I do longer and sometimes less, but those 3 hours are for me to do whatever I want to do each day.
I really tune in to what I need at that time and that moment which allows me to manage my energy.
Here’s a reminder that we have 7 different types of rest:
Yet a lot of the time we think we just need to stop and do nothing. But what I realised when I burnt out, was people telling me to slow down. But I have 2 speeds; on or off. 100 miles an hour or zero.
I stressed myself out so much more by trying to go slower, as it wasn’t my natural speed. So the negative impact on my energy was that I never really felt calm. So mentally my energy was all over the place and all I could focus on was everyone telling me to slow down.
I was sucking the life out of myself by trying to do something that didn’t feel natural to me.
In giving myself permission to do what I want to do with my energy; when I’m on, I’m now fully on. I work 4 days a week and during those 4 days I am on. It might be some of those days I work 4 hours, some 6 or 12 hours. The 12’s are much less than they ever have been, but if my energy and enthusiasm is there, I give myself permission to use it. Then switch off after. My natural rhythm is not slow.
I have 3 non negotiable hours each day.
I focus on what type of rest I need at the moment, based on how I’m feeling.
When we start to pay attention to our bodies, our minds and emotions, we start to understand how to manage our energy better. When we manage our energy better, we can create more balance and maintain living and leading from our core, with our boundaries and our non-negotiable time for ourselves.
So if you feel like time is running away from you, then you need to instead manage your energy, rest when you need to and live and lead from your core.
If you are at a point of feeling like you don’t have enough hours in the day, you’re overwhelmed, lacking boundaries, spinning too many plates, exhausted, and your motivation is decreasing. Stop trying to manage your time, manage your energy instead and free up some time that way.
In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with family.
Determined to enjoy the success that she had earned, she's learned to create a life of balance and boundaries that is also highly successful. Today at kellyswingler.com, Kelly helps women leaders all over the world to prevent and recover from burnout without giving up their career or jeopardising their wellbeing.