July 2008: Revitalizing Your Energy Level
- Stop the meeting, I want to get off!
- Top Ten Ways to Increase Your Personal Energy Level
- Resources (links, books, articles, the
by Laura Stack
The workplace is full of energy drains, even for people who work at
- You open Outlook and get sucked into the e-mail vortex.
- You open your Internet browser and spend an hour surfing, and then realize
you have a headache.
- A co-worker drops by to chat, and you can literally feel your energy drain
as he drones on and on.
- You attend a meeting where minutes are taken but much time is
Lo and behold, hours have passed and youíve expended precious energy
without much return.
In this chapter,(*) youíll look at how much you allow external
interruptions to dictate your schedule. Youíll figure out how to keep
your typical distractions at bay and prevent disruptions and disturbances.
[Laura] will help you eliminate your excuses, build barriers, create preventive
assertions, and challenge your thinking. [She] will try to create
situations that are suited to concentrated, focused work without interruptions.
Wanting to Feel Needed
Everyone wants you in his or her meeting. You are the power
broker. Your in-box is full of meeting requests, all of which you
accept. Your calendar is so full of people wanting a piece of you that you
have no time left to work. Sound familiar?
Energy Booster: Be Unavailable
Thatís right. When someone says, "Do you have a
minute?" Itís okay to say, "Not right now." You donít
have to be rude of impolite, but you do have to be honest.
Over the years, you have trained people how to treat you and youíre
giving a lesson right this very second. If your behavior shouts, "Iím
available at all times, so bother me," you will never have a momentís
peace; everything and everyone will be vying for your attention.
How do you keep those distractions, pop-in visitors and interruptions at
bay? By managing your availability, you will gain the space of time and
mind to complete your most important tasks.
You can say, "I do want to talk with you about this and Iím buried in
another deadline right now. Can I call you at ten oíclock
tomorrow?" Or you can push back by saying (without sarcasm), "I
have just one minute. Are you sure thatís all youíll need?"
Do not smile. When the person says, "Oh, uh, well, actually, maybe
ten minutes," then you can say, "Oh, in that case, Iíll need to ask
you to set up some time to chat. Iím right in the middle of a train of
thought and want to give my full attention to what youíre
Unless itís your job to be interrupted (receptionists, customer-service
phone operator, administrative assistant and so forth), then itís acceptable
not to respond to everyoneís beck and call.
Come up with some sort of signal with your team that indicates to everyone
else that now is not a good time. It can be a flag, a sign, a banner or
any other physical cue that tells co-workers youíre busily concentrating on a
task. Have an understanding that if thereís an emergency, co-workers can
still feel free to interrupt, but if they were simply coming by for a little
social interaction or a question that isnít pressing, the signal tells them to
please come back later. Here are some other methods to manage your
- For meetings, unless you see a clear agenda with objectives, outcome
and the specific reason you are being invited to it, decline the request
(unless itís your boss). Donít let people get away with inviting
you just in case. Make sure the meeting purpose is a good return on
your time investment. Get out of as many meetings as possible.
- If your presence is required for only a small portion of the meeting, call
the meeting leader. Ask for your report to be first on the
agenda. After speaking and answering questions, leave.
- Push the value of the meeting down to the lowest common denominator and
send your assistant, if at all possible, in your stead.
First, think about the length of the particular meeting
youíve been invited to.
Second, think about the
cost of that meeting, given your salary level.
Third, think about the opportunity cost, in terms of what
you could do instead of attending the meeting.
Fourth, think about whether your assistant is capable and
knowledgeable enough to sit in on the meeting.
Fifth, contemplate whether youíve given him or her
enough authority to be able to take an agenda item off the table. Itís
frustrating for meeting attendees to hear from your delegate, "Iíll
have to check with so-and-so and get back to you." They would
much rather hear, "I can absolutely ensure that will happen and can
have the results to you by Thursday."
- I once taught a seminar where someone told me he is invited to meetings
because people donít want to hurt his feelings by not including him.
He just sits there with no input and canít figure out why his presence was
requested. There should be open communication about attendance; when
necessary, say that you donít feel you need to be there and ask if your
attendance is required.
Energy Bandit: Being Unprepared
[Lauraís] favorite Chance card in Monopoly is "Get out of Jail
Free." Wouldnít it be nice if you could have a "Get out of a
Meeting Free" card? That would be worth a mint.
Meetings and social events at work are a central fact of organizational
life. As a vehicle for communication, they can be extremely valuable
mechanisms for disseminating vision, crafting strategic plans, and developing
responses to challenges and opportunities. They can also be helpful for
gathering ideas, brainstorming, and generating higher levels of employee
Too many meetings ó where time is wasted and
no decisions are made ó are a source of energy
Energy Booster: Prepare
to Have a Great Meeting
The productivity of any meeting actually starts before the meeting
begins. These planning elements determine whether or not the meeting will
be a success:
- Require am agenda twenty-four hours in advance, with the responsible
person and the time listed next to each item, in order of priority. A
statement of the purpose for the meeting should be included.
- If itís a conference call with participants in different time zones, put
people in later time zones at the beginning of the agenda.
- Ensure that all invitees really need to be there.
- Send a delegate in your place in the person is capable of making decisions
and can sign off on or take responsibility for completing a task. Let
the leader know youíre sending someone.
- Distribute materials twenty-four hours in advance. State what people
are expected to bring or report on.
- Meetings should end fifteen minutes before the top of the hour, to allow
people to get to the next meeting without being late.
- Match the importance and complexity of the issue to the length of the
- Meet for issues involving discussion only, not FYI items.
- Come prepared and read advance materials
- Strive for a neutral environment.
It takes energy for your body to pay attention or avoid paying attention to
something noticeable in your environment. Consider keeping a space
heater or fan in your workspace if you tend to be hot or cold
frequently. Donít throw food away near your desk to avoid lingering
odors. Make sure that your work area has the right level of light to
avoid eye strain.
- Hear yourself think.
Counteract background noise with your own noise! Use sound machines,
white noise CDs, MP3 players or noise canceling headsets. Turn off
computer speakers, close email software or turn off alerts, put Instant
Messaging on unavailable, and shut off your phone or forward calls to
voicemail. Create a quiet oasis in the midst of the storm.
- Get the wiggles.
Work regular physical movement into your work day, especially if most of your
work is conducted at a desk in front of a computer. Practice renewal
strategies such as desk stretches or breathing exercises. Take frequent
breaks, walk around outside or get a nutritious snack.
- Get one extra hour of sleep per night.
Experiment with finding the amount of sleep thatís right for you and stick
with it religiously ó even on the weekends and holidays! Your bedroom
should be your sleeping sanctuary, not a place to read, knit or watch
TV. If your body associates bed with sleep, youíll get to sleep more
quickly and sleep better. Tape late-night shows and watch them another
- Get three hours of aerobic activity a week.
Divide that into 30 minutes a day, cut into three, ten-minute segments.
People who get as little as three hours of aerobic activity each week have a
better memory, are better at switching between mental tasks and can screen
out distractions better than people who do not exercise ó all things that
now require less concentration and energy expenditure.
- Count your blessings, literally.
Conscientiously counting your blessings once a week will
significantly increase your overall satisfaction with life over a period of
six weeks. People who keep gratitude journals improve physical health,
raise energy levels and report fewer physical symptoms. So write down
all the wonderful things in your life and youíll counteract daily annoyances
- Eat metabolism-boosting foods.
Trim "sleepy" foods, like pasta, bagels, muffins and
cookies from your diet where you can. Youíre better served eating
high-energy foods like meats, raisins, Concord grapes, bananas and
broccoli. Too much sugar can activate your appetite instead of control
it. Try an egg-white omelet in the morning instead of cereal and a protein
shake in the afternoon. Spicy foods and green tea have also both proven
effective at boosting the metabolism.
- Steer clear of stimulants.
Thereís no doubt that stimulants perk you up, but they do it
in a way that you have to pay for later. Even legal stimulants trigger a
"fight-or-flight" reflex that releases stress hormones, followed by a
big energy slump, and long term, high blood pressure and insomnia. Instead,
hydrate yourself with good old water. Dehydration can cause lethargy,
headaches and a lack of concentration. If you canít give up that daily
Starbucks run, at least cut back to a smaller cup.
- Try some aromatherapy.
Recharge your energy by jolting your sense of smell. Keep small bottles
of invigorating scented oils like lavender, lemon oil, orange and spearmint at
your desk, and take a whiff when youíre low on energy.
- Practice purposeful abandonment.
If you have too much on your plate, get rid of anything that doesnít meet
your objectives or have long-term consequences for your work. Your only
other option is overwork and flagging energy. Get some help. Donít
try to do everything yourself, especially if youíre running a
business. Hire someone to deal with all the repetitive or minor tasks
anyone can do, so you can get the important work done.
(*) Excerpt from Chapter 20. This month's article
excerpted from The Exhaustion Cure: Up
Your Energy From Low-to-Go in 21 Days by Laura Stack, published by Broadway
Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Used with permission.
Books - Disclosure:
We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.
- The Exhaustion Cure: Up Your Energy from Low to
Go in 21 Days. Laura Stack. (article
excerpt) Broadway, 2008. ISBN-10:
0767927516 ISBN-13: 978-0767927512
- Find More Time: How to Get Things Done at Home,
Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It. Laura Stack. Broadway,
0767922026 ISBN-13: 978-0767922029
- Leave the Office Earlier: The Productivity Pro
Shows You How to Do More in Less Time...and Feel Great About It. Laura
Stack. Broadway, 2004. ISBN-10:
0767916263 ISBN-13: 978-0767916264
- Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces and
Organizations Buzz with Energy - And Others Don't. Lynda Gratton.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007. ISBN-10:
1576754189 ISBN-13: 978-1576754184
- Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace
and Your Life from the Core. Bruce D. Schneider.
Wiley, 2007. ISBN-10:
0470186364 ISBN-13: 978-0470186367
- The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One
That Isnít. Robert Sutton. (article
excerpt) Warner Business Books, 2007. ISBN-10:
- How To Reduce Workplace Conflict And Stress: How
Leaders And Their Employees Can Protect Their Sanity And Productivity From
Tension And Turf Wars. Anna Maravelas. Career Press,
1564148181 ISBN-13: 978-1564148186
- Courageous Visions: How to Unleash Passionate
Energy in Your Life and Your Organization. Martha Lasley.
Discover Press, 2004.
ISBN-10: 0974200018 ISBN-13: 978-0974200019
- Healing Negative Energies: Simple Steps to
Improve Your Energy at Home and at Work Workplace . Anne
Jones. Piatkus Books, 200.
ISBN-10: 0749923660 ISBN-13: 978-0749923662
- Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and
Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work. Jane E. Dutton. Jossey-Bass,
0787956228 ISBN-13: 978-0787956226
- Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, And Substances to
Heal, Change, And Grow . Phaedra Bonewits, Isaac Bonewits.
New Page Books, 2007. ISBN-10:
1564149048 ISBN-13: 978-1564149046
- Energy Secrets: The Ultimate Well-being Plan.
Alla Svirinskaya. Hay House, 2005. ISBN-10:
1401907075 ISBN-13: 978-1401907075
- A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America: A Hard
Look at Spirituality, Religion, and Values in the Workplace. Ian
Mitroff, Elizabeth A. Denton. Jossey-Bass, 1999. ISBN-10:
0787946664 ISBN-13: 978-0787946661
- C.A.R.E. Packages for the Workplace: Dozens of
Little Things You Can Do To Regenerate Spirit At Work.
Barbara A. Glanz. McGraw-Hill, 1996. ISBN-10:
0070242674 ISBN-13: 978-0070242678
- The CEO and the Monk: One Companyís Journey to Profit and Purpose,
Robert Catell, Kenny Moore, Glen Rifkin. John Wiley & Sons, 2004.
Related newsletter articles:
2004 - Stress Busters: Managing Stress in the Workplace
February 2000 -
Finding Your Passion
June 2002 -
Chi'wards in the Workplace (Feng Shui)
April 2007: Tips
for dealing with workplace jerks
November 1999 -
Workplace Energy Dynamics
2002 - Stress: How It Affects the Roles We Play
September 2002 -
How Personality Roles affect the Workplace
November 2001 -
The Essence of Leadership
March 1998 --
October 2002 -
Reducing Stress in the Workplace
April 2004 -
You have to love a nation that celebrates
its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers
who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family
picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy and the flies
die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is
patriotism. ... Erma Bombeck
There is nothing wrong with America that
cannot be cured by what is right with America
... former US President Bill Clinton (2006)
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