I’m sitting here on a Friday afternoon, and I have a running mental list of everything I could or should be doing right now. I should be responding to emails, or going to the gym, or running errands, or planning dinner, and on and on.
But it’s Friday afternoon, and I’m just not feelin’ any of it. All I want to do is sit outside with an iced coffee on this gorgeous sunny afternoon and do some writing. So that’s what I’m doing.
The old version of me would have shamed myself into doing something “more productive.” I would have pushed through my “laziness” until I checked everything off my list. And the quick thrill of satisfaction that comes from being productive would’ve soon been replaced by exhaustion and a nagging sense that I’d betrayed myself.
I’ve fought this internal battle over and over again:
WHAT I WANT TO DO TODAY VS. WHAT I SHOULD DO TODAY
I want to wake up naturally and have a leisurely morning … but I should get up early and start my day with something productive (all the articles and statistics “prove” that early birds are more successful!).
I want to take frequent breaks throughout the day to read a good book, take a walk, and cook for myself … but I should put in my full 8+ hours of uninterrupted work each day (how else do you expect to grow your business??).
I should exercise (and meditate, and write, etc., etc.) every day to stay consistent … but I want to do it when I feel inspired.
The more self-aware I become, the more obvious it is that I have a natural energy flow throughout the day (or week, or even season), but I’m so quick to ignore it based on what I feel like I “should” be doing instead.
I’ve learned that ignoring your natural “flow” = a fast road to burnout.
Thankfully, as a recovering over-achiever, I’m getting better at releasing the “shoulds” in my life, and let me tell you — it feels so much better on the other side.
HOW TO TRANSFORM YOUR BURNOUT
Having chronically low energy and feeling burnt out can happen for a lot of reasons, but one of the major culprits is ignoring your natural energy flow.
I was recently working with a client who was trying to stay super motivated and productive throughout the entire work day, and then she wanted to come home and spend 3+ hours studying for her GMAT and job searching. She was asking me about productivity strategies for keeping her energy up all day long.
I told her, “I hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing as having endless energy all day long. Your energy is naturally going to ebb and flow — we just need to work with it instead of against it.”
I asked her to spend a week mapping out her natural energy ups and downs. She always thought she was a morning person, so what she discovered surprised her a bit.
As it turns out, she felt most energized between 9:30am – 1:30pm, and then again from 7-9pm. So we built her workday around that. She spent her “off-peak” hours doing things that required less brain power (like sending emails and compiling data), and reserved her most creative and important projects for her “peak hours.” She even started bringing a mid-morning snack so she could keep working until her energy started slowing down around 1:30, and then she’d take a later lunch.
The result? She started getting way more done in much less time, and her feeling of burnout started to melt away.
I’VE FINALLY GIVEN MYSELF PERMISSION TO FOLLOW MY “FLOW”
I, like most of you, have been fighting my natural energy flow for most of my life (we teach what we most need to learn, right?). But within the past 6 months, I’ve started to give myself permission to “follow my flow.”
Here’s what my flow looks like:
- I just don’t do early mornings.
- I need lots of downtime.
- I have the most energy and motivation between 10am-3pm.
- I feel most inspired immediately after being out in nature or listening to an inspiring podcast or audiobook.
- When my calendar gets too full, I hit a breaking point and want to cancel everything.
- If I try to do anything every single day (exercise, write, meditate, etc.), I’ll start to resent it and rebel against it.
- My creative flow works best when I tap into it first thing, before handling the logistics of the day (emails, technology, etc.).
- On Fridays around noon, my brain essentially shuts off for the weekend.
- When the weather is nice, I need to grab my laptop and work outside for a couple of hours.
I’ve betrayed every one of these “truths” about myself more times than I can count, and it feels awful every time. The more I give myself permission to live and work according to these self-imposed “rules,” the more energized I feel.
WHAT DOES YOUR “FLOW” LOOK LIKE?
So, now I’d love to know, what does your natural energy flow look like? What “rules” could you create for yourself to work with (instead of against) your “flow”?
Keep in mind that your flow may not be what you think it’s going to be, so try spending at least a week tracking your energy ups and downs before you start making any changes.
And here comes the tough part: How will you give yourself permission to follow your flow? What might you need to rearrange or say “no” to? Leave a comment to let me know!
Kristen (+ Rachel)