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spike bullet 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 lighter side)

color bulletStop the meeting. I want to get off!

    by Laura Stack

The workplace is full of energy drains, even for people who work at home.  

  • 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 wasted.  

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.

Energy Bandit: 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 discussing."  

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 availability:

  • 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.  
    , think about the length of the particular meeting youíve been invited to.
    Second, think about the cost of that meeting, given your salary level.  
    , think about the opportunity cost, in terms of what you could do instead of attending the meeting.  
    , think about whether your assistant is capable and knowledgeable enough to sit in on the meeting.  
    , 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 for Meetings

[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 involvement. 

Too many meetings ó where time is wasted and no decisions are made ó are a source of energy drain.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. If itís a conference call with participants in different time zones, put people in later time zones at the beginning of the agenda.
  3. Ensure that all invitees really need to be there.
  4. 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.
  5. Distribute materials twenty-four hours in advance.  State what people are expected to bring or report on.
  6. Meetings should end fifteen minutes before the top of the hour, to allow people to get to the next meeting without being late.
  7. Match the importance and complexity of the issue to the length of the meeting.
  8. Meet for issues involving discussion only, not FYI items.
  9. Come prepared and read advance materials

color bullet Top Ten Ways to Increase Your Personal Energy Level

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 time.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 better.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

  Internet Resources

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Related newsletter articles:
   September 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
   May 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 -- Improving Productivity
   October 2002 - Reducing Stress in the Workplace
   April 2004 - Workplace Fitness

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side          

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) 


About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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