One of the best days of my life took place on a Saturday in Chicago, Illinois.
I had incredible energy. I felt truly alive!
What was so special about that Saturday?
Well…Nothing, actually! It was a surprisingly normal day.
I had no special events on the calendar….And I didn’t accomplish anything “noteworthy.”
For about half of the day, I cleaned, cooked, and took care of other household chores!
Yet despite the insignificance of those tasks, I felt incredible! I was grateful for my life, and filled with energy.
The Energy you Have Impacts Your Life Experience
That particular day is still a bit of a mystery to me. Yes, I got great sleep the night before…But outside of that, I didn’t know what led me to experience such energy.
Since then, I’ve paid more attention to the energy I feel on a day-to-day basis.
It’s led me to an important realization: The more energy I have, the better the day is.
Put a different way: The energy you bring to an experience impacts how you feel about it!
Sometimes your energy is a result of the events of the day that are outside of your control.
But there’s still a lot that is in your control. In taking care of these fundamentals, you can move into the day with abundant energy on a consistent basis.
And when that happens, you’re more likely to have a great day.
Better energy → Better day!
Which brings us to an important question…
If you could live with more abundant energy each day, would you?
(For me, the answer is “Heck yes!”)
But it isn’t just about the energy you feel each day…It’s about what you can do when you show up in the world with greater vitality.
Think about that for a moment…
What might your life look like if you brought enhanced energy to each and every day? What could you create?
I get excited just thinking about it!
We’ll be exploring what that means in the rest of this article.
(Note: When I refer to “energy,” I mean the natural physical energy within our bodies. Chances are you know what it feels like to be energized, and you know what it feels like to be low-energy. That’s what I mean.)
Energy Management 101: What’s in This Article
This article is a primer on the basics of energy management. Here’s what you’ll find if you keep reading:
- 5 Principles for Energy Management: Why this topic matters!
- 4 Fundamental Behaviors to Live With Vitality: The most important behaviors that influence your energy
- The Role of Caffeine: How the world’s most widely-consumed drug fits into the equation
- 6 Tips for Getting Started: Managing your energy is an individual process
- Energy Management Diagnostic: A free tool to kickstart your energy management process
5 Principles for Energy Management
Based on my research and experience, here are the 5 most important principles related to energy management:
- You’re only as good as the energy you bring to something
- The amount of energy you have is dynamic, and in your control
- Meditation and mindfulness directly support your energy management
- A few behavior categories influence your energy most strongly
- Your energy shifts in cycles
With an understanding of these principles, you’ll be equipped to start optimizing your energy each day!
Principle 1: You’re Only as Good as the Energy you Bring to Something
We know that life is about the journey, not the destination…
To get the best results, you have to put your best into each moment.
But what does it look like to put your best into something? A common response to that question might be: “Giving it my all!”
But what actually constitutes your “all”? Giving 100%?
Not quite! It’s more complicated than that.
What constitutes your “all” changes based on the energy you have to access.
Think about it like a glass of water. If the glass is never above half-full, you can only access 50% of the potential of that glass.
But if you can fill the glass to a higher level, you have up to twice as much to give!
The water in that glass is like your energy levels:
- The water level = Energy you have to access
- How much you pour out = What you bring to the situation
Most people go through life with a partially-filled glass. Don’t let that be you.
The rest of this article will help you find ways to “fill your glass” (or battery) more completely on a consistent basis.
Principle 2: The Amount of Energy you Have is Dynamic, and in Your Control
One of the main barriers preventing people from showing up with more energy is a lack of awareness.
You’re used to living with the amount of energy that you’re used to.
If you wake up feeling exhausted every day, you could choose to believe “this is the way it is.”
But the energy level you’re used to isn’t fixed! It’s merely a result of your habits.
The behavioral system you have set up (whether intentionally or unintentionally) is getting you the exact results it should.
With this in mind, managing your energy starts by looking at your “system of behaviors.” The daily habits, behaviors, rituals, and activities you partake in every week.
When looking at this system, two questions matter most:
- “What enhances my energy? After doing X, do I feel markedly better?”
- “What depletes my energy? After doing Y, do I feel noticeably worse?”
The answers to these questions gives you some clear insights and instructions:
- Some things bring your energy up. Do more of these things!
- Other things bring your energy down. Do less of these!
Principle 3: Meditation and Mindfulness Directly Support Your Energy Management
To figure out what brings you up, and what brings you down, you have to pay attention to the sensations in your body.
After all, the energy you’re feeling each day is a physical thing.
Everyone has a certain level of natural awareness of their body. For example, you’re able to:
- Notice fatigue after eating a heavy meal
- Observe feeling light and energetic after some physical activity
- Have awareness of lethargy energy after a restless night of sleep
This awareness is a great starting point, but it’s only scratching the surface, noticing the greatest peaks and valleys of your energy.
With a bit of training, you can increase your bodily awareness and develop a more nuanced understanding of how you’re feeling.
Meditation is the best practice for cultivating a greater sense of bodily awareness. Mindfulness meditation is all about cultivating focused attention on the sensations in your body, without judgment.
Although you don’t need to practice meditation to understand what enhances and depletes your energy, it’s a helpful catalyst.
Want to give meditation a shot? I curated a bundle of free guided meditations to take with you wherever you go. Click here to access them.
Principle 4: Four Fundamental Behaviors that Influence Your Energy
Everything you do influences your energy in some way.
But there are four fundamental behaviors that impact your energy the most.
Each of these are massive topics. You could read dozens of books on each of them and still not know all there is to know.
This article doesn’t go deep into any one topic. It’s more of a primer to help you to get the ball rolling.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know everything to start creating positive changes. 🙂
Think of these fundamentals as a framework for evaluating daily decisions through the lens of energy management.
Each fundamental includes a brief overview of why it’s important, and what you might consider to optimize it.
Before we go any farther, I wanted to let you know that I created a free diagnostic tool to help you evaluate the current state of your energy, and identify action steps to improve your system. Click Here to access the worksheets.
Fundamental Behavior 1: Sleep
Sleep is the most fundamental recovery tool you have at your disposal.
How you sleep sets the foundation for the rest of your day.
Nothing throws me off more than a bad night of sleep. I’m more impulsive, less sharp, and have more trouble completing the things that I know are important.
The flip side is also true: an optimal night’s sleep lays the foundation for a masterpiece day.
Key Variables for Optimizing Sleep
- Sleep Duration: Are you sleeping 7.5+ hours each night?
- Sleep Quality: Are you sleeping soundly through the night and waking up rested?
- Sleep Environment: Is your bedroom quiet, cool, comfortable, and dark?
- Sleep Routine: Do you take time to wind down and ease your way into sleep?
- Daily Behavior: Do you limiting caffeine consumption, move your body, and get some sun exposure?
- A Quick Checklist for Better Sleep (via The Poliquin Group)
Fundamental Behavior 2: Fuel (Food + Drink)
The body is a complex system that converts food into energy to keep you alive!
But not all fuel is created equal.
The quality of the fuel you put into your body changes the output (your energy and health.)
Every system has its optimal set of inputs. This doesn’t mean the system can’t process other things…
For example, you could physically survive on potato chips and candy if you wanted to.
But if you want great results in the form of great energy, you need to care about what you put in.
You wouldn’t want to throw wet wood on a fire, because it slows down the fire’s energy-transformation capabilities.
The same applies for food. You have to put good fuel in to get good out!
What constitutes “good fuel”? It varies a bit based on your body type and genetics, and takes research and experimentation on your part.
But if you want somewhere to start, Michael Pollan offers some reliable guidance: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Key Variables for Optimizing Fuel
- Quality (What You Eat): Are you eating a diet filled with nutritious whole foods?
- Quantity (How Much you eat): Do you stop eating before you’re “stuffed” at each meal?
- Alignment: Everyone’s body is slightly different. Your diet will vary depending on your activity levels, body type, and goals. But simply paying attention to how the food you eat makes you feel goes a long way.
I first noticed how food impacts my body when I started working after college. It quickly became clear that eating “heavier” meals like a Chipotle burrito, or grain-heavy meals like a sandwich made me feel sleepy.
On the other hand, eating salads didn’t give me that post-lunch energy crash. Since I wanted to stay energetic and productive at work, it led me to start eating a lot more veggies!
- Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen (video): A checklist of foods based on Dr. Greger’s bestselling book How Not to Die. (There’s even an app for Apple and Android devices.)
- World’s Healthiest Foods: A nice resource of nutritious foods to base your diet off of.
Fundamental Behavior 3: Movement
All animals, including humans, are designed to move.
Moving is an essential part of your biology. Nearly every single cell in your body is able to detect movement.
Movement keeps your systems working as intended, cycling fresh blood and nutrients throughout your tissues, and changing how your DNA is expressed.
The sedentary nature of modern life is a big barrier to that. Just like you need to eat a variety of foods to get the range of nutrients your body needs, you need to move your body in a variety of ways for it to perform best.
Key Variables to for Optimizing Movement
- Quantity: For how long do you move in a typical day?
- Frequency: How often do you move throughout the day?
- Variety: The human body is capable of many types of movement. Do you move your body in different ways?
Even as a self-proclaimed movement fanatic, I still find myself having sedentary days when I get focused on work.
- About Nutritious Movement: Movement expert Katy Bowman explains the basics of what “nutritious movement” means.
Behavior 4: Breathing
You can survive for days without water, and weeks without food, but no more than a few minutes without oxygen!
Yet most people never consider the connection between breathing and wellbeing.
How you breathe throughout the day has an impact on how your body functions.
Slow, controlled breathing, through the nose and from the diaphragm (like what you’d expect a composed athlete to display) makes the best use of the natural shape of the lungs. In turn this helps regulate the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood.
Key Variables to for Optimizing Breathing
- Source: Do you breathe through your nose?
- Depth: Do you breathe from your diaphragm?
- Ease: Is your breathing natural and light? (Belabored breaths or over-active breathing can skew the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in your body.)
- How to Breathe Correctly (via Mark’s Daily Apple)
Principle 5: Energy Shifts in Cycles
Over any period of time, your energy naturally shifts up and down.
You can think of these cycles on a few different scales:
- Hourly: Just like you experience REM cycles while sleeping, your energy hits peaks and valleys during the day. After ~90 minutes of working, your focus usually declines.With that in mind, you can take proactive breaks throughout the day. Paying attention to when your energy dips gives you the opportunity to take a break and replenish.
- Daily: At the end of a long day, your energy is depleted. Earlier in the day, you’re more fresh. When you’re fresh, you make better decisions. With the framing of: “How can I maintain the best energy?” in mind, you may come to think about how you spend your nighttimes differently.
- Weekly: Just like at the end of a day, at the end of a work-week, you’re likely to be even more tired. In this fatigued state you’re less likely to make the decisions that will help you replenish your energy. Notice this tendency to make smart decisions for your energy.
- Periodically: Our energy shifts on a month-to-month basis, as changing weather, new events, and life happenings shift our behavior. If you find yourself in a bit of an energy slump, consider how environmental factors might be influencing you.
Holding these natural cycles in awareness gives you the opportunity to shift your behavior in a way that will promote your overall energy.
What About Caffeine? How Does it Impact Your Energy?
I didn’t used to like coffee…But in the last few years, I joined the ranks of the coffee-drinking populous. Now, it’s a part of my week just about every week.
But despite how much I enjoy coffee, I’m also wary of it!
Here’s why: Caffeine doesn’t give you more energy. Instead, it blocks your body’s ability to understand how fatigued it is.
And when you experience less fatigue, it feels like you’re energized. But you aren’t actually changing your energy levels…Just how your brain perceives it.
(For the scientifically-inclined: Caffeine closely resembles adenosine, a neurotransmitter that accumulates in your brain as you become fatigued. When you consume caffeine, it blocks the adenosine receptors from receiving the adenosine like usual, because caffeine molecules are resting there. Since the caffeine is blocking your brain from registering the natural buildup of adenosine, you experience less fatigue.)
Practicing mindfulness is about seeing clearly. And caffeine inhibits your ability to clearly understand what your energy levels are!
WIth that in mind, caffeine can be a useful tool in energy management. Just know that it doesn’t naturally change your baseline energy levels like sleep, fuel, movement, and breathing do.
6 Tips for Getting Started With Mindful Energy Management
As long as you’re living, the energy management process will continue.
When you’re just getting started, this can be overwhelming…There are so many variables to consider!
But over time, you’ll understand what builds you up and what doesn’t. As those pieces fall into place, you’ll have more space to consider other parts of your life system.
Here are a few tips to get you started with this process of mindful energy management:
- See clearly where you’re at: Take time to honestly assess your current state. What’s working for you? What’s not? What’s unknown? (Download the free energy management diagnostic tool to get started with this.)
- Be kind to yourself: No matter where you’re at, all that matters is how you move forward from here. Energy management isn’t getting it perfect, just getting a little better every day. Stay focused on taking that next step forward!
- Start paying attention: Maintain awareness of your energy, and the physical sensations of your body throughout the day. Doing this helps you notice when your energy shifts, and identify what might be creating those shifts. (Practicing meditation catalyzes this process.)
- Have fun experimenting: In order to figure out what works best for you, you have to be open-minded to new ideas. When you try new ideas, you can assess the results, and try different approaches in the future. Approaching energy management with a spirit of playfulness makes it an exciting adventure. Like a detective, you’re tasked with solving the mystery of what helps you have the best energy each day.
- Standardize whenever possible: Since there are so many variables in a given day, keeping certain things consistent will help you isolate the impact of changing something specific. (e.g. Keeping bedtime and wake-up time consistent helps you evaluate how other changes impact sleep quality and restfulness.)
- Keep taking baby-steps: Energy management is a never-ending journey of discovery. You won’t be able to change everything at once. Stay patient to the process of making consistent positive changes, and over time, those little steps add up to something significant.
Download the Energy Management Diagnostic tool to get started today. It provides reflection questions, variables to consider, and some best practices I use to manage my energy.