Personal Energy

by Stuart Harris

Log your energy profile

Noticing your daily ebb and flow of energy makes you better equipped to optimise your energy management.

No-one can expect to be working full-on all the time. Only machines can keep on running at the same rate. Everything else you see around you, from the weather to human beings, goes through cycles of ebb and flow, expansion and contraction.

Yet the industrial mindset of our culture tends to think of people as machines – albeit highly complex bio-chemical-mechanical machines – whose performance can constantly be improved and occasionally tweaked with additives.

In a working world dominated by productivity targets, long hours and ever-tighter deadlines, many people respond the only way they know how: by gritting their teeth and slogging on regardless till they drop.

The result? A recent survey from the Chartered Management Institute and recruitment group Adecco found that workplace energy levels are dropping ‘dangerously low’, with managers running on empty as they try to cope with massive personal workloads.

To flag is human...

It’s only human to have dips in energy, such as mid-afternoon and certainly just before bedtime. You are probably already aware of your typical energy profile – for example, whether you are a morning person or an evening person.

But even allowing for the normal peaks and troughs in your daily energy profile, you may have noticed certain things have a definite impact on your energy levels – either vitalising you or leaving you feeling drained and listless.

If you’re already noticing these signs, your energy log will help you use that awareness. And if you weren’t aware of noticing before now, you certainly will be after this.

Before you start, some points to bear in mind:

  • Overall balance is the aim
  • The long term counts more than the short term
  • A brief energy dip may be what it takes to keep you going, while an instant high may leave you drained later.

Your daily energy profile

The purpose of this exercise is to help you get a clearer view of your own unique energy flow on a daily basis. You can keep your log in Excel, on paper or in any way that suits you. The profile uses a two-axis format:

  • The horizontal axis is divided into measuring periods of your choice
  • The vertical axis is an 11-point scale, running from 1=drowsy through to 11=highly energised, with the mid-point of 6 representing a comfortable balance.

You can use this as an individual or for your team or department.

Basic daily profile

Decide how often you’re going to rate your energy levels. It should be no less frequently than every three hours and no more frequently than every hour (unless you’re really keen to learn). The more frequently you do it, however, the more likely you are to find important insights.

Mark off the horizontal axis with the times when you will score yourself. Include all your waking hours.

At your chosen times, rate your overall energy levels on the 11-point axis. Don’t think about it too long; just take a moment to ask yourself for a rating from 1=drowsy to 11=highly energised, and go with the number that comes up for you. Plot it on your log.

At the end of the day, join up your plot points and see your overall profile

Repeat the logging exercise for several days until a clear profile emerges.

Advanced daily profile

The purpose of this profiling exercise is to help you notice what affects your daily energy profile. This will give you information to help you optimise the flow. It builds on the logging format and skills that you’ve developed.

  1. As you write the plot points into your energy profile, make a brief note of events in your mind at that point: for example, reading through e-mails, a team meeting, anticipating lunch or stuck in traffic.
  2. After a few days, look back through your daily profiles and your comments. Look out for sharp changes in energy levels and/or your highs and lows; what comments go with them? What patterns are you finding?
  3. Does a different breakfast or lunch menu make a difference to your day’s profile?