Learn how to manage your energy properly when working from home
© Jelle Lapere / Red Bull Content Pool
What business people adapting to a new normal can learn from an elite athlete and sports psychologist.
Sporting success is about being physically ready, focusing mentally, managing your emotions and finding true meaning in what you're doing. It also provides a great opportunity to leverage that learning in the current business environment.
All too often, the main thinking around this subject revolves around managing time, but you can't save time; you can only spend it. Similarly, you cannot make more time, you can only manage your energy better for the time you have.
In order to dip deeper into this theory, here are two professionals and how they've had to adapt in recent months.
Jenny, 37, is married with two children who she's home-schooling while trying to maintain her working life as a respected professional. She's working longer days to compensate for the lack of face time in the office. Consequently, she's finding it harder to switch off and focus fully on the kids or her partner and all this has left her feeling guilty.
Not commuting means that she can sleep a little longer, but Jenny is up later at night to get some 'me' time. Her fitness routine and healthy snacking are erratic, while her back is hurting from not having a proper desk. Some days, working and schooling from home is a struggle, but on others she feels liberated, because she has more autonomy to structure her day.
Jenny's reality is one shared globally. As many people try to navigate the unknowns of the new environment, they're also balancing schooling, work and relationships, which can inevitably take a toll physically, mentally and emotionally.
Cédric Dumont is a BASE-jumper, wingsuit pilot and sports psychologist who's also trying to balance everything. He specialises in helping elite athletes and business leaders manage their energy and time by focusing on four areas:
1. Physical energy
The first step to better performance is to address the physical level, because bodies provide the energy people need for everything else. It's the foundation that all other elements of energy rely upon, so it sits at the base of the pyramid.
Jenny: "My exercise routine comes and goes: often I can't find the time even with all that extra time at home. Still, I probably do more than I used to… sometimes."
Cédric: "The more you move and exercise, the better you recover and sleep; the healthier you eat, the stronger your immune system will be and the better you will be able to focus. It's never been so important in these times to implement positive habits, especially staying and working from home."
For elite athletes, physical energy is critical, but also essential for all the thinking non-athletes do and it influences mood as well. They perceive things differently and therefore react differently when they have more physical energy and that helps them to cope better with everything that's going on around them.
Key habits that can help are:
- Develop a routine of fun, realistic exercise and stick to it.
- Eat good food at the right times of the day.
- Focus on getting the right amount and quality of sleep.
- Watch your progress in terms of overall fitness.
- Notice how exercise influences your mood.
2. Emotional energy
It's more important than ever to manage your emotional energy. Staying connected can be challenging, nevertheless it's essential to your well-being. By nurturing your relationships, you can bolster your emotional energy and happiness.
It's important daily to notice how you feel at different points of your working day and the impact these emotions have on your reactions and productivity. When you feel positive, you'll tend to perform better than when you're not.
Constant negative states of mind drain people's energy and cause friction in their relationships, making it harder to think clearly, logically and reflectively. Even though life can be like a rollercoaster, when you learn to recognise the triggers for your negative emotions, you gain greater capacity to take control of your reactions and recover from the downs.
Jenny: "I feel I keep getting so many demands and unexpected challenges keep popping up. Now, I feel a theme is developing in the last few days where I'm being irritable and impatient. The kids and my partner are probably noticing; maybe I'm focusing too much on negative emotions."
Cédric: "Emotional energy is your ability to give and receive love, connection and belonging. Those with high emotional energy have mastered their feeling ability and behave in such a way that invites others into their inner circle. It's also your ability to let go and start on a blank page – remember, it's not what happens, but how you frame it that will define your mindset and help you look for solutions. Now's the ideal time to re-think what really makes you happy and fuels you."
Sporting success is influenced by an athlete's ability to perform under stress and to recover after stress has occurred. Recovery also builds new strengths and develops resilience, as a muscle does between workouts. Most of an athlete's time is spent in practice with just a small percentage in actual competition. In business, there's competition every day, with minimal recovery time. By managing your emotional energy, you can decide which feelings deserve your attention.
Key habits that can help are:
- Giving yourself the power to change what you can and let go of what you can't.
- You can be offended by things and this doesn't change anything. The art is working with people to find solutions.
- Knowing what you need to recover and when it's needed.
- Using positive language and emotions.
- Being aware of how you react to stress and taking control of your emotions in these four ways:
- Write draft emails when you're frustrated and read them later. If they're not balanced, delete them.
- Assume best intentions in other people, who are also trying to do their best in a difficult situation.
- Stop and take time, if you need it. Say, 'I need a minute to think about that – let me come back to you'.
- Know yourself by using a quick free assessment at www.wingfinder.com.
3. Mental energy
Your ability to think clearly, focus and perform cognitive tasks has a big impact on your reality. To perform at your best, you must be able to sustain concentration, move flexibly between big picture and detail, and work positively towards a desired outcome. A key technique used by athletes and business people alike to help them regain focus is breathing.
Jenny: "My ability to focus varies from day-to-day. Of course, there were distractions at the office, but at home I spend more time getting into work mode and I need to put more energy into making sure those around me know this is my work time. Before big calls with the office, I get nervous, as I feel less prepared when working from home."
Cédric: "Good mental health is all about being able to think clearly, without feeling stressed, scattered or overwhelmed. Now is a great time to break the routine, reset and rethink clearly about what really matters and set priorities for both our personal and professional lives. Once you've done that, visualise how you want these things to play out – take the time to walk through them mentally and then use breathing techniques to focus before taking action."
Your brain determines how much oxygen you need and breathing is what you do. It's a process many do not pay proper attention to, but it's also one tool you can use to change how your body responds to stress – either physical or mental.
To do this only takes two minutes and it's called box breathing. It's all about breathing in, holding, breathing out, holding – each for four seconds. Athletes use this technique if they get anxious before an event. By slowing their breathing, their heart rate naturally slows, as the two are inextricably intertwined. Studies show consistently that regular breathing exercises reduce stress, reduce cortisol levels and have the capability to improve mood and increase focus.
Key habits that can help are:
- Focusing on solutions and desired outcomes.
- Engaging in positive self-talk and visualisation.
- Working out how, when and where you think best.
- Practising box breathing for better focus.
4. Spiritual energy
Spiritual energy is derived from a connection to deeply held values and a meaningful, fun purpose beyond self-interest. It fuels passion, integrity and commitment. Your motivation to spend the other types of energy is largely spiritual – the more connected you are to what is important to you, the more likely you are to spend your energy pursuing it.
Jenny: "This has been a great time to reflect on what's important in life and ask whether I'm getting and giving what I want from and to those around me, how I can work more in line with who I am and how I can make decisions based on my beliefs. To do that, I needed to really understand what I stand for and what was my purpose. I have two – one is to be a role model to my children and give to my family the best I can and the second is the work I do, which really matters, as we are helping people through this crisis."
Cédric: "This is all about your ability to know and pursue your purpose. Those with high spiritual energy have aligned their actions with what matters most to them, rather than feeling detached, lost, or confused. What do you stand for?"
Key habits that can help are:
- Sustained commitment to a purpose or cause.
- Living your values.
- Doing something for others and giving something back.
- 'Proper selfishness' – taking care of yourself so you can be strong for others.
To perform consistently well in high-stress environments, business people must focus not just on the skills needed for their specific field, but, more broadly, on creating a mindful and nourishing life – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Making this change involves creating routines to help boost energy and replacing negative habits that deplete energy. Just as athletes train a muscle over time, you need to practise these habits until they become second nature.
Use free assessments like Wingfinder to gain insight into the resources you have at your disposal and also those things that will energise you. As you navigate your changing life, it's time to exercise some productive selfishness and look after yourself, so you're in the best shape to properly look after others.
Dare to Jump is Dumont’s new book. Its purpose? Inspiring and helping people to become focused, productive, courageous and confident; in short, the best version of themselves. Why now? At a time when everything is in a state of such rapid flux, our uncertainties can sometimes seize the upper hand. Fortunately, according to Dumont, we can just use those uncertainties to grow and reinvent ourselves. Order your copy of Dare to Jump.