I used to call them “brownouts.” I have what some would consider a relatively stressful job; I’m a consultant for a financial software company. I travel every week to work on site with various clients. I often like to joke that my job is like that big presentation in college – you know, the one you spent a semester working on, thinking about working on, occasionally procrastinating on before finally getting back to it, and all for thirty to sixty minutes of speaking in front of equally nervous peers. The only difference is that it’s a seven hour presentation, three to four days a week that changes each time I give it to a group of individuals who may or may not even appreciate the fact I’m there in the first place. So, it’s exactly the same.
I remember – well, not really, but we’ll get to that – the first time my job really got to me. I’d just finished up a five week stretch traveling to the same client each week. We had just gone “live” on the last set of modules for which I was responsible. It was a great success and I was ready for a break. Better yet, I had a whole week of vacation just waiting for me.
I clearly remember getting home, sitting down in front of my computer, and… well, that’s all I can remember. Seriously. For four full days, I have absolutely no idea what I did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I wandered around the streets. I know I was home. I know I ate and I know I slept. But as for how I actually spent the time, I haven’t a clue. It was like after all that work I needed to hit the restart button and it took four days to fully reboot.
This “rebooting” became pretty familiar to me. I would experience a mini-version of this time and time again – pretty much every week for a good year-and-a-half, to be honest. Periods where I was so low on energy that I really couldn’t bring myself to do much at all; hence the all too familiar term “brownouts.”
And I hated it. For various reasons, I didn’t consider quitting my job a real option; and I’ll be honest, one of those reasons was that I didn’t want to let my job get the best of me. So, I started looking for a solution.
There is a lot of good stuff out there. Other people who are thinking about and, more importantly, writing about ways to relieve stress. I was also fortunate to receive a copy of The Power of Full Engagement which speaks specifically about how to manage one’s personal energy.
While much of what I read was really good, none of it really provided me a real model for understanding, diagnosing, and addressing my energy levels. So I took what I learned and built my own. Specifically, I recognized four Core Attributes for energy: Physical Health, Emotional Mana, Mental Fortitude, and Spiritual Energy.
Within each Core Attribute I identified four inputs (things that give energy) and one output (how that energy is actually used). I reasoned that if I could figure out how all these pieces fit together, I could master them and – as a result – myself.
But I’m not there yet. I’m still struggling and I’m still figuring it all out. So I’m putting this mental model to the test. I’m embarking on a journey to truly test and validate my inputs and outputs. And I cordially invite you to struggle right along with me.
See you at the finish line.
–The Jack of Spades