We were very inspired by the women who attended our January Building the Foundation workshop and the level of community they created in just one day. It was a powerful group of women who were committed to working with the tools we provided. They helped each other to discover what matters most, what drains them and what energizes them. We loved watching how they built on the materials we provided and were inspired by the commitments they each made to energize their lives and careers.
In this month’s feature article we give you guidance on how to handle periods when you are drained of energy and burnout approaches. These are the times you hit the “maximum load”. Our resource section highlights a tool for assessing your current energy level. If you want to share these ideas with others, please feel free to forward our newsletter to friends and colleagues.
Susan & Lynn
Are You Approaching Maximum Load?
Have you noticed those signs on old roads or bridges that warn about the maximum load the road can tolerate? Probably not, because “maximum load” is one of those signs we don’t read. Unfortunately, we often miss that sign in life as well. In fact, it’s easy to go exactly the wrong way….just keep adding more to the load in the false belief that “once I get through x, it will get easier.” We keep thinking that we can do more. It just doesn’t work that way.
We all have a maximum load, and it’s usually less than what we think it is. By “maximum load” we mean doing all that we can handle…and no more. Bridges aren’t designed to handle the maximum load continuously – only for short periods of time. The same applies to the human body and spirit. We can take on a lot, but then need to back off from the maximum load to regain our energy.
We (Lynn & Susan) each have had the experience of exceeding our maximum load and fortunately have learned how to recognize and respond to it. Here’s a story from Susan’s personal experience:
Signs of Exceeding Maximum Load
“Over the years I’ve noticed that there are signs in my life that indicate I’ve reached or exceeded my maximum load. They are:
I haven’t had a manicure in weeks…or months.
The top of my desk looks like a paper recycling center.
I can’t remember the last time I had a date night with my husband. When it’s really bad, I forget that I have a husband.
My daily “to do” list would be impossible to complete in a week.
I’ve lost my enthusiasm for exercise.
I’ve spent more time in the drive through lane than the kitchen.
The people whom I normally love in my life have become annoying, grumpy and hard to get along with. (Surely it could not be ME???)”
“A few years ago I hit the maximum load, missed all the signs and kept going. A series of unrelated, coincidental events hit all in the space of a few months- job changes, deaths, illnesses, economic crises, family transitions. Most of these were not within my control. Sometimes life just hands us a maximum load. There were also other activities that I continued to take on which even further increased my load. But it wasn’t just the load – the volume of activity. These were activities and responsibilities that were not only intense, they were draining me.”
“There’s a difference between being “in the flow” and energized with an intense, high volume of activity and being drained and burdened by things that take you down. In our workshop, Building the Foundation for A Fulfilling Career, we help women identify the difference so they can clear the path of the energy drainers and make way for those things that fulfill them (Energy Gems™).”
“In my case, I finally hit the wall. I walked into my office one day and stared at the wall. I said to myself “Susan, turn around and look at your computer. Go to work.” But I couldn’t move. I was just too tired, burned out, exhausted. If one more person asked me to do one more thing for them, solve one more problem, take on one more responsibility, I was going to scream….literally.”
“Fortunately I’ve had enough life experience, sage advice and tools in my toolbox to know what to do when I’ve exceeded the maximum load and the energy has been drained from me. I turned around and started writing down what I needed to do to get out of this pattern. I knew what was draining my energy that I could get away from and I knew what I needed to do to get reenergized about my life and my work.”
How to Renew Your Energy
We have learned from our personal experience and research from others how to respond when you approach your maximum load:
First, clear the path of the energy drainers by asking yourself these questions:
What energy drainers in my schedule can I resign from/ stop doing?
What responsibilities can I delegate either temporarily or long term?
What is coming up that I can say “no” to, even if it’s a “good thing”?
Second, make time for your Energy Gems™, those things that energize you. Examples of our Energy Gems™ are:
Touch base with advisors/ friends/ sages who offer a different perspective on what’s happening in life.
Schedule a vacation or a break to look forward to.
Spend time doing something out of the ordinary routine…best if it’s something that stimulates the senses in a different way.
Make time in the morning to pray, meditate and journal.
Get outdoors; take a walk in nature.
If you know what drains your energy and what energizes you, you can lighten your load and overcome burnout. Energy Gems™ are different for everyone, and very personal.
That’s why we created our Building the Foundation workshop. We help women understand where their energy drainers are, how to clear them from their life, and how to identify their Energy Gems™. There are always people or things that drain us that we can’t avoid, and in that situation, it’s important to know how to recover and reenergize. Once you know what your energy drainers are, you can clear the path for a more energized career. If you’d like more on this topic, join us on May 10 for our “Building the Foundation for a Fulfilling Career” workshop
Do you know what your Energy Gems™ are? As you go through your day today, note what activities drain you and which ones you look forward to.
A Free Energy Self-Assessment
Tony Schwartz is an author and CEO of The Energy Project, which helps companies fuel sustainable high performance by better meeting the needs of their employees. He has identified the four domains in which people spend and renew energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. On their website Tools, you can find a free short self-assessment for an Energy Audit and Energy Audit for Leaders. Find it here.
What We Are Reading:
Book: Branding Pays: The Five Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand by Karen Kang
Karen Kang has spent her career working with companies and individuals to reinvent their brands. “Whether you like it or not, you already have a personal brand,” says Kang. “The world perceives you in a particular way and puts you in certain categories…If your personal brand will not get you to the next level of your career or [to] the next business opportunity you need to change your brand.” Kang tells you how to do that with her five step system, drawing on the principles that have been used with companies throughout her career. The book gives models, tools and a process to allow you to reflect on and create your personal brand. Kang then talks about the “ecosystem” in which you develop your targeted brand, including a very good section on how to effectively use social media tools. If you are aiming for a career change or just want to be more deliberate in how you are perceived by others, then this book is a good tool.
On Friday, May 10 we will hold our Building the Foundation for a Fulfilling Career workshop. You can register for this event on our website.
About Susan and Lynn
Susan Hodge and Lynn Rousseau created Women Leading Together in order to provide seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling careers. Visit our website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com.