”I have no energy.” How often have you uttered that complaint or just thought it? Too often we in our prime years find ourselves short of energy well before we have reached the bottom of our To-Do list.
If you are like me, you have been short of things before. During student days and at the start of my career, I was often short of money, I could live with that because I knew that once my career got going, the income would follow and it did.
Mid-career provided adequate funds, but work and a growing family meant that I was always desperately short of time. No problem. My children would grow up. I could choose less demanding work or even retirement, and I would have enough of both money and time.
Fate must have a wicked sense of humor. When I reached my prime years adequately supplied with both funds and free time, I found I have no energy. I was so tired that I was not enjoying even the fun parts of my life. I was getting really snappy with colleagues and family. Unlike the earlier missing components of my life, I could not see any obvious way for my energy to increase in the future.
Fortunately, maturity does bring wisdom and I realized that I was going to have to do something to increase my energy. Here is what I learned. It works for me.
One reason I would run out of energy is that I was always pushing myself. Wanting to stay slim and in shape, I would add more time to my workout or a whole additional workout.
Then it hit me.
If you work out beyond your energy budget, you are not getting fitter. You are just setting yourself up for injury. The rest is part of fitness. Easy days and even days off keep you healthy and happy and make it easier to stick with your fitness program.
Fearing financial insecurity, I would work more hours and take on additional jobs. Then I looked around at the people I knew who had achieved success. What their success gave them was the opportunity to work less and to take more time for things they enjoyed like travel and family visits.
Choosing a walk in the sunshine on a Wednesday afternoon became more important than a few more taxable dollars. Remembering that money could not buy many desirable things like time with friends made it easier to enjoy more leisure.
Two guidelines that I try hard to practice have really increased my energy budget.
Once I realized that I cannot keep going forever, I determined what work-related or family things absolutely had to get done on any given day. To my surprise, there were rarely more than one or two things that could not wait.
I also learned that I am a morning person, so I did what was essential first thing in the morning. If time and energy held out, I did a bit more. This gave me more free time and energy later in the day and made me more productive and happier. If you are not a morning person, schedule your work time for later in the day.
Even though I now realize that rest is part of fitness and leisure is part of wealth and even though I do first what must be done, every so often busyness creeps in with too much to do. My initial reaction has always been to work before play, get everything done and then rest.
It took me a long time to realize that this approach did not work. When my energy ran out before the jobs did, I would end up making mistakes, jumping at people and turning what was just an unfinished task into a major disaster. Now, when I feel that I am beginning to get tired, I stop at once.
I learned this when I was getting overwhelmed with work, short on patience and low on energy. A friend called. I controlled my first impulse to tell her I was too busy to talk and sat down and chatted for half an hour. I then went back to work rested and relaxed and finished what needed to be done easily and well.
It is not easy to break old habits, even bad ones. However, with our growing wisdom and a little effort, we can have ample energy throughout our lives.