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What’s the reading on your power barometer right now?

The power barometer is an imaginary personal energy gauge. We all know that energy is as important as time, money and quality in determining how effective we will be at work (and in life). Yet, we are obsessed with maximizing the other three factors and often ignore the fact that in the process we diminish our energy.

Josefine Campbell’s notion of a personal power barometer makes energy more tangible, a tool to promote awareness during the gruelling work day of how open and accessible you will be to others and how effectively you can contribute. During the day, you will have times of high and low energy. There are also times when you are focused and other periods when your attention is hijacked – unaware and inattentive, dreamy or dozy, essentially on autopilot.

High energy is desirable, but it comes in two flavours. Narrow is when you are on autopilot, zeroing in on the task at hand, perhaps accomplishing what you have been putting off. “But you don’t have a wide view, and you’re not flexible or open to new points of view,” she writes in her book Power Barometer. Your analysis and decisions can be hampered, creativity hard to achieve.

Agility is the term she uses for times when high energy combines with focus. You operate with flexibility and smoothness. “When you’re agile, you can choose the perspective you see people from and the way you want to react. Every issue can be seen from many viewpoints, and here you are in a state of mind where you can look at things from many angles. You can also be more creative, think logically, understand others and accept new things,” she explains.

That’s why you need to be aware of your energy, not working against it when low and seeking to replenish it. Tune in to your barometer during the day and see where on the scale of zero to 100 you sit. You may get an immediate sense of your energy or have to seek it through a meditative check-in, sensing your body and surroundings. She notes that high energy can be tranquil and clear, while at other times have an excited feel. Low energy may show up as tiredness, a drained feeling, a sense you can’t cope mentally or a bad mood.

She stresses energy comes from many sources. Physical activity can heighten energy. So can resting. Eating well helps. But your thoughts and feelings – negative self-talk, for example – can also influence your energy. How you relate to other people can be a factor. Finding something meaningful and motivating in your work can boost energy.

She recommends taking a sheet of paper, drawing a line down the middle, and on one side at the top write a plus sign and on the other a minus. Then on the top half of the page list what gives you energy and what drains you on the appropriate side. The bottom half of the page is for listing how you affect the people around you when you are under the influence of those energy boosters or drains.

“Taking responsibility for your energy and how it affects the people you lead, collaborate with, report to or live with is fundamental in leadership,” Ms. Campbell says. “Your personal energy is your most precious resource, so use it wisely.”

Quick hits

  • Set your summer hours. Productivity author Laura Vanderkam observes that summer looks and feels different and your schedule should change. You may want to take more days off, increase what she calls TOAD Time (Time Outside After Dinner), and if there are children, adjust to their changed schedule.
  • Exercising is an especially valuable recovery tool for mentally demanding work, Zhanna Lyubykh of Simon Fraser University and Duygu Biricik Gulseren of York University note in Harvard Business Review. But their research shows browsing social media is the most common break activity. They warn it can lead to emotional exhaustion, with diminished creativity and work engagement instead of replenished resources.
  • It’s easier to notice when you lose money than when you lose time, points out Atomic Habits author James Clear. Be sure you’re making the trade you want.
  • After attending a conference, Vancouver networking specialist Gayle Hallgren suggests in the Shepa Learning Company newsletter asking who were the three most interesting people you met and how will you reconnect with them?

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston-based writer specializing in management issues. He, along with Sheelagh Whittaker, former CEO of both EDS Canada and Cancom, are the authors of When Harvey Didn’t Meet Sheelagh: Emails on Leadership.

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