How to Keep Your Energy Up in a Demanding Job
Imagine you’ve landed a hard-to-get job with a prestigious company that pays well. Sounds like nirvana, right?
That was the exciting situation Susan found herself in three years ago.
But recently, she called me for advice on this question: “In a marathon job that feels like a sprint, how do you keep your energy up?”
Or said another way, how do you keep your energy up in a demanding job?
Speaking from experience, amazing jobs often come with work that’s all-consuming. While it’s interesting and important, the problem is that there’s just so much of it.
At the same time, promotions can feel years away. As Susan puts it, “when you’re in the middle of it all, it feels like a giant slog. And I don’t want to get out of the game because I’m tired.”
If you’re wrestling with a demanding job you want to excel at, but it’s draining your energy and getting you down, then here are five actionable strategies to consider.
5 Strategies to Keep Your Energy Up in a Demanding Job
1. Take Mini Vacations
When I was working at Morgan Stanley, my mother suggested that I take regular breaks. She called them “mini vacations”. These could be just a few minutes to yourself in the privacy of a bathroom stall, taking a walk outside or finding a quiet space to do some meditation.
Taking breaks is essential for reducing stress, recharging your batteries and being able to bring your best self to whatever you’re doing. That means you’ll have more mental capacity for making good decisions and feel less exhausted at the end of the day.
I’ve found taking breaks helps me stay fresh in my thinking, and I’m less likely to get bogged down in unnecessary details.
How could you take mini vacations in your day?
2. Celebrate Mini Wins
Susan’s projects take months to come to fruition, so there’s a long wait between starting and having the end result. So the times for celebration are few and far between.
And if your work is the equivalent of keeping the trains running on time, then keeping the normal operations working smoothly and making sure nothing goes wrong means there isn’t even an event to celebrate.
In those cases, why not create your own mini wins to celebrate along the way? We all like to win, and this provides a built-in mechanism for feeling positive every day.
One way is to look for mini wins in your daily activities, like getting through your commute calmly (I find listening to music helps with this) or giving a genuine compliment to someone else (both givers and receivers gets a boost from this kind of positive human connection).
Another way to create a mini win is to break your big project into a series of small steps. And you could treat yourself to a mini vacation when you complete each step.
If it’s a team project, you could create and celebrate these mini-wins together and enjoy the exponential benefit of lifting the entire group’s energy.
What would happen if you created and celebrated three mini wins each day?
3. Adopt a Green Plant
Studies have shown that having greenery around your work area helps reduce stress, improve productivity and increase creativity.
Even looking at nature through a window or having a fake green plant helps. But having real plants provides the added benefit of improving air quality too.
In an ideal world, every workspace would come equipped with a wall of greenery, but starting with just one or two plants on your desk can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.
What kind of green plant could you “adopt” for your office area?
4. “Reset” Your Brain
A friend of mine uses a Swiss Ball (the big ones you find in most gyms) to help reset your brain when you feel frazzled, stressed or weary. Her background is in neuropsychology and she assures me this is all based in science.
The way it works is this: She had me sit on it with my feet on the floor and bounce up and down in place for 1-2 minutes, making sure not to hold my breath. Then she had me stand up and do a power pose (like Super Woman).
When I stood up, I felt energized and strong. I felt rooted to the ground. My posture was better. I was breathing more deeply than before. Best of all, my brain had gone from feeling fuzzy to crystal clear.
Before the bouncing, I was going around in circles over a presentation I was writing. But afterwards, I felt confident that I knew exactly what to do.
(By the way, if you don’t experience this “rooted” feeling and calmness after you stand up, go back to bouncing some more.)
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to do this if you have any health concerns or dizziness (in which case as the saying goes, “don’t try this at home!”). But if you’re in good health and have a clear area for bouncing, I hope you’ll find it as helpful as I do when you need to press the reset button on your thinking.
5. Laugh More
Finally, there’s nothing like having a belly laugh to cut through stress and bring back your energy. But at work, most of us tend to be focused and serious. And even when we’re not working, we laugh much less than when we were children.
There are some days when I only laugh a handful of times, and none of them are deep, satisfying belly laughs. It’s usually when I’m working on my own and there’s no one to talk to.
This is the time when phoning a friend or watching a funny show on TV or social media can play a positive role.
My daughters have recommended shows to me – ones that made them laugh like Jimmy Fallon’s Lip Sync Battles or standup comedy routines from Live at the Apollo (I find Michael McIntyre hilarious).
So whether it’s calling a (funny) friend or laughing on your own, find ways to laugh more.
How many times do you laugh in a day? How would it feel for you and the people around you to double that number? As they say, laughter is contagious so you’ll be doing everyone a favor!
What Will Make It Do-able?
There’s only so far you can push yourself and only so many times you can redouble your efforts before you burn yourself out. And that doesn’t serve anyone well.
So when the work you’ve loved and still want to do is becoming all-consuming, it’s time to pause and ask yourself, “what will make this do-able for me?” Then identify what’s needed to make your work sustainable.
Which of these strategies will you use to keep your energy up?
Leave a comment – I’d love to know.
Excellent advice! I think the strategy I love most is “laugh more”!!!
Thank you for this great blog!
You’re welcome, Ann! Yes, laughter is wonderful.
I would appreciate an entire post dedicated to explaining and unpacking “what will make this do-able for me?” This seems much easier to ask than to answer (realistically).
Thank you for pointing this out, Dave. Indeed, my experience is that most of the important questions in life are easier to ask than to answer. Yet, it’s in the thinking, reflection and then experimentation that the gold appears.
Will think about how to “explain and unpack”…
Excellent advice! I think I will try these ideas in a classroom with my students.
Terrific! I think your students will love it.
I agree with the idea of laughing. I haven’t found a way yet at work, but at home watching “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” works every time! Or visiting my neighbor who never fails to make me laugh.
Sometimes offices can be pretty serious indeed – in ours, it was often the stories people told (usually about embarrassing or comical situations they found themselves in) that made everyone laugh.
Then again, maybe it’s time to start a “laugh club” at the office… !
Thanks May, love the idea about adopting a plant. I will think of adopting golden pothos. Very easy to maintain.
Wonderful, Adam! And I agree that easy to maintain is key.
And comforting geranium (the one with the fragrance for rejuvenation ).
These are the two I might think of having in the office…
Or could even be a spider plant or mini aloe Vera
All of the above sounds like lovely combination!
I have a beautiful peach-colored begonia that one of the ladies in our senior center gave to me. It’s been blooming for maybe 6 months straight! It’s relaxing to water it, pinch off the dead leaves and flowers, and move it around from time to time so it gets the right light. I also have a mini-aloe that I think died but still looks nice, and a pothos that gets tendrils up to five or six feet long before they die and have to get clipped off 🙂
How wonderful that you are surrounded by nature and beauty, Lois! And it also sounds like you have a rather green thumb – 6 months straight is amazing!
Happy week start May, thanks for all those tips. Love your insights and the new web site. Walking or jogging every morning around my neighborhood works wonders to me and my stamina. So I’m 100% in agreement with your green tip, hahaha.
Personally taking a mini break to chat or coffee clears my mind every so often. But the actual winners (in my book): laughs and music. Both tactics set my mood in a much higher receptive note, careful who do you follow on social media. It’s easy to become depressed or even more anxious; when you focus on the dark side of the moon.
So glad you’re enjoying, Sandra! Laughs and music are hard to beat. We laugh a lot in the kitchen!