Energy tracking and how to achieve more, with less stress

Energy tracking and how to achieve more, with less stress

Our work culture is not working for us anymore!

For the past thirty years, our obsession with doing more in less time has exponentially increased. The access to the first home computers and the World Wide Web has opened us to an endless stream of technology to make us more efficient. Today, our smartphones can tell us how well we are eating, sleeping and running, and we have access to an endless supply of productivity apps to help us do more in less time.

Our work boundaries are so blurred that most of us now feel panicked if you ever leave the house without your smartphones, and it’s been reported that 71% of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. It’s the first thing they look at when they wake and the last thing they see before they close their eyes at night.

But with all this technology to allow us to do more in less time, how productive are we really?

In the UK, Britons are working an average of 42.5 hours a week, and my guess is that you are probably exceeding this if you include the time spent on your phone, checking emails and hours thinking about work when you are not sitting at your desk.

It’s not just the physical hours spent working; it’s also the mental load of not switching off when you close down your laptop.

Not surprisingly, it turns out we are simply not designed to be working this hard. We have been taught to work in a linear way throughout the year, not taking into account our seasons, changing daylight hours or our own body’s natural rhythms and hormone cycles.

Work and life is designed in 24 hour cycles.

And yet 50% of the population don’t work this way!

Binary female hormones typically work around a 28 day cycle (our menstruation cycle), whereas binary male hormones typically work around a 24 hour cycle. It’s not that women can’t work to a 24 hour clock, but our linear work culture has programmed us to be productive day in, day out, often striving to do more, in less time, and not taking into account our own body’s natural rhythms and hormone cycles.

Plus 2020 has seen unprecedented changes to the way that we all work. Even for those of you who already worked from home, you’ve been dealing with the challenges of isolation, endless Zoom calls, children home from school and partners working from home with you.

A recent study from LeanIn.org found that women who have full-time jobs have taken on way more housework and caregiving than men during the pandemic; estimated at an extra 20 hours a week, compared to men, on top of their 40+ hour working week.

And that’s not all. If midlife women don’t already have enough to contend with, the menopause can hit you like a freight train! If you are already experiencing levels of stress, peri-menopausal symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, raging headaches, aching bones and hot sweats, can slow us down and be incredibly frustrating and exhausting.

How I learnt to change my hard work story

Back in 2012, I hit burnout hard. Still reeling from losing my dad to cancer two years previously, I found myself unable to function and couldn’t get out of bed one weekend. I can look back now and see all the signs; the extreme fatigue, brain fog, body in pain. But because I had programmed myself to keep working hard at trying to get everything to work – life, business, family – I ignored the signs and just kept working harder to keep all the balls in the air.

I was sandwiched between life and business, squashing myself harder as I tried to keep up with it all.

That summer was the start of five years of horrid hormonal imbalance and peri-menopausal symptoms which I realised couldn’t be fixed with a pill or a two week holiday. I had to reset, reboot and take some serious rest, and yet I felt really guilty about taking my foot off the pedal.

I had images of just laying on the sofa and watching daytime TV all day, whenever I was challenged that I may need to rest and do less in my day-to-day life. I just couldn’t do that! I had things to achieve and resting wasn’t something I had been taught how to do.

But I came to realise that doing less isn’t about doing nothing. It’s about doing less of the busy stuff, and doing more of what matters to us and the values we want to live by. And doing it in a way that flows with our natural cycles and energy ebb and flows.

One of the areas that needed to change was the way I was working, and I started on a journey of exploring and understanding what working less hard actually meant. Today, I bring everything that I have learnt condensed into my Ebb & Flow programme, a new approach to managing work, time and energy.

It’s time to stop trying to work to our modern, fast-paced schedules and work productivity expectations (often designed for how factories and assembly lines work, rather than human beings), and experience how to get out of your head, slow down your race to success and embrace your natural work flow and leadership style.

And it all starts with this simple, easy to follow 28 Day Energy Tracker.

How to use this 28 Day Energy Tracker

Step One: Download a copy right here

 

Step Two: Print the 28 Day Ebb & Flow Energy Tracker (page 8 in the PDF)

This process is best done analogue because you will be doing this first thing in the morning and last thing at night. You don’t need to open your phone or look at a screen to follow this process.

Step Three: Your Morning Tracking

There are five things to track first thing in the morning:

  1. Where you are in your menstrual cycle
  2. What phase the moon is in
  3. What the weather is outside
  4. What time the sun rose
  5. What was the quality of your sleep

What you are collecting is objective data; data that can be measured consistently and is not influenced by emotion or opinion. When you download the energy tracker, you will be able to read more about how these five things are relevant and how they can affect their energy levels.

Step Four: Your Evening Tracking

At the end of each day, you will decide how in flow you felt and give your energy flow a score out of ten.

This data is subjective, and these scores will be influenced by your levels of stress, tiredness and what you’ve actually done each day. In the energy tracker download, I will help you define your flow to make it easy for you to track consistently.

Step Five: What do you notice?

At the end of the 28 days, notice what patterns occur.

  • Did you experience a higher level of energy flow at different times of your menstrual cycle?
  • How did the weather or the season affect your energy flow?
  • Perhaps you discover your work patterns change with the different phases of the moon, and different kinds of tasks are more easily achieved on different days?

You have a small section to make your own notes on what you notice, but I would encourage you to get yourself a journal to use alongside this tracker to help you expand your thoughts over the coming weeks and months, especially as energy tracking becomes part of your every day routine.

28 days will give you a really great starting point in which to spot your natural cycles, but the more data you collect over more months, the more you will see patterns appear over a longer period of time, especially if you are transitioning through the menopause or recovering from a long term illness.

When I first started experimenting with energy tracking, the biggest benefit I felt was the realisation that I had good days in between the not-so-good days, which really helped me appreciate the days I felt better, and how much in flow I was in and how much I did achieve on those days. It made me realised that I wasn’t failing all the darn time; the not-so-good days stopped playing such a dominant role in who I was defining myself as!

Over the years of doing this kind of energy tracking, I have narrowed down the key things to notice and simplified the process to create this energy tracker that you have access to today. It has since become the bedrock for helping me begin to predict how my energy ebb and flows really worked, and how I could ensure I could achieve what I wanted to do, whilst thriving in the process. And I would love for you to experience this, too.

Let me know how you get on with this simple and easy to use energy tracker. And for those of you who want to continue in the journey, look out for details of our Ebb & Flow programme starting early 2022.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.

 

 

Shifting with the seasons; why we can’t stay in spring or summer all year

Shifting with the seasons; why we can’t stay in spring or summer all year

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Hi Karen

Walking into my Plotting Shed this morning, there was a distinct chill in the air. For the first time this season, I shuddered and realised it was time for ceremonial switching on of the wall heater.

I love the shift in seasons. It reminds me that change is always happening.

No matter how much we want to stay in the place we’re in, we’re always moving forwards, having to adjust to what comes our way.

There is so much focus on our wardrobe shifts, packing away our summer clothes and dusting off our autumn boots, but to me season shifts are so much more; in life, business and leadership.

As the seasons shift, so do we.

Yes, there are the obvious shifts that take place as we age.

But there are the more subtle shifts as we flow in and out of love for the work that we do.

There’s often a belief that if we lose our mojo that it’s a bad thing; we must stay motivated and have passion for what we do at all times. For if we don’t, then we must be doing something wrong.

Is that really the case?

As I approach my autumn years in age (now 52), I’m embracing the subtle shifts of slowing down, whilst still able to make a bigger impact.

And I recognise that not feeling passionate about what I am doing every day is absolutely OK.

Look at our seasons. Autumn chills our air, which signals for our trees to lose their leaves. And when Winter arrives, our barren trees give us the impression that all is dead.

However, it is Winter that drives the power of our Spring and Summer. For you to feel full of creativity and energy, it is those quiet, reflective, quiet times that give you the fuel to spring forward.

If you were to stay in Spring and Summer energy all year round, you’d be exhausted and eventually burn out. And yet, this is the expectation that so many of us have about our work and leadership paths.

If you want to learn more about my midlife journey and how I run my own business around my own seasonal shifts, then I have two podcast interviews that have been released.

Rachel Lankester’s Magnificent Midlife Podcast is now in its third year, so I was delighted to be asked to share how I make the most out of my midlife, and share my journey in figuring out what kind of business really suited me.

Plus, I was featured on Joy Burnford’s The Confidence Conversation on how I fit life and work together, and shift my energies to help me step up when I need to.

Would love to know how you are embracing the season shifts; whether it’s simply a change in wardrobe, or that you consciously shift up or down your gears at this time of year.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about how to embrace your midlife shifts, then join us for our two day Embrace Festival that’s happening on 21st & 22nd October.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.

 

 

How our fears can be our greatest strengths

How our fears can be our greatest strengths

Back in 2017 … those pre-covid days of being able to attend conferences with hundreds of other people! … I had spent an incredible weekend at the One Woman Conference.

There were 400+ women at this event and I had the honour of being invited up on the stage as one of the finalists of the Lead The Change awards 2017, voted by the community as someone who most embodied the One of many SoftPower Leadership principles.

Having spoken on many stages, it has to have been one of my most nerve wracking performances. Somehow sharing my personal story and the vulnerabilities I’d faced (and was still facing!) was nerve racking. ,

In the run up to the conference, I reflected on what it took to step in to our potential to make a difference, and what it was about me that represented being a leader.

When you spend time by yourself and unconnected with people outside of your immediate family (and let’s be honest, we’ve all plenty of this opportunity for this over the past 18 months!), it’s easy to feel that whatever journey you are on, that what’s ahead of you is too steep or too rocky or that your goal isn’t clear and is shrouded in mountain cloud.

And this was the big lesson I shared on stage that day.

That there are times, particularly when you are alone, that fear and doubt and worry creep up, sometimes from nowhere, and take hold of us.

My fear and doubt appears as a gentle tight grip on the inside of my throat; almost like a child’s hand trying to silence me.

Your fears and doubts will appear in different places. Perhaps a knot in your stomach or a pain on your left side or a buzzing sensation at the back of your skull.

For the years running up to working with One of many, I had used this feeling in my throat to pull me back, like a bungee cord. I’d come up with an idea, reach for it and then the bungee cord would snap me back so that I’d either give up on the idea or just do a smaller version of it. And this happened a lot in the years I was recovering from my burn out, often very afraid of getting sick again.

My journey with the incredible mentors who make up One Of Many, Joanna Martin, Annie Stoker and Susie Heath, had allowed me to now feel into my uncomfortableness … the feeling of vulnerability … the feeling of shame, guilt and whatever my inner shit threw up at me at the time I want to do bigger things and become a bigger version of myself.

That gentle tight grip on my throat became my sign that it’s the right thing for me to do.

And as I stood up on that stage, I felt it appear … so I knew what I had to share was the right thing for me to have shared that day!

Feeling in to this experience of identifying where in our body we feel emotions is incredible powerful. It slows down our over thinking, and often over catastrophising, of the situation we are faced with; whether that’s a difficult conversation, a challenge at work or a relationship with a friend or family member.

Do you feel into your uncomfortableness of fear, doubt, shame or guilt … whenever it appears … and see it as a power? As a sign that you may need to hear a message of stepping up, to challenge?

I’d love to know if you do this already, perhaps even on a subconscious basis, not realising that you are doing it.

Because I’ve come to now feel these uncomfortable moments not as a bungee cord as I had done the years previously. I’ve learnt to slow down, take a moment and feel into knot or the pain or the grip or the buzz because I know now it’s probably trying to tell me something.

That bungee cord pulling me back to safety is all very well. Because, after all, safe is lovely place to be, particularly on a warm, cosy Sunday afternoon when you want to snuggle up on the sofa with a good book or film.

But if you want to make a bigger impact on this world around us, then safe will only keep you safe. It doesn’t allow us to take risks and stretch us into our potential.

As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it,

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

So let us get vulnerable and, more importantly, feel vulnerable because I know this has the potential to let out the leader that’s within you, too.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.

 

 

 

 

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