Often, executives unknowingly encounter (and find themselves existing in) a success paradox where there are more responsibilities, more expectations, more pressure, more stress, but less time available for themselves.
This paradox, of course, leads to exhaustion. But executives aren’t executives by accident. They’ve climbed this trajectory of success because they’re brilliant, relentless, and most importantly, are adept at powering through exhaustion.
However, here’s the major caveat, there’s an expensive cost for this success: their body, mind, relationships, health, and energy levels.
Speaking of energy levels, this is your most valuable currency. The number one priority for executives should be energy management. It’s hard to focus and complete tasks when your energy battery is low.
Therefore, to maximize your productivity and health while successfully navigating the paradoxes of success, manage your energy by optimizing these four key energy pillars.
- Physical energy
With hectic schedules, extensive traveling and long hours, and the everyday responsibilities of being human, living in the fast lane is second nature to executives.
It’s easy to lose track of your healthy habits while juggling numerous aspects of your life. You’ll notice your physical energy pillar is off when you’re carrying around extra weight, blood work that’s out of range, and accelerated aging, amongst many other manifestations. You’ll also find yourself having to work harder on tasks that were once an afterthought.
Neglecting your physical pillar isn’t just affecting your health. It’s also affecting your productivity, your ability to lead, and your relationships.
Physical energy consists of three pillars: sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
Smart executives maximize their sleep because it optimizes their mental performance, emotional intelligence, and charisma which helps when you’re trying to inspire your team.
With meetings on top of meetings (and this can be virtual or in-person), it’s easy to skip meals. Not only are you exhausting your energy reserves, but you’re also setting yourself up for a binge later in the day that can interfere with your goals.
For those who think exercise is only beneficial when it’s highly intense, scientists in a 2014 study found that people’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when they were walking. Turn some of your meetings into walking meetings.
- Mental energy
As an executive, a large portion of your job is to make a small number of high-quality decisions daily. However, many executives often find themselves empty, leading to poor choices with their health that then bleed into their productivity.
Think of your mental energy as an iPhone battery. Hopefully, after a great night’s rest, you’re at 100 percent (or fully green) to start the day. As the day goes on, your battery is inevitably going to lower—whether this is fast or slow depends on how you’re structuring your day.
Preserving your mental fuel comes down to you not wasting your energy on the small things, strategically scheduling your day out, and automating your day as much as possible. Just as you delegate inside your company, delegate your nutrition by leveraging meal delivery services to guarantee you’re getting quality fuel while avoiding stress-eating and wasting energy thinking about what to eat.
Other ideas could be scheduling priority meetings before lunch while aiming for three impactful decisions per day.
- Emotional energy
If you let your feelings become more robust than your mind, then you’re most likely going to be making less than optimal decisions not only regarding your company, but with your health as well.
Having ample amounts of emotional energy is necessary to have the resilience required to handle the various stressors of life. Optimal emotional energy is about self-regulation.
And an easy way to regulate this daily is to focus on your breathing. Learning to control your breathing can offer you a competitive advantage when it comes to your productivity—especially your decision-making.
A study published in the May 2019 issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that just two minutes of deep, slow breathing engages the vagus nerve and increases HRV, which subsequently improves your decision-making.
There were two parts to the study, but the second part was most applicable.
The experimental group performed two minutes of skewed vagal breathing. In simpler terms: you’re exhaling longer than you’re inhaling. The control group waited for two minutes before performing a 30-minute business challenging decision-making task with multiple choice answers. Stress levels were self-reported before and after the task.
The control group reported elevations in stress levels, but those in the experimental group did not. Most importantly, participants who performed deep breathing exercises in the experimental group scored nearly 50 percent more correct answers in the decision-making task compared to the control group.
Take a few minutes during the day to call a timeout and focus on your breathing to recenter yourself.
When you’re playing at the highest levels, the small insights are what catapults you into the upper echelon and gives you an unfair advantage.
- Spiritual energy
I know you may have some hesitancy when you see the word spiritual energy, but don’t worry, we’re not going to get woo-woo here. Another word for spiritual energy is your purpose and mission. Often, when conversing with hard-charging leaders and performers, their energy management issues can typically be placed in two categories:
– Overloaded and exhausted while trying to power through it
– Inactive, bored, and in general, disconnected
Leveraging your spiritual energy is helpful in times of stress and serves as a beneficial north star for making decisions.
It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and find yourself in one of the two categories mentioned above. When you find yourself in one of those categories, find a moment to give yourself a re-up and review what’s important to you and why you do what you do daily.
What are your beliefs, values, and principles?
Are your core values and meaningful habits, hobbies, and relationships seamlessly integrating into your professional life?
Simply put, are you living a coherent lifestyle.
As an executive, everything starts with you and trickles down to everyone else in the organization. You’re the tone-setter.
You must lead by example, and this starts with showing up as the best version of yourself. And this won’t happen without maximizing the four critical areas of energy management.
Written by Julian Hayes II.
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