Managing Your Energy

A This Way Up Exercise

Simple worksheet at bottom of article

Managing Your Energy

A prevalent thought in our culture tends to be a focus or even a hyper-focus on managing our time.  Schedulers, phone applications, reminder notes, and countless courses are all dedicated to the art of being more productive in planning your day and managing your time. While having a schedule to ensure that the we stay on track is a good habit to have, we have missed out on a critical element which is that energy management, not time management should be our most important concept, since without energy, you could have the most efficient schedule ever made and it won’t matter.

I am sure you have had one of those days when you planned out the day the night before, woke up and went about following your plan only to run out of energy by mid-day, losing your ability to focus and feeling your levels of stress and anxiety rise as you realize that the plan is not going to be completed.  Not implementing an energy strategy or having habits in place that renew your energy levels will often lead to such an outcome.

A Personal Energy Plan

You probably have not truly stopped to think about this aspect of your life, assuming as most people that we start the day with an unlimited amount of energy to get it all done.  Others no this is not true, especially those dealing with an illness or a chronic health condition, yet they too have never been introduced to a more formal way to track their energy though out the day.

The following concept, which I have shared with business executives, parents, medical professionals and those dealing with a chronic health issue could just as easily be utilized by everyone and once you have determined your usual starting energy point, the rest is easy.  This is not even something you need to use forever, since with practice, it eventually becomes a concept running in the background, an awareness that is automatic.

The concept of managing your energy is simple and goes like this:

  • Pick a dozen small objects, such as pennies or paper clips. These items represent the total amount of energy that you have at your disposal to engage in activities over the course of a day.
  • As you move thru your day, any time you engage in an action which, once you have completed it, required energy, remove the estimated number of “energy” tokens that you think the engagement required from one pocket to the other. Think of one pocket as your “reserves” pocket and the other as the “spent” pocket.  You can also use a phone application instead of actual objects in your pocket, especially if you don’t usually wear clothing that has no pockets.

This whole approach will require a certain level of awareness in remembering to do this, but the information that you will get by engaging in such an approach will be priceless in the long run.  Based upon reports of those who have used this approach, common costs using a 12 point system may look like this:

  • Meeting                                          1-2 tokens
  • Morning Commute                      1 token
  • Work Project                                 1-2 tokens
  • Phone Calls                                   1-2 tokens
  • Caretaking                                     2 tokens
  • Parenting                                      1-4 tokens
  • Going to the Gym                        1 token
  • Yardwork                                      2 tokens

It is also important to note that if the day before was unusually strenuous or you wake up with a cold that this will reduce your starting amount by 1 to 3 tokens as well.

Pulling It All Together

If at the end of the day you find you still have tokens in your pocket, but you ran out of energy by 3pm, then you have underestimated how much each token was worth or you ran out of tokens by noon, but easily glided thru the rest of the day, then you overestimated how much each one was worth.  Simply keep this in mind as you start the next day and over the course of a few days, you will have a more clearer understanding of what each token signifies in terms of energy.  You can also add or subtract the total amount of tokens to accommodate your judgement.

Again, you need not do this forever, typically three to four weeks does the trick in raising your awareness and eventually, like counting calories or knowing how much weight to use at the gym, it will become second nature.

Rejuvenation Strategies

Now, let’s say you do this for a few days and you notice that the amount of engagements you have typically requires more tokens then you have.  This is not uncommon at all and since it is not practical or even possible to leave work when you run out of energy, you need to have some strategies for regaining energy throughout the day.  For those with a progressive chronic illness, this aspect is critical.  Rejuvenation strategies are those times when you can completely disengage from those activities which require energy and/or use your body’s natural resources to reenergize and renew.  Here are some simple examples:

  • Take a lunch break either alone or with a friend, Gain a token
  • Go for a 15 minute walk, no phone, Gain a token
  • Use a mindfulness technique, Gain a token
  • Go to the gym and engage fully, Gain a token
  • Listen to your favorite music playlist, Gain a token
  • Do yoga or stretching exercise, Gain a token
  • Do something creative, Gain a token

Look for instances where you found yourself energized and see if it is possible to do that to regain some energy tokens.  It is possible that one of the usual energy depletion events, might give you back some energy if the objective is accomplished and successful, but don’t bank on it, just take it as a gift when it occurs.  It is more important that you do plan these types of activities into your day since without them, making it to the end with energy might not be possible.

To get the most out of this it is also important that at the end of the day you simply write down what your energy level was at the end of the day and how many tokens you had left (or wished you had).  There is a small worksheet at the end of this article to help with that.


How does this look?  Is it something that excites you? (gain a token) Would this be a useful application that you might benefit from?  For those who have implemented this approach, the answer was an overwhelming “Yes!”.  This concept has enriched the lives of all who have embraced it, especially those dealing with chronic conditions, for who the initial “Spoon Theory” was developed for.  It is a powerful tool with immediate benefits.  Most importantly, once this approach has been mastered, you can then begin to combine the coveted time schedule, time management approach with the energy management concept, with the two different systems complimenting each other and optimizing the outcomes.

Watch Video Here: Managing Your Energy

Energy Token Tracking Sheet

Starting Tokens                 Ending Tokens                   End of Day Energy                                                                                                                                  (0=empty 10=full)

Mon          _____________                    _____________                           ____________

Tue            _____________                   _____________                            ____________

Wed           _____________                   _____________                            ____________

Thu            _____________                   _____________                            ____________

Fri              _____________                   _____________                             ____________

Sat             _____________                    _____________                             ____________

Sun            _____________                   _____________                              ____________

2 thoughts on “Managing Your Energy

Add yours

  1. Great post Todd. I start the week with a list of things to do that may or may not be broken down on some days. The important thing is that I don’t put any pressure on myself to complete them at a specific time. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to set things as tasks well before any real life deadlines. One thing that I have learned is that, at least for me, there are 4 types of energy. In addition to physical, there is emotional, mental, and spiritual. If I have to face something difficult, like a bill I disagree with, or speaking to someone about something unpleasant, that act will leave me feeling more drained than spending 3 hours on my feet in the kitchen, or a 3 mile hike. After a certain hour at night, I may not feel physiclly ready for bed, but I’m too mentally fatigued to read. There are also days where my physical, mental and emotional energy are on a par, but my spirit is uninspired and I lack motivation. I do find that the different types of energy can compensate for each other. Taking a long walk can lesson emotional stress, and inflate my spirit. High spiritual connection can keep me mentally up all night reading an inspiring author’s work.

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