“I’m making good progress in my life, I’m on a good road, I’m doing all these good things for me… I just always stay on the edge of feeling frazzled, all the time.”

That’s what my coachee said this morning on our coaching call. I know how she feels. Today I sprang out of bed ready to go! But yesterday, I rolled over and threw the covers back over my head. Luckily for me, the rolling back over doesn’t happen much anymore because I’ve found a trick. I know a secret, and I shared it with my friend this morning.

“Do you have a pen and paper?” I asked her.  “Draw a line from top to bottom.  Then think about yesterday.” “Ok,” she said “Yesterday I fell into bed exhausted. I went to bed at 9:30.”

“Good! This will help.  Title the left side of the paper Energy Givers and the right side title it Energy Takers. Now think about every single thing you did yesterday, people you talked to, attitudes you had, things you ate, music you listened to.  Pay attention to how each one made you feel. List each thing as a Giver or a Taker. If something is neither one, put it at the bottom of the page as neutral. But focus on the Givers and Takers.”

There was silence as she wrote.  Then she explained each one on the list.

“I worked for two hours in the morning, Taker. After that I wrote a proposal for a program with the non-profit I’m volunteering for, Giver…”  The list went on until, “And lastly, my husband’s car broke down and I had to go pick him up at nine o’clock at night.  Taker! I went home and fell into bed.”

When the list was done, her Taker side was longer than her Giver side. A lot longer! No wonder she fell into bed.

It’s all about paying attention to the energy that flows into us and away from us.  Is our life sustainable?  If our Taker side is longer day in and day out, we stay tired, get sick more, don’t have the energy we need to do the things we love or for the people we care about. Plus, we feel generally unhappy. If our Giver side is longer we do much better. The great news is, if we list it all out, we can predict how our day will go based on the energy exchange, and rearrange.

“That was yesterday,” I told her. Take a look at today’s list, how does that look?” She listed it all out. “It’s about even today.”

I like to see the Energy Giver side be at least two items longer than the Taker side. If you store up energy, then the draining days won’t hit quite so hard. It’s like storing energy in an internal battery for when you need it. When we list out our days, weeks, months, we can rearrange to include enough Energy Givers, making a satisfying life sustainable.

“How can you rearrange, take away or add so that your Giver list is longer?” I put the question to her and she began to adjust.

What if you can’t change the list?  

Another Coachee was an Uber driver, giving him an income while he started another business. He liked the money but driving strangers around was exhausting for him.

My question was “How can you turn this around? How can it become energizing for you?” He thought about it and came up with an idea. Because he loved stories and jokes, he began asking his riders if they had any funny, inspiring or amazing stories or good jokes they could share. Suddenly he began looking forward to a job he had dreaded, and it gave him extra vitality to develop his budding business!

This isn’t rocket science, we just forget to apply it, and then wonder why we are exhausted all the time.

People are the trickiest givers and takers on the list. Some people I love so much leave me completely depleted. That means I have to make sure I spend enough time with people who energize me as well, so that I will have plenty of energy for all.

What takes up your energy? What gives it?  Yoga? Reading a book? Hiking?

I have a ready-made Energy Giver list, so I can plug and play on the days I need more. And, when I don’t even have time for that, I have an Emergency Energy Box. It’s a collection of quotes, verses, music, pictures, a candle, bubble bath… each small thing makes me smile, gives me an instant boost.

Energy or lack of it flows into all parts of life. I feel it when I run. If I’m low on sleep, stressed and had a burger for lunch, I can barely make it up that crazy steep hill.  But if I’m rested and hydrated, I look at the hill and say, “What hill?”

There’s one more thing, I hear this all the time…

“I feel selfish if I take time for myself.”

“I don’t have time to do it, the demands are too great.”

“I feel guilty if I take time from others.”

To this I say one word.

Really?

The whole point is to have an abundance of energy for those around you, to do the things you care about, that are important to you, to meet life’s demands more efficiently, effectively, and tackle them with delight! It’s to live so that you can look at the steep hills and say, “what hill?”