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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Parsons, MD

Forget Work-Life Balance... Start managing your Energy

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Everyone talks about work-life balance. There is NO steady state of balance. Your seesaw of life is never going to be perfectly balanced in the middle. We HAVE TO CHANGE THIS NOTION. No wonder women can't "do it all". We are expecting the IMPOSSIBLE.

Instead, let’s start thinking of our energy reserves like a bank account! What fills your tank and what drains it? What activities are making energy deposits and what activities are withdrawing your energy?

Maybe a perfect balance of "work" and "home" isn't the solution. (I hope not since it DOES NOT EXIST!) According to How Remarkable Women Lead, the book by Joanna Barsh, "It all starts with a more productive view of work-life balance. Most women tend to assume that being out of balance is the cause of energy issues, because conventional wisdom says that home time is restorative and work time is draining…. The right kind of work can be exhilarating - when you're so engrossed that you lose track of time. And the wrong kind of family time can be debilitating… You have energy ups and downs at work; you have them at home too."

This is super important! Our home life isn't ALWAYS restorative! Sometimes our family and friends make withdrawals on our energy as well. Sometimes WORK can be RESTORATIVE. Ever have those days where you are just in the zone working and you don't want to stop? Ever get on a productivity high? We can't always think work is negative and home is positive. We have to focus on what is happening to our energy levels. There will be energy zappers at home and work.

So let's stop dreaming that there is a perfect steady state! Instead start managing your energy flows. Start paying attention to the withdrawals and deposits of your energy tank. Your goal should be never running on empty. Instead, fill that tank up! (My husband is probably crying laughing since I can't keep my car's gas tank full...ever)

So how do we do that? How do we keep our energy tank from running on empty? How do we fill it up?

First, let's look at what sources of energy we have? 1. Physical - our basic stamina that we get from exercise, sleep, eating healthy and taking care of our physical bodies 2. Cognitive- our mental activities. Do you know what mental activities excite you and energize you? 3. Psychological - our emotional moods. Some emotions spark anxiety for us and others energize us. Some of us love competition while it is draining for others.

4. Social - our relationships with others and our core values

How do we fill up our tank? Here are some ideas: 1. Learn yoga and build a simple exercise into your workday routine 2. Take a quick walk outside during the day and get some sunlight 3. Play your favorite music 4. Perform an act of kindness for someone who doesn't expect it 5. Exercise 6. Share a glass of wine with a friend or spouse and unwind 7. Take a vacation 8. Sleep 9. Put time in your schedule for creativity 10. Join a group - get connected

11. Meditate

Also, if we are thinking of our tank like a bank account, we also need to minimize the withdrawals from our energy reserves. 1. Turn off the mail alert on your computer and check email at specific times daily 2. Create blocks of time in your calendar for different types of work. Set time for DEEP work! 3. Turn off your cell phone for meetings/conference calls 4. Stop multitasking. Be present in the moment.

5. Get help at home - grocery delivery services, cleaning services, food/meal prep, laundry etc.

Mix up your day alternating between things that zap your energy and things that provide you energy!

The other really important part to point out is to LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM. #PobodysNerfect. There is no perfect steady state. You are not able to be everywhere all the time. You are not going to be the full-time housewife, full-time mom and full-time working woman. So, stop expecting perfection and set realistic expectations for yourself. We, as women, can be physicians, wives and mothers, if we can set realistic expectations for ourselves and manage our energy tanks accordingly.

Some great resources:

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