This is the fourth post in a short series looking at the tools I use to stay sustainably creative. You can read the rest of the posts in the series here
I write a length about the idea of keeping an energy diary in Sustainable Creativity, but it’s something I wanted to talk a little about here too.
A simple idea
The principle of using an energy diary is simple but it takes time to work out how to tailor it to our individual circumstances.
The basic idea is that you write down both the things you do that use up your energy and the things you do that add to your energy reserves. It’s a bit like keeping a spending diary, writing down all the money coming and the money you spend. Just like with a spending diary your aim is to keep a close eye on what you spend to make sure you don’t get overdrawn.
Working out what adds to our energy reserve and what depletes it
Clearly what is more complicated with an energy diary is that it is not immediately obvious which things will add to our energy reserves and which will deplete it (though you probably have a good idea). Sleep is a good way to add to our energy reserves and for me sitting quietly with a cup of tea is too.
Moreover, the amount of energy we need isn’t simply a one for one exchange for the amount of energy we save. For example, when I’m at my best I need to save energy for three hours for every hour I spend. That means in in 24 hours I have about six hours of energy to spend and need to save for eighteen hours. I think of this as my “energy ratio”.
At less good times my energy ratio can be more like 7:1, which means for every seven hours of rest I get one hour’s worth of energy–that’s three hours of activity in a day.
There’s a more detailed discussion of the process of working out our saving to spending energy ratios plus the sort of things that add to and deplete our energy reserves in Sustainable Creativity.
Useful even for generally healthy people
Even generally healthy people still have energy limits that they need to work within and so for everyone working out our saving to spending energy ratio is very good idea. It really a process of trial and error (and of course can change over time), but it is worth putting the effort in to working it out.
Write down everything
When I’m keeping my energy diary I write down everything I do that puts energy into my energy bank and then everything I do that takes energy out. This makes me very aware of how much I do do (and how much I need to rest), and also makes me make careful choices about the things I decide to do. If I know I only have two hours of energy left for the day I can decide to focus it on something important, rather than frittering it away.
Five reasons why it’s a good idea to keep an energy diary:
- It keeps us very aware of just how much we do (people with low energy often underestimate how much they do and so push themselves far beyond their limits).
- Being aware of how much energy we need to save to be able to function is a VERY useful thing to know and can help us to avoid energy crashes.
- Being aware of how much available energy we are likely to have in a day makes us focus more on what is important.
- An energy diary helps to a establish a much needed routine that can keep us on a reasonably even keel.
- Getting a clear picture of the reality of our energy situation can help remove the panic and fear that is often associated with illness, showing us we do have options and can do at least some of the things we want to.