Know what gives you energy (and what takes it away)

Jul 6th, 2020

We all begin our days with a finite amount of time and energy. Energy of course can mean physical or mental energy; in this post I am referring to mental energy. Throughout the day, you expend energy on a variety of things – from small things like deciding what to eat for lunch to big things like planning for the future. Whatever the scale, there is always a cost; just like money, you’re always spending energy on something. This alone isn’t a problem, but you have to be aware of where your energy is going and what you’re doing to get energy back. Otherwise, your mental health may be at risk – for example, being overwhelmed by feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or general unhappiness. Formulaically, this would look like the following (E stands for energy):

\[E_{remaining} = E_{initial} - E_{spent} + E_{gained}\]

Just like your bank account balance, the energy you end today with will be the starting point for tomorrow. And like money, the more energy that you have left, the more you’ll be able to invest in the things that matter to you. Of course, you don’t have an infinite amount of time to recuperate spent energy. That’s why you have to be mindful about allocating enough of your time to energizing activities in order to maintain a proper balance. Importantly, energy-spending and energy-gaining activities are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In other words, the things that you pour significant amounts of energy into might also be the same things that return energy to you. This is the kind of best-case scenario that you want to find yourself in, if possible.

Whatever your particular circumstance, it is a useful practice to know what gives you energy and what doesn’t. Not only will this make sure that you are able to maintain a healthy mental state, it will also help direct your focus on the goals that matter to you the most. Lastly, having a surplus of energy will make it easier for you to spend it helping others, which in itself is likely to have a compounding effect – giving you even more energy to be helpful for even more people.