What energizes you?

September 21, 2013

By: Camille Piner

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” – Benjamin Franklin

Yesterday I experienced one of those moments where I had been sitting, working on my laptop for two hours too long, and at that point I wasn’t accomplishing anything. If I hadn’t met with Gretchen Spreitzer[1] this week and discussed the importance of taking mental and physical breaks, I probably wouldn’t have made my next move: I texted my boyfriend and asked him to go for a walk with me.

Gretchen Spreitzer writes about thriving in the workplace, and describes thriving employees as satisfied, productive, and engaged in creating the future. She identifies two components of thriving: vitality (being alive, passionate, and excited) and learning (growth stemming from gaining knowledge)[2]. Both of these components can be fueled by energy.

The homework she assigned required us to assess our energy levels throughout the day, and note what we are doing each time we record it. This allowed us to recognize what kinds of things energize us, which we can utilize to help us thrive in our work environments. I noticed that I felt the most energized after I took a walk with my friends in the Arb. We found some flat rocks to sit on along the Huron River, and it was incredibly peaceful to lie in the sun, look at the greenery around us, and listen to the river.

After debriefing this assignment, Gretchen gave us a worksheet of energy interventions, which I plan to tape to my desk. The worksheet is divided into physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy interventions. We were asked to commit to at least one for the next week to improve our wellbeing and energy levels.

Some of the interventions that resonated with me were sleeping, taking breaks, and spending time with energizers. The sleep intervention advises getting seven hours of sleep and going to sleep and waking up around the same times. Spreitzer says, “Sleep deprivation causes slower cognitive and social processing… and difficulty concentrating.” I should have had this assignment last week because I am currently sick, likely because I was sleep deprived the entire week.

The mental energy intervention I tried was to “take a break.” Switching tasks every 90-120 minutes can prevent that fatigue we feel when we’ve been focusing on one thing for too long. It was because I committed to this intervention that I thought to text my boyfriend to go for a walk yesterday, which lead to a refreshing Friday afternoon feeding the squirrels on the Diag.

One of the emotional energy interventions I followed unintentionally. I requested to work with a specific advisor this week because I always left her feeling elevated. I was right to have felt this way, because energy can be contagious! Spreitzer encourages us to “invest in relationships that energize [us],” because why wouldn’t you want to spend your time with someone who feeds you positive energy?

I learned a lot this week about where I get my energy, and what I can do to maintain healthy energy levels. My future energy plan? (1) Get seven hours of sleep; (2) Get up and walk after working for 90 minutes on a task; (3) Continue seeking out those who radiate positive energy; and (4) Take a stroll outside for a surge of energy and productivity.

And you know what else energizes me? Finishing blog articles.

[1] Gretchen Speitzer is a C-POS Professor at the University of Michigan

[2] Spreitzer, G., & Porath, C. (2012). Creating sustainable performance. Harvard Business Review.