Managing your energy using resilience mapping
Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.
Happy New Year! For many of us, January is when we start putting together or refining our strategic plans for the year ahead. Typically, planning can help us to allocate staff and funding to our activities with the aim of delivering the desired goals on time. But when did you last consider how you allocate your energy over the course of your work?
At the Mindful Leadership Summit back in November 2017 I learned about resilience mapping in a workshop led by Dr Lili Powell. It’s a practical tool that helps us to assess our patterns of spending energy to date and to train ourselves to have energy available for our future activities.
Resilience is the relationship between the energy that you expend and the time it takes to restock your reserves. Just as interval training at the gym allows us to develop physical strength by alternating rounds of intense exertion with recovery periods, so we can use the same principles in how we tackle projects at work.
Firstly, start by considering the work of the previous year. Draw yourself a graph with the months of the year along the x axis and the energy expended on the y axis, where your energy levels fall into one of three broad zones: i) low arousal or hypo-energetic, ii) “in the zone” and iii) high arousal or hyper-energetic states.
Next, mark on the x axis the major deadlines or work-related activities from the past year – maybe when a new hire started, or you organised your annual conference, or when you parted ways with a major client. For each of these milestones put an “x” on the graph for how your energy expenditure was at that time e.g. perhaps the preparation for your annual conference required you to work long hours and so you were in a high arousal state for the month leading up to it.
Now join the dots between the events during your year to create a curve that gives you an overall picture of your year. What do you notice both in the pattern shown and your response to it? Are periods of high energy expenditure followed by periods of low arousal or recovery? Or maybe you’ve been operating in the hyper zone for many months and this has been followed by a lull that you’re struggling to break out of. Does what you see on the chart match how your year felt emotionally?
You might next try to map out the year ahead – adding milestones on the x axis and then charting how you’d like your energy levels to look. Does this reveal anything such as possible periods of over-exertion or potential difficulty in taking vacations where you’d like if the deadlines stay where they are?
Source of Inspiration: Workshop led by Lili Powell at the Mindful Leadership Summit 2017.