Peak hour traffic is terrible where I live. It takes me an hour to drive 20km. I rely on Maps on my iPhone to guide me to and through the least clogged routes to get home in the shortest possible time.
On the last day of work before holidays, I was on my phone the whole day. You know how it is: you have to tie up what feels like a thousand loose ends. On my way home, I noticed that my phone's battery was down to 5 percent.
I'm slightly obsessed with phone chargers, so I have one in my car and another in my laptop bag. I also have chargers in the kitchen, my study and my bedroom! (Yes, I know... don't roll your eyes.)
When I noticed my phone's battery was low and realized it had to guide me home through the traffic, I simply plugged it into the car charger – and it was able to do what I needed.
I'm not yet as good at recharging myself as I am at recharging my phone, although I'm much better than I used to be. For years I lived with the mindset that I'll recharge if I have no choice left. Until then I'll just keep going and going.
As you can imagine that mindset served my career well, but it didn't serve my body as well. I ended up in a state of total burnout not once, but twice. (Not clever, I know.) However, now and again I'll still push myself to almost unthinkable extremes to get done what I've committed to doing.
Although it has become an important value in my life to recharge often and enough, it's not my number one value. It's more important to me that my word is my bond. Being totally trustworthy whether I'm rested or tired, is another value that tops recharging. Putting myself out there and creating my own opportunities to succeed is another that puts recharging on the back burner at times.
I need to add that I'm physically resilient, and I naturally have very high levels of energy. I also grew up with a mother who taught us that having energy is a function of the brain and a result of how we think. (Of course that's open to debate, but that's what she believed.)
She didn't tolerate my sister and I telling her over and over how tired we were. If we said it once she heard us, believed us and expected us to deal with it. She believed if you keep on thinking about your tiredness it becomes worse.
Something that I have difficulty dealing with is people who are so focused on self-care that they become self-absorbed. When it's the thing you think of first regardless of circumstances or situations, it becomes selfish. Many great leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, could tell you about the necessity of self-care. He believed in taking care of himself.
Those same leaders could also tell you how crucial balance is. If they weren't able to balance their needs with other demands on their time and energy, they wouldn't have been the leaders they were. Although Mandela was big on self-care, he also believed that his own needs weren't always paramount.
It's all about balance. There are times when you can absolutely put yourself first, but there are times when you have to focus on a bigger cause, a routine duty, a looming deadline, or getting something done excellently (please don't confuse excellence with perfectionism).
During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last week we spoke on the subject of "Recharge, Energize and Fill Your Bucket." The phenomenon of crankiness and irritation came up again and again when we asked you how it feels to operate from an "empty bucket."
Here are the questions we asked during the chat, and some of the responses.
Q1. What do you think "filling your bucket" means?
@MikeBarzacchini Making sure I regularly replenish by connecting with people, ideas, books, movies, music, nature and other resources that keep me curious, enthused and engaged.
@jeremypmurphy Maximizing an abundant vessel of all of our life's possibilities. Reaching for our dreams and the infinite. Taking care of our minds, bodies, and souls. Abundance, joy, self-confidence, humility, and hope help anchor the bucket and keep it balanced.
Q2. What are the risks of having an "empty bucket"?
What powerful reminders our participants shared with us!
@OrganicLeaderVB There are so many risks to having an "empty bucket" – you are serving from an empty vessel. An empty bucket means you're serving from what's left from you – not the best of you!
@maat333 The empty bucket reminds me of the quote that says: He died in 2010, was buried in 2017.
@Musolek It's a major creativity and productivity suck; we cannot function in a vacuum. Having a full bucket helps boost major themes that makes us better people professionally and personally.
Q3. What are the three biggest drains on your energy?
Two common themes that emerged here were negativity, or dealing with negative people; and not having enough to look forward to, or enough to keep us busy.
@harrisonia My 3 biggest energy drainers: stressing about things I can't change; HAVING to deal with certain people who choose to be ignorant; the fallout from other people's poor planning.
@MduduziTNtuli 1. Being without any projects to work on. We gain energy when do what we love most. 2. Not reaching targets on time.
@Leadershipz 1. Routine work 2. Doing without being strategic 3. Negativity
Q4. What stops you recharging yourself?
@WonderPix Sometimes we let the B word (busy) take our time and energy, when it's more effective to recharge first, then take on the world :)
@ZalkaB My own mind & my own bad habits – I give in to "let me just finish this and then I'll" or I give into stress, deadlines or just plain laziness. I'm mindfully "kicking myself" more now.
Q5 What values underpin the attention you give to your bucket?
@TheCraigKaye A determinedness to improve, resilience, approachability to feedback and a desire to be the best possible version of yourself.
@Jikster2009 Resilience and professional integrity. Sometimes simply by necessity due to feedback or self-analysis.
Q6. What are the signs that you need to recharge your batteries, or fill your bucket?
A common theme that emerged here was the absence of positivity and motivation – and also crankiness and irritability! Some of the answers remind me of Dopey, Sleepy and Grumpy once again!
@GenePetrovLMC Lethargy, anger, and lack of desire to do the things I love. Sure signs that I need to disconnect a bit and recharge the batteries.
@tweetgayusri When I forget what I wanted to do… it sounds weird but that's when I need to put "new batteries" in: I meditate.
@LernChance When I start to forget things and I'm "on edge." Then I know it’s time to meditate and recharge.
Q7. Who or what helps you to fill your bucket, recharge your batteries, and energize yourself?
@SaifuRizvi Spending quality time with friends. Listening to poetry and watching comedy. Helping others helps me recharge my battery!
@mai_designer Listening to music and looking at other designers' work that gives me new ideas and new perspective of things, recharge my batteries.
Q8. What strategies do you use to boost your energy?
Recharging doesn't have to be complicated. Just be aware of your needs, and then choose to do something about it.
@yehiadief Simply resting from my daily duties.
@LifeSpeak Certain foods have been known to help us feel more energized.
@hopegovind If something doesn't interest me, I don't do it, however important it looks. I also take routine breaks from my work and I do what makes me happy.
Q9. What benefits do you experience when you energize yourself regularly?
@BrainBlenderTec Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but I often see more opportunities which in the best case I can share with others.
@ZoeLord1 Better decisions, more positivity, smiling and making others happy too! No one likes to be around a constantly grumpy, stressed person!
Q10. How might you include recharging in your working day?
Another common theme emerged here: moving your body is important if you want to recharge during the day.
@HirePowerHR Regular exercise is very important. My new employer has a full gym on site, YAY! Read more, but not just anything. Read material that helps me grow. Talk more to others about their needs, what makes them happy, and what I can do to help. Now I am energized!
@TwisterKW Go for a walk. Do a puzzle at lunch. Get outside. Stretch.
Sometimes, our best intentions – to take charge of our time, plan our workday, and achieve our daily goals – fall by the wayside because we say "Yes" to things we want to say "No" to.
The topic for our next #MTtalk chat, on January 19, is "Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No." So, in this week's Twitter poll, we'd like to find out why you agree to tackle tasks, favors or projects when you really don't want to. Click here to cast your vote.
In the meantime, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about recharging, energizing and filling your bucket:
Mind Tools Club members can also access the full versions of the following articles:
In the words of my grandmother, who was the most amazing cook and baker, "You can't prepare food to nurture you if the ingredients are stale, old or rotten. No amount of magic, spice and effort can change that."
See the best responses from our latest Twitter Talk on holiday highs and lows - discussing the best and worst of the winter holiday season!
How can managers and leaders make returning from maternity leave easier for working mothers? I spoke to some parents at Mind Tools to find out.