This is Part One of a two-part blog series. Read Part Two here.

You are not a machine. You are human. A human being who is asked to do more with less. With staff shortages, you’re covering for empty seats and yet are still expected to deliver on your goals. These are unrealistic expectations.

Unfortunately, in our culture, the focus is on maximizing productivity without thinking about where our energy to create and produce comes from. Even the focus on optimizing technology so you can “do more” is a machine-centered way to function.

When you have a human-centered focus, success shifts to whether or not you’re creating a life where you can thrive. It focuses on optimizing your alertness and performance. It’s about understanding what you need as a human and ensuring that what happens is good for YOU, your family, your friends, the organization, and the world.

These two focuses are in tension. And when there’s constant pressure to “do more,” the problem becomes that you only have so much time in a day. Time is finite; we can’t make more of it. So, most of us respond by working longer days, which, if you’ve tried it, only leads to exhaustion – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It doesn’t make you more productive. You’ll be less engaged and less effective. And somewhat ironically, overworking often means you’ll end up missing work because you’re sick or leaving the job altogether because you’re burned out.

What you can do is expand your energy. Energy comes from how we work with our bodies, emotions, minds, and spirits, and it can be expanded, renewed, and resourced. It may not feel like it right now, but your energy is something you actually do have control over.

For the non-profit leaders who may be reading this, we know that you are likely struggling to retain employees and fill empty seats. If you make the effort to shift your focus from getting more out of people, to investing in them, you can shift this trend. Can you imagine what would be possible if all of your team had a greater energy and capacity to work? (AND they stayed for more than 18 months?!)

I’m very inspired by the body of work from Tony Schwartz, Catherine McCarthy, and John Loehr about how to manage your energy, not your time. They discuss the research and studies showing the impact and provide a quick assessment so you can see where you stand and gain clear, simple, and doable actions (what they call “rituals”) that will help you expand and renew your energy. For example, taking an afternoon walk every day, or going to bed at the same hour every night.

In a piece published by Harvard Business Review, the authors explain the results they saw when people worked to manage their energy rather than their time:

“Establishing simple rituals like these can lead to striking results across organizations. At Wachovia Bank, we took a group of employees through a pilot energy management program and then measured their performance against that of a control group. The participants outperformed the controls on a series of financial metrics, such as the value of loans they generated. They also reported substantial improvements in their customer relationships, their engagement with work, and their personal satisfaction.” (Harvard Business Review, 2007)

Wow! Pretty incredible impact just from focusing on energy management.

Now, let’s take a look at what they did and consider how it applies to your work in fundraising.

It’s not new to any of us that prioritizing good nutrition, exercise, and sleep allows us to better manage our emotions and focus, which means we can get more accomplished at a higher level. What is more of a mystery is how to actually develop more energy through managing our minds, bodies, emotions and spirits.

You’ve likely tried, and failed on various occasions, to create a healthier life by cutting out sugar or jumping into working out an hour a day. So, it’s natural that you might be reluctant to try that again. But, I would argue, what other choice do you have?

Maybe your reality looks something like this:

  • You feel pressured to bring in a significant revenue goal from your donors, but you must also help with your organization’s big event.
  • You’re covering half of the annual giving work since you recently lost that employee and have to make sure all donors giving over $500 get a personal thank you.
  • You work remotely and are juggling young kids or elderly parent responsibilities. Your long hours and the immense amount of pressure in your personal life mean you don’t eat regularly, don’t sleep well, don’t have time to exercise, and perpetually feel exhausted and ineffective. You keep moving as fast as you can, thinking that someday it will get easier or slow down, but that doesn’t happen.

Can you relate to any (or maybe all) of these?

Let’s turn and face that overwhelm head-on and see what you do have control over, beginning with an honest and clear picture of how you are managing your energy.

If you find it’s not a pretty picture, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In the research from Schwartz and McCarthy, they found the average person taking their assessment checked eight to ten of the sixteen boxes that indicate poor energy management skills. I highly recommend taking this assessment for yourself. It offers some pretty amazing insights into how you’re managing your body, your emotions, your mental load, and your joy in life. The authors zoom in on areas that are impacting your overall health and performance, like sleep, nutrition, and work-life balance.

Take a moment to do this assessment right now. (Scroll down to where the article says “Are You Headed for an Energy Crisis?” and expand the box to see the questions.)

How many boxes of burnout did you check? We all go through periods where some of these things just become habit, and we get out of balance. This is a wake-up call to help you identify the areas you want to work on and strengthen your energy management muscles.

Gaining insight and information about your energy is just the first step you must take. In the next blog, we’ll discuss strategies that will help you better manage your energy, so your time is more effective and balanced.


Works Cited

Schwartz, T. & McCarthy, C. (2007). Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. Harvard Business Review, October, 2007.​­your­energy­not­your­time