Part 3 – Budgeting Your Energy
When it comes to dealing with perfectionism and finding more balance, I think the trick is to look at your life and its patterns. If you’re generally feeling overwhelmed/unmotivated/imbalanced/drained/unhappy, then the areas you are giving your attention to aren’t sustainable and you need to redistribute your time and focus overall. I’m not telling you to quit your job or totally ditch your relationships, I’m just saying you might be able to reallocate the energy you’re currently spending. Basically, you have to budget your energy! That means making sure you have enough sources of energy income to support the amount you’re putting out!
How you spend your day-to-day is how you’re spending your life.
(I’m not sure if this is a quote or just an idiom, but I don’t think I came up with it! If you know who did come up with it, let me know and I’ll give them full credit!)
So, what often helps me when I start to feel out of balance, is just to stop and take stock. Many self-development professionals and books have different models of doing this, but, again, just like a budget, make your categories. First, rate your satisfaction and wellness in each area on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most awful and 10 being as good as you can imagine. You just can’t pick seven because that’s what people put when they feel like it’s neutral (I read this somewhere, but I can’t remember where. I think I’ve heard Johanna Seier discuss this in her Fit Girl Gang Program, but I had also read it somewhere.)
You can make a graph or doodle (in my head, I’m picturing a super cute pie chart with colour coding and illustrations!), but I’m a list person so mine might look like this:
Life Satisfaction Rating (Clever name to be developed eventually)
Living Space: ___/10
Romantic Relationship: ___/10
Mental and Emotional Health: ___/10
Overall health: ___/10
These categories are just a suggestion, so you can adjust them so they’re specific to you. If you’re a student, add a category for how school is going. If you’re a parent or married, put those in. If you’re an entrepreneur, put your business in. The main point is to take inventory of all the different areas of your life, and anything that you rate 6 or lower is something you need to spend energy on improving.
Now let’s look at your budget. How are you building up energy income? What are your current expenses?
For me, it might look like:
Sources of Income (Elements that energize me):
- Job satisfaction
- Spending quality time connecting with loved ones
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating right for my body
- Creative expression
- Exercising regularly
- Having a clean and organized space.
When it comes to my “income”, I know that these are things I like and that work for me, but I’m not necessarily doing all of them all the time. I have satisfaction in my job and find it energizing, but you could have the exact same job and find it entirely depleting. You might hate yoga but love a sport! That’s okay, be honest with yourself and put down what’s true to you.
Now, your expenses might overlap with income, but the point of the exercise is to gain awareness. Again, my job is an example because I find different aspects of it to be either energizing or depleting.
Expenses (How I’m spending/draining my energy):
- Work – long hours, emotional involvement, perfectionism,overwhelming amount of deadlines and project on the go.
- Watching a lot of Netflix
- Trying to learn to knit
- Writing blog posts
- Networking via social media
- Stress about work/finances/relationship
- Worry and anxiety
- Not getting enough sleep
- Trying to keep up with a fitness program AND yoga. Feeling like I’m unsuccessful at both.
- Eating a lot of junk food or unsatisfying meals.
- Dehydration (My coffee to water ratio is a bit off lately!)
Okay, now look back at your Life Satisfaction Categories (to be renamed with something clever at a later time) – where are you lacking? Compare this to your Energy Budget. Does your lack in satisfaction match your expenses?
For example, if your current mental health rating is at a 6 or lower, and you’re not currently using any of the strategies on your income list that support mental health, that’s energy you need to reallocate! Maybe you have a 6 or lower in overall health and one of the ways you’re spending your energy right now is in watching Netflix… can that same time and energy be reallocated to meal prep or a walk outside? Remember, even just a little change is better than nothing and it can still have an impact. Maybe you notice your Living Space Satisfaction is at like a 5… it works, but you don’t love it. Did it even make it on your expense list? Yes? Great job! No? Edit the list!
Are you even doing the things that are on your income list? Try to incorporate one at a time, even just a little bit! Maybe you don’t have an hour or two for the gym, but you can work in a walk with a podcast/audiobook or music that lights you up! That could improve your fitness, overall health, and mental health ratings! Maybe you go for that fifteen minute walk with a friend or your S.O.– now you’re improving your relationship category as well as those other ones!
The thing is, the categories are of course all related, but laying it out in a concrete way can help you gain perspective.
**THE HANG UP FOR PERFECTIONISTS**
This is where I struggle. I see all the things to be feeding my energy “the right way” so I can also spend my energy “the right way”. I want to get up at 4:45 to have lemon water and do a 30 minute yoga session and a meditation followed by journaling and a gratitude practice. I want to get to leave home by 6:40 to get to work on time with my pre-made healthy meals, drink enough water all day, manage my stress, and be the best teacher in the building. I want to go to the gym on my way home from work and do the most effective workout (because of course I want results!), get home and have a healthy (and IG-worthy!) dinner, spend quality time with my SO and support his needs so he’s satisfied in our relationship, work on my career goals by taking a class, networking, and volunteering, and somewhere in between see my family and friends consistently….
WE CANNOT DO ALL THE THINGS ALL OF THE TIME.
(If my mom reads this, she’s definitely going to be exasperated that I’m only getting this now after she’s had to say this exact line to me almost every time we’ve had a conversation since I was, like, 10. In fact, full kudos to Wendy for the line. It’s all hers!)
It’s just not doable. Maybe for spurts of time, but it’s not sustainable. When I try to live like that, I just end up even more depleted and then frustrated because it feels like I’m failing at all the things. We have to be accepting of reality and, especially as a perfectionist, it takes work and consistent self-reflection to do that.
So grant yourself a little grace. Realize that even if you made it to one or two workouts with a friend, and even just made it to your mat to sip your tea (but no yoga happened) before work, that’s still progress! You’re still trying! Ever tiny effort counts towards your Energy Income, just the same way ever 10 cents you add to your bank account is 10 cents more than you had before. You can’t do it all perfectly and you absolutely cannot be everything to everyone. You simply have to prioritize. So go back to the budget. Is there something that’s draining it with no obvious benefits? Cut it. Is there something in income that you need more of to improve one of your Life Satisfaction Categories (again, cool name coming at a later time!)? Okay, take one of your expenses and reallocate that time and energy so it happens.
You just have to accept that it’s not going to be perfect, but as long as you’re doing your best, that’s close enough.
“Done is better than perfect and a little is better than nothing.”
With love and gratitude,
P.S. Make sure you check out Part 1 and 2 of the Perfectionism series if you haven’t already!