“Energy management is king.”
At the start of 2021 I tried an approach of enumerating an assortment of focus areas. That had some interesting outcomes and I still keep the list tacked to my refrigerator as a reminder but overall I ended the year disappointed with the strategy. At least I’m reliably eating more vegetables.
At the start of 2022 I opted instead for a single unifying theme captured in a simple phrase: “I will live with fear without living in fear”. Overall, as someone who started the year riddled with doubt and at risk of being scared out of paragliding, I ended up pretty happy with the results. All of the photos in this section would have failed to exist without that commitment to myself and the help of a handful of amazing friends, instructors, and mentors who created opportunities, offered feedback, and graciously tolerated my jitters. Year-ago-Andrew probably didn’t believe that any of this was possible but took a leap of faith anyway and doggedly chased a simple theme.
On the heels of what feels like a successful 2022 I incline toward repeating last year’s approach and so here we go: “Energy management is king”.
I love this approach for two reasons.
Firstly, it provides me something I can easily repeat every day while anchoring my behaviors around it and continually assessing whether I am being honest with myself.
Secondly, it offers me the ability to evolve its focus as the year plays out and I build on earlier successes.
But the power of the theme’s simplicity rests on the assumption that I will expand that macro into concrete actions and sub-philosophies, so here we go…
Some Thinking To Shape The Year
I’ve been doing the solopreneur consultant thing for nearly three years now, starting somewhat by accident when COVID blew up my “sabbatical year” plans in March 2020 and continuing somewhat more deliberately when I decided “I guess this is a thing” about a year later.
It has variously proven wonderful and terrible, occasionally at the same time, though it has always been educational.
Central to that education has a been learning how to deal with a loss of structure.
First, let’s enumerate some bad outcomes I am experiencing:
- Sluggish getting up many mornings
- Slow getting to the first productive activity of the day
- Missing out on certain outdoor activities too often
- Often feel overwhelmed by All The Things
- Unreliable motivation for Work Stuff
- Non-contracted projects languishing or abandoned
Second, some diagnosis of contributing factors:
- High degree of flexibility when I work
- Unpredictable readiness of clients for me to do work
- Easy access to lots of digital distractions
- A personality that is very momentum driven
- Inadequate regularity around sleep timing
- Damaging proximity of sleep disruptive activities to sleep time
- A very “remote-oriented” reality both personally and professionally
- Many of my favorite things are very timing- and/or weather-sensitive
- I have no external back pressures on my house getting messy and disorganized
- The cyclic/unpredictable nature of my life encourages (non-financial) “debt cycles”
I should also step back and note that certain of these challenges aren’t entirely unique to this epoch but rather merely exacerbated by a mix of biological age and life architecture. I used to do classified work in a SCIF where I could not bring a cell phone and access to the public Internet was cumbersome but even there I struggled with a temptation to look at the firehose of email on the classified network. I used to have a work schedule that expected eighty hours per two week pay period but even if I didn’t flex that with COMP time I was still prone to substantial variations in start time, end time, and day duration. I used to be able to eat, drink, and be merry right up until bedtime but now that causes indigestion and insomnia. BLARGH.
So, yes, some of this stuff is situational, but also some of it is innate, and some of that latter is new-innate. In previous lifetimes I had to adopt life hacks like “no email in the mornings” and “write at least some code everyday”. I’ll have to do similar if I want to do better while also adopting new disciplines that a younger Andrew did not require.
What are some things I can do now to start tipping the scale in my favor? A few sub-themes seem like good places to get traction…
- Have a consistent dinner time
- Be more planful about shopping and meal planning
- Cook a fancy dinner if I have time, but…
- Always have a break glass option for a quick dinner, and…
- Eat a much smaller dinner if I botch the timing
- Have a consistent sleep and wake time
- Be disciplined about last meal timing
- Be disciplined about last liquids time
- Be disciplined about last screen time
- Take a hot shower right before bed
- Commit to a specific wake-up time and set an alarm
- Set a corresponding Chilipad Ooler wake-up temperature schedule
- Get out of bed immediately when alarm goes off
- Adjust these parameters gradually throughout the seasons
- Maintain an orderly house
- Allocate a daily maintenance budget to recurring matters
- Allocate a weekly budget to strategic matters
- Take one day per month to focus just on this
- Maintain a pain free body
- Be consistent about putting in the maintenance work for strength and flexibility
- Be conscious about taking breaks when working to move around the house
- Be willing to proactively take a break from an activity if I have a chronic injury
- Resist the temptation to eat until I am full and beyond as comfort
- Maintain a more consistent amount of “Work Time” per day for structure and momentum
- Cultivate and sustain personal projects that take up the slack of consulting projects
- Avoid any personal/leisure usage of digital distractions in the morning
- Keep phone well outside of arm’s length when attempting to maintain a flow state
- Cull certain apps from my phone during certain windows to reduce temptation
- Shape higher value “break” activities to fold into the day (e.g. DuoLingo study time)
- Have a defined junction time where either outdoor play or indoor work begins
- Have a consistent routine that leads up this junction point
- Commit to a “write something every day” discipline with my blog
- Commit to a “write some code every day” discipline with my suite of tech projects
- Make decisions that accept uncertainty and then put them out of mind for the time
- Avoid the anxiety of continually re-considering whether to take on a stressful item
- Avoid the decision fatigue and churn of trying too hard to optimize outcomes
- Create certainty by committing to activity start times even when none is required
- Develop mechanisms to track, measure, and manage related outcomes
Because as Jocko Willink is tirelessly reminding us “Discipline Equals Freedom”, Freedom means having the capacity to do more of the stuff I love, and both time and energy feel scarce and precious…
So in 2023 — Energy management is king.