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The 7 Energy Sinkholes (and How to Avoid Them)

The 7 Energy Sinkholes (and How to Avoid Them)
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    Energy sinkholes are situations that repeatedly drain your energy and stress you out. There are plenty of good reasons to invest your energy, so don’t waste your attention on a sinkhole. Unfortunately, it is often hard to see sinkholes since they rarely cause a drain all at once. Instead they slowly leech away at your lifeforce until your stressed, depressed and apathetic.

    The best way to get out of these sinkholes is to get a routine. Having a preplanned method to handle these problems can keep your mind focused on more important things. Here are the big seven that may be stealing from you right now:

    1 – Disorganization

    Having to constantly find documents, forgetting commitments and appointments puts is a huge sinkhole. The solution out of this is simply to create a system for organizing and routinely tidy it up. You may have implemented a few systems, but here are some areas you might consider giving a clean-up:

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    • Computer hard-drive
    • Calendar
    • To-Do Lists
    • Project Task Lists
    • Office/Desk/Home
    • Filing System
    • Closets

    2 – Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise

    Exercising isn’t just to look good on the beach. Staying fit keeps your energy levels high. You can be slim and still be drained because you aren’t fit, so don’t use the scale as the measurement. Here are some things you might want to consider to get out of this energy trap:

    1. Make a Routine – Find a gym partner, class or workout time that you can exercise at least 3-4 times per week. I’ve experimented with different amounts and found six days a week works best for me. If you are unsure how to start, just try it for thirty days to see how it goes.
    2. Replace Foods One at a Time – Don’t try to overhaul your eating habits overnight. They’ve been established over years, so they can’t change in a snap. I recommend switching out one unhealthy food type for a month before making more changes. When you take it gradually it is far easier to stick with long-term.
    3. Time Your Meals – The best way to eat would probably be 5-6 smaller meals spread throughout the day. Since this isn’t a reality for most people, a decent alternative is simply to time your meals so your blood sugar levels remain steady throughout the day. This will ensure you aren’t starving for some parts and fatigued from a big meal in others.

    3 – Problem Contacts

    We all have those few customers, clients and friends that cause a disproportionate amount of our stress. I say the best solution is simply to fire them. Cutting down on people who drain your energy can help you focus more productively on the rest. If a transaction is fair, then both parties should have the ability to opt out if it becomes too much of a hassle.

    4 – Focusing on Your Weaknesses

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    My definition of a weakness is anything you aren’t interested in becoming skilled at. If you aren’t keen on improving, you can’t build strengths and any talent you do have will degrade. Don’t try to do everything and outsource the tasks that don’t fit within your strengths. Virtual Assistants and freelancers can deliver a much higher quality than you could on your own, and often their fees are less than the cost of your time.

    5 – Squeaky Hinges

    A squeaky hinge is any piece of technology that works, but has irritating side-effects. This could mean a computer that is too slow to run the programs you need. A dishwasher that doesn’t get all the food off. Or an alarm clock that isn’t loud enough.

    If the solution to a squeaky hinge is cheap, fix it immediately. The costs will soon outweigh any replacement expenses. If the solution is expensive, write down the total cost and keep track of any wasted time/money due to the problem. Keep track of squeaks will make you aware of what the total cost is, and whether a replacement is warranted.

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    6 – Blog/E-Mail/Facebook Addiction

    Information addiction can be a huge drain to your energy. I love using blogs, e-mail and social networking sites to get the latest news and keep in touch. But that love can quickly turn into an obsession if you aren’t careful. Soon you’re like the rat frantically pushing the lever for more cocaine doses as you hit Stumble one… more… time…

    My solution was to designate a time for information inflow and keep it restricted to that time. Once per day is all I allow myself to read new RSS feeds, incoming e-mail and Facebook. For other stats and random surfing I limit myself to once per week. The result is more energy and almost no impact on communication.

    7 – Pleasing People

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    Don’t waste your time trying to please the people around you. This isn’t an excuse to be an inconsiderate jerk, but put a high value on your time. Learn to say no to people who don’t show respect for your time. Helping other people is great, but it’s better to focus on serving the greatest good than simply appealing to the whims of your friends and family.

    Don’t waste your energies trying to fit others expectations. Set your own dreams, standards and ambitions and make them your highest priority. When you’re nearing your end you’ll likely regret more the sacrifices you made to your individuality than how pleased your parents were of you.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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