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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.

    More by this author

    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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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