Killing Off Your "Energy Leeches"

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During every minute of every day, you are burning mental and physical energy. If you have goals, then a goodly portion of that energy should be directed towards achieving them. Goals automatically provide a useful screening question for your thoughts and actions: Is this particular use of energy helping to create my desired future? Sometimes we are thrown off track by internal or external distractions that represent “energy leeches”. Try observing yourself for a couple of days with the “goal” question in mind. See if any of these energy leeches are interfering with your ability to concentrate on more important things.

1. Difficulty Focusing

Do you find yourself bouncing from one task to another with little rhyme or reason? Is your attention easily distracted by anyone who wanders into your office? Do you fall in love with a different idea every week?

Multitasking is a useful ability, but when flexibility escalates into being completely scatterbrained, little is accomplished. If this is a challenge for you, then better self-management should become your first priority. At the beginning of each day, list what you need to do in priority order – then stick to it! Make yourself finish one thing before you start another.

If this just gets way too tedious, build in some “diversion breaks” for yourself – take a short walk, chat briefly with a friend, surf the net for a few minutes – but then come back to the task at hand.

2. Negative Emotions

Some people have a tendency to ruminate endlessly – that is, they obsessively replay past difficulties in their mind, constantly reliving the accompanying unpleasant feelings. Others habitually focus on how incompetent, idiotic, or unfair other people are. A few hapless souls constantly run a “woe is me” tape, telling themselves how they can’t do anything right, are doomed to fail, and on and on.

Regardless of the particular script, all negative feelings drain energy from more productive pursuits, so if you have this problem, you need to begin working on your internal dialogue. Force yourself to focus on the future, not the past. After all, which one can you change?

3. Seductive Tasks

Given a choice, we all prefer some tasks and responsibilities over others. But if the stuff you like to do is edging out the stuff you need to do, you may have an energy-use problem, because the stuff you need to do will catch up with you eventually. Put off paying those bills too long and someone will cut off your utilities.

You must force yourself to occasionally abandon the fun things and devote sufficient time to the unpleasant but necessary chores required to reach your goals. High on that “must-do” list should be projects with important outcomes and anything viewed as a high priority by your boss.

4. Toxic People

Some colleagues add nothing to your life but grief. You may have to work with them, but you have no obligation to eat lunch with them, take breaks with them, listen to their endless complaints, or become their therapist. If this is a problem for you, you’re probably being too polite.

Practice these phrases: “Well, I’d rather keep chatting, but I have to get back to work.” “I hate to cut off this conversation, but duty calls.” “I wish I had time to help you with that, but I’m behind schedule already.” And here’s a useful word: No.

5. Martyrdom

Those who live to please others often sacrifice their own desires in an effort to make other people happy. Because they can easily be taken for granted, martyrs frequently develop huge reservoirs of resentment beneath that smiling, helpful facade.

Since they never express them, these feelings just grow and grow, sucking up huge amounts of energy. A martyr’s entire personality can easily become one big energy leech. If this sounds like you, then you need to speak up and start being more honest with those around you. After all, they can’t read your mind, even though you sometimes expect them to.

Killing off energy leeches requires you to adjust your thinking or your actions (or both). Breaking well-entrenched habits is never easy, but you’ll definitely feel better once you get rid of those suckers.