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Stupid question re: energy

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  • Stupid question re: energy

    Preface: I have a genetic condition which has been manifesting itself more and more during the last 10 years. A big part of it is chronic pain, which directly and indirectly causes a lot of fatigue. It's managed as far as possible and the big picture is unlikely to change much.

    Problem: I got project coming out of my ears. Lots of ideas, lots of things i want to do, learn etc. Lots of it is high energy stuff really. Much of the physical stuff can get delegated, but the mental things stay on my plate of course. I got very little high energy time, so everything seems to be moving at snails pace. E.g. i had about 2 hours productive time today, 8 hours spent crashed on the couch.

    The obvious answer: Pace, rest, don't overdo it, get help, make sure i eat, drink, take meds. The usual.

    I am hoping that someone here has any ideas on how to make the best out of the situation. I have been thinking in the direction of context hacking mostly, but i am really stuck for ideas.

  • #2
    Can you be at all productive during your crashed on the couch time?

    Obviously that's not the time to tackle tasks requiring significant physical effort or mental concentration, but since you have so little "good" time it's important to make the best possible use of it. Anything you can do during your less productive time is stuff that you won't have to worry about later.

    Stuff in this category might include: sorting electronic or physical mail, assuming that most of it is junk and much of what's left requires little attention. Routine paperwork of all kinds, for whatever that means for your work. Low level planning can be stressful or relaxing, but might be worth a try. Etc.

    When you *do* have productive time, you'll be able to get more done if your GTD system is rock solid: all project outcomes clear, all NAs clearly defined, inbox empty, ready to hit the ground running. So make system upkeep a priority for yourself and for anyone you delegate to.

    Hope this helps,



    • #3
      Sounds like you also have an implicit project to improve your health and vitality.

      I don't wish to pry into personal health matters but though you feel you may have tried everything, it's likely that there is a solution or at least ways to improve your situation that you've not yet discovered. It's just a gut feeling on my part but I don't believe that you have to just accept your current condition as a permanent fate.

      Perhaps you might consider exploring alternative forms of medicine like acupuncture, healing touch or reiki therapy. I went through an allergy elimination therapy called NAET a number of years ago and no longer suffer from seasonal allergies or have allergic reactions to penicillin (which I developed in my early 20s). These therapies have a common goal: to remove or correct blockages in the body's energy pathways. Eastern medicine blames these blockages for a wide variety of ailments that western medicine calls "diseases of unknown origins". I also undergo regular chiropractic care; it does wonders for pain relief and keeping the sinuses open and flowing (helps to prevent sinus infection or chronic congestion).

      As for GTD advice in the interim, I second what Katherine says. Make the best use of your time given the energy you have in the moment.

      Best of luck,



      • #4
        Why do you think this is a stupid question? We all encounter this problem, albeit not to the extent that you do. I struggle too.

        Here is what I have found.

        1. Look into alternative and natural therapies within your financial means. I'm not much of a "granola", but people have had success with acupuncture, message, acupressure, herbal remedies, aromatherapy, healing prayer/meditation/imagery, and other remedies. Make sure you eat the absolute best diet you can and get exercise within your ability. There's a lot of conflicting nutritional advice out there, so go for well-established advice like minimizing caffeine and sugar, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding fried foods and saturated fats. If you have any excess weight, make a plan to get rid of it because your body is using energy maintaining that extra weight. (Unless of course your condition will make it difficult to keep weight up - talk to your doctor.) Because you don't have any energy to spare, you need to do everything you can to maximize it. Note any dietary or environmental changes that impact you negatively or cause your condition to get worse, and cut them out. I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure yours would agree with I'm saying here. Do ask your doctor for suggestions on maximizing your energy, and (this is the hard part) follow them.

        2. Make your home life easy - a simple sanctuary. Store things where they will be used. Baskets are great for this. Eg. make a "coffee basket" with coffee, tea, creamer, and cups so that you don't have to go all around the kitchen to make coffee. Don't buy or hang on to any more items than you have to - these are all items that you have to dust, store, clean, maintain, fix, get out, put away, etc, and you cannot afford the energy to take care of things you do not need. Brutally get rid of things that you don't need or love. is great for this and people will come to your house to pick things up. Keep furniture arrangements simple so you don't need to waste extra steps walking around them.

        3. Consider the "energy cost" of everything. Someone asks you to volunteer? You want to buy a new gas grill? Think about the energy it will take to do or maintain versus the enjoyment or usefulness it will provide you. Be sure to kindly say no if you cannot afford the energy cost. Just as you simplify your home, be sure to simplify your activities. Really evaluate what needs doing on your list. We tend to put a lot of "nice to haves" on our lists. For those things that really do need to get done, ask yourself "What is my end result here? Is there another way to get that same result?" A lot of the time, yes, there is an easier way, but we just don't ask ourselves.

        4. For you, even more than others, it is important to write everything down and keep your paperwork organized. Keep all your medical paperwork organized. I find it helpful to keep a notepad with dates and medical appointments, drugs prescribed, etc, and you can bring this to every appointment. It will help doctors see at a glance what has been tried and where you are and speed up appointments (no more questions repeated fifteen times). You need to keep your next-actions off your mind - even if your list is really big, don't worry about not getting it done. I have months-old actions on my list, but at least I know they're there, and if they are not urgent at this time, it is ok to leave them there.

        5. Heal your relationships with other people - emotional discord can be a huge energy drainer, while good friendships and family relationships boost your energy.

        6. As others have said, use your energy however you can. If you're dead on the couch, make a context list for it. Put all your supporting materials right there next to the couch. Remember your baskets? OK. Make a basket - put a portable phone in there, your mail, your filing, whatever you feel you can do while you're down and out, and when you flop down on the couch, reach for the basket.

        7. With regard to your multiple projects, it is better to focus on one thing than to tackle multiple projects at once. You will waste time (and energy) switching from one task to another. If you can work for 2 weeks on one project and get it done, trust me, it will be much more empowering and energizing than working on 10 projects at once and getting them done in 5 months. You can do this by looking at due dates, priorities, and picking one based on that. Brutally cut out projects that won't give you as much enjoyment or value as they will cost you in energy. And if you find in the middle of an project that it is draining more energy than the amount of value the end result will give you, abandon it. Many people will not agree with me on this, and for those people, I say to look up the sunk cost fallacy in Wikipedia.

        I hope this helps, and if you find anything that works for you, let me know because again, we all have this problem!!
        Last edited by cojo; 04-22-2009, 12:25 PM.


        • #5
          I suffer from a sleep disorder, which means that I don't "re-charge" when I sleep, this means I can go for weeks where I sleep 16 hours a day and feel as though I have only slept an hour. I have found that the best thing to do when I'm in the slump is to do things that suit the slump. I listen to audiobooks that I have always wanted to read, I knit, as I find this very re-warding to get a finished item at the end of a period of exhaustion (painting or music could also have the same positive impacts) I check in on all of the forums I don't otherwise have time for, not always participating but reading as much as I can, noting any ideas down as I go to deal with later.

          This allows me to feel like I have achieved something. The other major thing I try to keep in mind is that I am very picky about what I choose to take on. Everyone has limited time in the day, and this is something everyone has to do, but it is important that you don't take on so much when you are well, that you can't cope when you are not, make sure ou have some projects that can just be paused for just these occasions.


          • #6
            Thanks for all the advice. I should give a bit more background in response i think.

            Low energy can mean a lot, ranging from totally passed out, to being able to do a fair amount of easy ready, planning, that sort of stuff. I try to get things done accordingly, but obviously it gets progressively more difficult to find something. I think i also have a bit of trouble catching and recognizing the higher energy states.

            There are of course several projects in regards to health. To be honest for the last year the doctors have been quite useless and i am quite dependent on them for referrals, so even traditional medicine is hard to get at the moment. As far as i can afford it, i do try things out of pocket.
            It's a bit of a catch 22 between needing money for health, and health to make more money.

            Stupid question because the answer is really as i said above. Get better, do less. I suppose i am fishing for any nuggets of advice anyone might have.

            I guess it's really a case of: i simply can't do as much as i'd like to do, and the factors are largely out of my control. Saying i don't have time is one thing. Saying i don't have health is...infuriating. Even after all this time.


            • #7
              If you haven't done this already, I'd suggest actually creating a context that holds high-energy actions only, so that you can quickly go through them when you do have the energy.


              I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but in your case, this makes sense.

              PS I hope you are really good at delegating stuff too & that you have people to support you when you're low.