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As an academic, how do you choose work that energises you?

You consciously chose academia. You used to get a lot of energy from your work, but now you don’t. What is going on? As an academic, how do you choose work that energises you? In this blog, an exercise to map your energy balance.

Image: Marcus Aurelius

If you don’t get energy from your work then a working day can be long. In your spare time, it doesn’t make you a nicer person either. You might even develop physical symptoms from it. Often, these symptoms don’t go away by themselves.

You don’t understand why work that was energising before, is no longer invigorating. You wish you felt happy about starting your working day, when time flies, that you are satisfied with your results, that you arrive and leave in good spirits, and that you still have energy left over in the evening.

If you want to get more energy from your daily activities then you can start working on this yourself.

Where is your energy leaking away?

To gain more insight into your energy management, it can be a good idea to write down daily what your energy givers and takers were. Do not limit yourself to your working day, but also write down what gave or cost you energy outside work.

If you do that for one or two weeks, you can then take stock using the following questions:

  • At what times of the day do you have the most energy and when not?
  • And after which activities do you feel the energy flowing? And after which activities do you feel tired?
  • What patterns can you discover in your energy balance?

Zoom in on your energisers

It may be that by doing this exercise you discover that activities that you thought you were positive about cost you more energy than expected.

What you actually want is for your day to have more energy givers than energy takers. If you take stock for yourself and find that you have too few energy givers and too many energy takers, there is work to be done.

To zoom in on your energisers, look a little wider than the last two weeks using the following questions:

  • When was the last time you were in a state of flow, where you forgot about time and just enjoyed working?
  • What were you doing then? With whom? In what environment?
  • How was this situation different from your average working day?

After doing these two inventory tasks, you got an idea of what you would actually like to do more and less of.

How feasible are these changes for you? What is needed to make them happen?

Below, more on how you can work with it concretely, both for the scenario in which you choose other work, and for the option in which you make the desired changes in your current job.

Scenario 1: As an academic, how do you choose work that energises you?

If you want to look for other work, you can use the overview of energy givers and takers to make other work choices. For example, by choosing work with less screen time and more social contact. Or for fewer long-term deadlines and more sparring. Or…

Try to make concrete for yourself:

  • Which activities am I better off avoiding?
  • Which activities would I like to do much more often?
  • In which environment is it easier for me to carry out my work in a way that suits me?
  • In short: what change am I looking for?

To experience whether these changes are really going to help you, you can also try the following steps in the following scenario. This way, you can already try out the changes in your current job.

Scenario 2: Making changes in your current job

If you want to keep your current job, it’s time to look at how you can change the way you organise your work. Experiment with changing your approach and evaluate.

Changing things can be tricky, especially when it comes to your energy management. You often conclude afterwards: I did not succeed again. To start working proactively on improving your energy balance, you need a plan.

What can help you not only make good intentions, but actually implement your desired change?

This can take many forms: from making an action plan, to reminders in your diary, to making structural changes in your tasks or your daily schedule, to new appointments with colleagues, to a meeting with your manager, etc. Decide what can help you.

Ultimately, you yourself are the one who can bring change.

I wish you success with your first steps.

Looking for more starting points for choosing a new job:

Then look back at your work history.

Or take stock of what values are important to you.