Fear of failure. Guilt. Shame.

These powerful emotions are always there to harangue you when your kids are begging more of you--and you've got nothing left to give.

It's not like you don't want to plan the epic birthday party or tell that second story; it's just that the energy's not there.

And while there's probably more you could do to improve the quality of your sleep, fine-tune your diet, exercise smarter and meditate more, this article is not about any of those things.

It's about that energy-sucking thing at work that has you going home depleted. (Not going home tired; we're all okay with tired.)

It's depletion I'm trying to get at here. Why?

Because every person deserves to have energy left over at the end of the day: energy for their partner, pursuits, kids and community.

So let's look at your work world. Use the "Depleter Checklist" below as a diagnostic to discover what's depleting you on the job, and what you can do to change your situation.

Depleter #1: no connection

A day crammed with connection-less transactions sends you home drained. The good news is that meaningful connections energize your brain. Even a quick conversation or a healthy laugh gives you a micro-boost of energy.

Do this: Turn a transaction into a connection.
At least once today, find a piece of common ground with someone. For example, start a conversation by saying "You know what? You and I have something in common...," and make a connection around that.

Depleter #2: no progress

Getting results, making things happen, feeling productive and taking pride in your work fuel high levels of energy. But if you feel stuck, stymied or like you're spinning your wheels, your energy will plummet.

Do this: Stop ocean-boiling.
Use this TedX Talk advice given by productivity guru Dave Allen:

  • Pick one outcome you are committed to finish.
  • Identify the very next action step required to move it forward.
  • Do that step.

(Hint: the middle step is where the magic happens.)

Depleter #3: no clarity

When priorities start to shift and things get murky or confusing, your brain wastes energy scrambling to find the missing connections. This leaves you exhausted at the end of the day. But when you get clarity and "connect the dots" in a surprising new way, a physical jolt of energy is released in your brain.

Do this: Go clarify.

Here are a few questions you can ask of others--whether you are a business leader or employee:

  • "Can we clarify the expectations we have of each other?"
  • "Can we clarify how this piece fits into our bigger strategy?"
  • "I've got some conflicting priorities here. Can you help me with what should stay on my plate and what should stay on?"

Depleter #4: no meaning

Purposeful work is like a charger--plug yourself into it, and your energy levels are restored. But when your work feels pointless and utilitarian, this draws down on your energy levels.

Do this: Ask what matters.

What you do matters to someone. Get really explicit: what difference do you make? What value do you create? Whose life are you making easier?

Take a moment and re-ground yourself on why your job matters and who it matters to--and you will experience an energy lift.

Depleter #5: no autonomy

You have a valid need for freedom: the chance to prove yourself, make decisions, take risks and get your hand prints on things. But your boss has needs too: the need to contribute to your success, the need to share the benefit of experience, and the need to know things aren't going off the rails.

The right amount of autonomy, mixed with the right amount of support, is profoundly energizing.

Do this: Find the sweet spot.

Here is a sound-bite to take to your boss:

"I can do my best work when I have some autonomy. I'm sure you have a need to know things aren't going off the rails. Could we find the 'sweet spot'--where I give you the check-ins you need to feel confident, and you give me the autonomy I need to make things happen?"

Depleter #6: no significance

If you feel like a cog in a machine--unnoticed, unappreciated and unrecognized--your energy will be diminished. Conversely, when you feel valued for who you are as well as what you do, this releases a surge of agency and confidence within you.

Do this: Ask for feedback.

Here is another sound-bite to take to your boss or colleagues:

"I want to know when I'm doing a good job. I also want to know if I'm not doing a good job. Can you give me feedback when I'm hitting the mark and when I'm not?"

Do it for the kids

Like it or not, your kids want your time and energy. The good news is that the depletion you're feeling can be reversed.

Engaging in any one of the actions above will reduce depletion, free up RAM inside your brain, and even leave you with energy at the end of the day for the people who matter most to you.

Published on: Nov 2, 2016