Your Energy is Precious – Stop Wasting It



– Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC


There is a finite amount of time in each day. Most of us are hyperaware of this fact, continually fretting about how we will manage to accomplish everything we need to get done. But perhaps the bigger issue is how we are utilizing our time. After all, our level of energy is not finite. Although it has a certain capacity, it fluctuates day-to-day and we can control how much or how little we use.  Here’s the thing: you can exert considerably less energy throughout the day if you spend it wisely. The secret to this lies in doing simple but intentional planning. If you feel like you are continually exerting yourself without really getting anywhere, consider the following tips for learning how channel your energy effectively and get off the hamster wheel of life.

Look at the Big Picture

  • Start by taking a moment to look at the “big picture” and think about how you want to live your life. What are your hopes for what the future could bring? Who do you want to surround yourself with? What activities will you commit yourself to on a weekly, monthly and annual basis? Challenge yourself to brainstorm dreams that are big but also intentional. This step is important because it will provide you with a sense of direction.

Do Honest Evaluation

  • Now, look back at your “big picture” ideas and ask yourself honestly if you have the time, money and energy to invest into working on them. This will help you become more intentional in identifying what matters most to you. If one particular goal seems to challenging, break it down into lots of smaller goals and create momentum by identifying specific milestones.

Design Your Days

  • Once more for good measure—the key to channeling your energy effectively is to be intentional. A good way to remain intentional on a day-to-day basis is to create a morning and evening routine. Begin each day by reviewing your schedule, pinpointing three major “to-do’s” and identifying when you will fit in space for whatever you outlined when thinking of the “big picture” (i.e. family, friends, fitness). In the evening, reflect upon your day, practice gratitude and prepare for the following day.

Stay on Track

  • In addition to reflecting upon each day, it is important to review your goals throughout the year to determine if you are making progress toward your “big picture” ideas. Decide what interval makes the most sense for you in terms of reviewing these goals—whether it be daily, weekly or monthly.  The important thing is to review them and make sure you are taking note of deadlines, evaluating your progress and celebrating milestones.


Set SMART Goals

Our goals tend to center on achievements that provide tangible benchmarks for our success. Quitting smoking or learning a new skill are examples of things that can be observed fairly objectively.  Setting goals that are measurable and have concrete milestones are a critical factor to in allowing us to evaluate our progress and make any necessary adjustments to our plan.

This can make it easy to inadvertently neglect or forget about the mental health aspect of self-improvement. Let’s face it, “be happier” or “stress less” sound way too vague and unattainable. But being mentally and emotionally healthy helps to control our thoughts, feelings and behaviors so we can better cope with challenges.

The good news is that we prioritize our emotional wellbeing by applying the techniques used to create SMART goals (goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based).

S: Specific

  • Begin by writing down the objective you wish to achieve and the action steps you need to take, as specifically as possible.
  • If you want to “reduce stress”, think about how that can translate to one particular area of your life. For instance, your goal might be “I will reduce stress by doing yoga for 30 minutes day, three days per week”

M: Measurable

  • As mentioned earlier, making sure your action steps can be measured will allow you to evaluate progress as you work towards achieving your goal. “I will reduce stress by doing yoga for 30 minutes day, 3 days per week” can be easily measured by keeping an activity log.
  • Tracking your progress in this way can serve as a source of both motivation and accountability.  It will also help you to identify potential patterns. In this case, you could observe correlations between stress levels and the amount of time spent doing yoga.

A: Attainable

  • Keep your expectations realistic. Even the most motivated person will set themselves up for failure if they select goals that are unattainable. For instance, setting a goal to become a master yogi by practicing for three hours every single day is difficult, unhealthy and will likely cause more stress.
  • “Ambitious but not impossible”. Choose a goal that will challenge you but you feel confident that you can achieve. A good way to do this is by breaking down your goal into smaller steps and determining whether you are able to follow through with the smaller action steps required to achieve it.

R: Relevant

  • Make sure the goal you select is relevant to your current mental health needs. Somebody else may have a great action plan for “reducing anger”, but that does not necessarily mean it is something that you need to work on as well.
  • Each action step should also make sense in terms of your lifestyle. If you hate yoga, for instance, then you should think carefully about what activity would be more logical.

T: Time Based

  • Set a timeline for when you hope to achieve milestones. Again, this is more difficult when the goal is based on mental health and cannot be physically observed. The key here is to just make sure your expectations are realistic so you will not feel discouraged and give up if you do not see any results right away.
  • One way to keep it concrete is to jot down your physical symptoms of stress. For instance, lack of sleep, low energy or changes in appetite. Use a journal to monitor and observe any correlations between these warning signs and the time spent doing yoga.
  • After a specified amount of time, review your progress and evaluate whether any of these physical symptoms have improved.


The key to channeling your energy effectively is getting clear on what you are trying to accomplish. It is easy to get distracted when you are not certain where your focus needs to be. Make sure these accomplishments are both doable and meaningful. Then, hold yourself accountable by setting milestones and reviewing your progress. Making small, significant changes will create more momentum and energy then trying to accomplish numerous, meaningless tasks.  With practice, you will feel increased levels of both energy and satisfaction.




Seeking Mental Health Support

If you believe you could benefit from understanding more about your symptoms or concerns, consider scheduling an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center. Our therapists can provide guidance, support, and strategies tailored to your specific needs. Meet our team to learn more!

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