Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that I need to be productive all the time. I put pressure on myself to always be hustling, working to get more of an edge, and making progress toward reaching my goals. As you might expect, I often don’t live up to these lofty expectations of myself, and then I feel bad and my anxiety takes over. It’s a stupid cycle, and when I step back and get some perspective, I see how silly it is to expect myself to always be “on” – it’s not really sustainable.
It’s also counter-intuitive to what I think my values are; I’ve always maintained that I value balance, but if I never stop pressuring myself to be productive, then I am definitely not honoring a need for balance.
Recently I was introduced to an exercise that was tremendously helpful – defining and adhering to my replenishment cycle. Everyone has ways that they most naturally recharge and replenish their energy – and they have to explore and define those techniques for themselves. Replenishment is an important step that if ignored leads to burnout. People who are workaholics will deny that replenishment is even necessary.
Spending time deliberately outlining those activities that will help you recharge, and then scheduling them into your life helps you make sure that they stay a priority, and that you don’t minimize them like I often do. I want to make replenishment a priority in my life so that I can live a fulfilling and happy life now while saving for FIRE, and I believe that mastering this skill will also give me a variety of pursuits to continue to focus on after “retirement.” Also, if I decide to act on my vague thoughts of entrepreneurship, keeping these recharging activities in my routine will be very important for maintaining the balance that a lot of entrepreneurs forget to make a priority.
Everyone recharges in their own way, but many people will have shared overarching categories. I defined 4 main categories for my replenishment activities: physical activity, relational connections, solo learning and reflection, and creativity. Others might focus on additional realms such as intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.
I have found that some of my most rewarding “recharge” time is actually spent exerting myself physically. I believe that this provides a good balance for my over-sedentary job sitting in front of a computer. I defined 4 specific physical activities to make sure I do on a regular basis:
Bicycling – my goal is to bike to work as often as possible, and bike to get groceries or visit the gym on the weekend; I’ve quantified this goal by striving to bike 1500 miles this year.
Gym Exercise – visit the gym to strengthen myself 3 times per week.
Alternate Exercise at Home – explore yoga and other home exercise possibilities – once per week.
Walking – I’d like to walk the dog every day, and generally push to reach my fitbit goal of 10,000 steps every day. When done alone this is a great opportunity to learn (via podcasts or audio books) or practice mindfulness. When I have company, this is a great time to focus on improving relationships with my walking companions.
As an introvert with a history of social anxiety, I often don’t realize how important interacting with other people is to me. I also have a bad track record of initiating and keeping up with my half of a friendship. I defined 4 specific goals to make sure that I am connecting with people important to me on a regular basis:
Lazy Days at Home – often when I am home on the weekend my to-do list and my limited time keep me running around like crazy – I want to make sure that I allow time for a lazy day at home with my girlfriend and my dog at least once per month.
Intentional “Couple” Time – by default, my girlfriend and I spend evenings and weekends together, but often that time is not really intentional – I want to plan activities to do together at least twice a week.
Couple Dates – we have a few sets of friends who are our “couple” friends, and it makes sense to reach out and plan the occasional double-date with other couples who we enjoy hanging out with – I want to do this once every 2 months.
Close Friends – I want to plan to spend time with a close friend at least once per month.
Solo Learning and Reflection
Replenishment activities in this category probably come most naturally to me, but it’s still been helpful to identify those things that I find most beneficial and try to schedule some of them into my life:
Reading – I love to read but often allow anxiety-driven ADD to distract me from reading time. I hope to spend 2 hours per week reading fiction and 2 hours per week reading non-fiction.
Podcasts and Audio Books – I already listen to a wide variety of podcasts and audio books, and I want to continue this habit because I learn a lot and I keep my mind stimulated when doing things like mowing the lawn.
Meditating – for the past 6 months I’ve been trying to establish a daily morning routine of taking the time for a short meditation, and I am doing a decent job staying with it. I’ve found the exercise to be somewhat beneficial to my mental state, so I want to keep it up.
Writing – I love to improve my writing skills, and I always have projects (like this blog!) that could use more of my focus – I want to write for at least an hour every 2 weeks.
Allowing myself time to be creative makes a big difference in how I feel, but I rarely do it. That is why I’ve outlined specific things that I will allow time for on a schedule:
Cooking – on the weekend I have the time and energy to explore cooking as a creative outlet – I am pushing myself to make something new every week.
House Projects – I really enjoy planning and executing home improvement projects, and I want to try to tackle one DIY project per year.
Cloud Photography – I’ve always had a passion for photographing beautiful skies and cloudscapes – I want to make a habit of taking time to stop and capture some awesome clouds or a nice sunset at least once per week.
Oil Painting – I really enjoy oil painting – I’m not great at it, but it’s really fulfilling to work on a painting. I want to paint once a week for 2 hours.
Budgeting and Personal Finance – it may sound odd, but engineering and optimizing my budget and FIRE plans are definitely a creative outlet – this is one I don’t really need to schedule in, because I spend too much time on this already!
What About You?
I am sure there are plenty of additional activities I can add to my replenishment cycle as it evolves, and as I improve my ability to set aside time for recharging. What are your favorite or most important ways to replenish your energy for life? How do you keep yourself balanced? Would you find value in intentionally scheduling replenishment into your life?