Resource Library Articles

Energy, Anxiety and Productivity

“I work better when I’m under pressure.”
“There’s nothing like a tight deadline to get me moving!”
“Anxiety is sky-high around here now. People are really running!”

What is the difference between times when you’re energized and times when you’re anxious? Can you detect a difference in your productivity?

Here is what I see in my own life, and it seems to hold true for the executives I coach:

Anxiety reduces productivity because: Anxiety is accompanied by physical and psychological strains which decrease creativity, reduce one’s best decision-making instincts, and lead to myopic thinking and knee-jerk reactions rather than clear thinking responses. When anxiety is sustained for a time, it also creates strained relationships at home and/or work, the sense of “nothing left” for important relationships. It induces irritability, defensiveness and judgments of others. So anxiety, like stress, has high costs!

Energy, on the other hand, leads to high productivity because: It’s accompanied by a physical and psychological sense of ease, a flow, a state that prompts creativity, encourages positive risks and out-of-the-box thinking. Energy “feels like” alertness, confidence and clear direction. Energy in one person also fosters positive effects in others, an infectious synergy that invites others to find their own flow, to “catch” the spirit of the energized person. So energy yields terrific benefits!

Given the stark difference in outcomes, it would seem vital for a leader to be able to distinguish between energy and anxiety in him/herself and in others. Here are some questions I’ve found helpful in determining what is driving me or others at any time.
Consider what happens when you’re energized vs. anxious:

• How do you appear to others? What would they see you doing? Hear you saying? Read in your appearance, posture, facial expressions?
• How do you respond or react to peers, direct reports, your boss? What is your tone and your message? Are you solution-oriented or problem-oriented?
• How do you view your work? Is it a burdensome task or a stimulating challenge? Are you more hopeful or worried? Are you more confident or uptight?
• Are you breathing freely, or holding your breath?
• Is the mood of the team tight and stiff, or loose and flowing?

Bottom line: Sustained energy fosters genuine accomplishment and a sense of deep satisfaction; and energy has never harmed me. Sustained anxiety fosters wheel-spinning and a sense of exhaustion; and anxiety could kill me!!

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