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In the age of COVID-19, burnout is at an all-time high. With most of us still working from home, we're navigating nonstop virtual meetings without any actual social interaction, moving less thanks to closed gyms and no commute, and struggling to get enough sleep. With life slowly getting back to normal, there's an end in sight — but for now, many of of us are still having a hard time creating boundaries between work and home, and feeling more frazzled than ever.
Enter energy journaling, which is a lot like it sounds like: a method for noting which types of activities give us energy, and which ones drain us. It's a practice Maya Baratz Jordan, CEO and founding partner of Founders Factory New York, uses as a part of her daily wellness practice to help her figure out how she actually feels about certain activities, work-related or otherwise. Are they adding to her life, or taking away from it?
"Energy journaling helps me guard my time in a way that accounts for what drives me," she explains. "It also helps me continuously better align myself with the people and opportunities that give me energy and therefore helps me be more productive. This type of journal tackles a different type of relationship you have with your emotional health—namely, how to better understand it so it better serves you." Sounds like a pretty ideal practice, right? Here's exactly how to do it so you can reap some of the benefits of energy journaling.
The Benefits of Energy Journaling
There are a handful of benefits to energy journaling. It can help you understand cause and effect in a more concise way, as Jordan puts it, but it can also be cathartic in the same way regular journaling is, because you're spending time recording feelings about your day. "I've never had a food journal, but I'd imagine that this is kind of like a food journal for your brain. It's nice to understand what you put into your system on a daily basis (in terms of activities and interactions) and what the outputs of that are—i.e., how it all ends up making you feel and act," explains Jordan.
While you should feel free to explore what the right cadence for energy journaling looks like for you, Jordan says her personal aim is to spend a few minutes a day on it. "It should feel light and quick, like jotting down notes. If you have even a couple of minutes between meetings or activities, just quickly note down how the last one made you feel and any factors you think that contributed to that feeling."
Meet the Expert
Maya Baratz Jordan is the CEO and Founding Partner of Founders Factory New York, a team of operators in New York focused on helping founders succeed.
Helpful Tips for Getting Started
Jordan suggests starting with just one interaction or activity. "How did it make you feel during the interaction? How did you feel after? Did you notice a drop in energy or a sense of lethargy after, or did you feel excited and get a boost of energy? Or perhaps you were left feeling calm and focused." She also suggests playing around with certain elements of it, like giving yourself a scale of one to five, where five is feeling like you have a lot of energy and one is feeling very drained. "You can then take notes on what you believe contributed to how you feel. What was it about the call, meeting, activity—the list goes on—that you think led you to feel the way you did right after?"
Then, about once a week (or even once a day, if you have the time), review your notes and try to find patterns. "For instance, I've noticed that I always feel energized after talking to my portfolio founders or potential portfolio founders, actively problem solving and/or creating something from scratch," Jordan says.
How to Format Your Energy Journal
If the idea of cracking open an actual notebook and jotting down your feelings is overwhelming to you because you have no idea when you last saw a pen, worry not: It's completely fine to use your laptop or phone to energy journal, according to Jordan. "The key is for it to not feel like a burden or a production," she says. "Think of the number of times you open your inbox, Instagram or Twitter on your phone between doing other things. Take a fraction of that time—30-60 seconds at a time or so—and jot down how you feel."
The Bottom Line
While you might not notice the impact of your energy journaling practice immediately, over time it can help you combat burnout and reevaluate how (and with who) you should be spending your time. "I decided to create an energy journal so that I can start to better understand what activities and interactions deplete my energy sources and which ones feed them. Now, I have a better sense of balance and am able to keep going at it while avoiding harmful stress as much as possible."