Work. Rest. Both matter. What matters even more is how you approach them. In this month’s blog, we’ll look at the role that Energy and Presence play in doing good work and in getting good rest.

For this piece, think of energy as the drive inside of you to create, to accomplish, to add value. And think of presence as your awareness of yourself, your motivations and reactions.

As a recovering Type-A personality, I tend to over-value energy. When I’m in that mode, all that matters is output and productivity. I tend to push myself, feeling like I’m not good enough unless I do more. I stress myself out with overworking. I cram my calendar so full that there’s no room to breathe. In this state, I’m low on presence – tuned out of my own needs – like I’m not even allowed to have them. I call this “push mode” – and unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of it in the work world right now. Maybe you can relate?

Often periods of “push mode” are followed by what I call “drift mode” – mindlessly scrolling or binge-watching to escape from the pressure of the push. These periods are marked by brainless zoning out that is neither rejuvenating nor refreshing. I’m tuned out of myself and my life. This mode is both low energy and low presence – drifting along.

Neither of these modes feels great, and the ping-ponging between them is especially uncomfortable. In these modes, I’m either working too hard or not doing anything at all. Both are full of self-criticism and dissatisfaction.

Bringing presence online and tuning into myself makes an important difference and generates two alternative ways of being.

On the work front, what I noticed is that “push” mode is not actually my most productive state. The stress of it gets in the way of creativity and generativity. Instead, I do better when I can blend high energy with presence.

When I attune to myself, noticing what I want and what matters to me, not only does my stress level go down, but my productivity goes up. I call this “flow mode” (in reference to the work by Csikszentmihályi and others). In “flow mode” the energy flows from my sense of purpose, rather than a made-up sense of duty or “should.” Here, ideas and actions come easily. In this state, because I’m present to myself and aware of my self-talk, I believe I can do hard things, and it’s easier to overcome challenges and obstacles.

“Rest mode” is a tuned-in alternative to “drift mode.” Instead of mindlessly scrolling, I’m engaged in activities that feel rejuvenating and nourishing. This could be time in nature, doing something creative, spending time with my family, or reading. It might even include some scrolling and binge-watching – but the difference is that I’m choosing the activity intentionally, and paying attention to when enough is enough, rather than mindlessly going along. The distinction between drift and rest isn’t always a stark contrast – more like a small nudge of the dial – but it’s one that makes a big difference in how I feel.

I hope these distinctions between Push and Flow, Drift and Rest are helpful to you in finding the modes where you do your best work and recovery.

If you’re curious about how working with a coach could help you find a balance between work and rest that works for you, learn more about our coaching program here. 

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