How many of you are low energy?

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zbigi
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:04 pm

How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

So, I just got back to working full-time after a break, and it immediately hit me how much of my life energy the job consumes. Actually I'd say it's over 100%, because I give it all I have and still don't work as much as I "should" - see the breakdown of a typical week below:

Monday: felling like a god and going full steam ahead. I'm working basically through the entire work day and getting lots of stuff done. Often overexcited from all the progress I've made and have trouble falling asleep later.

Tuesday: feeling normal, still getting a lot done, but some procrastination is already sneaking in, due to lowered energy.

Wednesday: it's tough, but I'm making progress. Lots of procrastination involved though.

Thursday: it's really hard to get a meaningful amount of work done (due to exhaustion). I have to strategically plan for "the smallest viable increment" that I can report on tomorrow's standup without looking like a slacer.

Friday: similar to Thursday, but even tougher. I can get perhaps two hours of work done.

Saturday and Sunday: recuperating energy. Lots of laying in bed. Little to no motivation to try out anything involving willpower.


Basically, the full-time working life is turning me into a zombie. I like Mondays and Tuesdays, because then I feel like I don't have to flog myself constantly to keep moving. But other than that, the days are a drag a lot of the time.

I wonder how many of you are in similar position and how many have never had similar problems and can combine a semi-demanding job with other life activities.

chenda
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by chenda »

Can you go part time ?

zbigi
Posts: 124
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

chenda wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 4:58 am
Can you go part time ?
Yes, it's likely a possibility. I don't want to use it for now though, because I'm on a contract (meaning - future is always uncertain - I don't know if it will be extended next time around) that's rather lucrative, so I prefer to milk it when I still can.

The bigger issue though is that I exhibit the same low energy in whatever I take on. Even when I wasn't working, when I got interested in something and started putting time into it, I was getting exhausted by day 4 or 5. There are two possible explanations - one is that none of those things really interest me that much, and the weariness is my mind's way of telling me to give it a rest (it would certainly fit my job situation). One evidence to support this is the fact that, when I'm doing something I'm REALLY into (say, grinding out a challenging game of Civilization), I can keep going for a week or two - granted, I'll be exhausted and need a lot of caffeine, but that won't stop me from pushing forward in the game. Perhaps that's how really passionate people feel about their passion?

Alternative explanation is that I'm just naturally on the low end of the energy spectrum. This explanation obviously sucks for me, because it basically means that there's no point in getting into anything demanding (and pretty much everything worthwhile is demanding), as I only have energy to barely half-ass it. I'm not bitter about it or anything, as I recognize that my life is still better than 99% of humans in history - it's just that it will be naturally on the boring side, on account of lacking energy to do stuff. I wonder how other people in similar conditions have dealt with this.

Scott 2
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by Scott 2 »

Have you already audited behaviors that interfere with rest and recovery?

Caffeine to ignore the body, fixating on your computer instead of sleeping - those both jump out as long term energy sinks, for minor short term gains.

Tyler9000
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by Tyler9000 »

General low energy can be a symptom of medical things like depression, thyroid deficiency, or just overall poor health. So it never hurts to get a check-up. But to be honest I think your issue sounds like more of a work expectations thing.

I don't think full-time work is turning you into a zombie. From your explanation, I think your perception of "productive" full-time work is turning you into a zombie. Try reframing your mindset where Wednesday-level effort of progress mixed with procrastination is the norm to be strived for every day, and I suspect you'll start to feel better. And by establishing a sustainable work pace, you'll likely become even more productive in terms of week-long accomplishments. It's the binging and purging that's wiping you out.

And no, "follow your passion" is not a solution. If anything, it's often counter-productive. Doing what you love will only accelerate the exhaustion and eventual burnout for people who don't know how to turn it off and pace themselves in a healthy way.

zbigi
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

Scott 2 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 10:36 am
Have you already audited behaviors that interfere with rest and recovery?

Caffeine to ignore the body, fixating on your computer instead of sleeping - those both jump out as long term energy sinks, for minor short term gains.
Yes, I try to keep an eye out for this stuff. For the most part, I follow the sensible rules: no coffee after 2 pm, sleep for 8-9 hours, no screen in bed just before bedtime etc. If I don't, things get much worse fast, so I've learned it just pays to observe them.

zbigi
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

Tyler9000 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 10:52 am
General low energy can be a symptom of medical things like depression, thyroid deficiency, or just overall poor health. So it never hurts to get a check-up. But to be honest I think your issue sounds like more of a work expectations thing.
I've had thyroid checked years ago, it was fine back then. I might redo the test now, esp. since my father had some issue with his (but problem problem was basically opposite - an overactive thyroid, making him a very producitve person who unfortunately also has a very short temper). As for depression, I'm not convinced by the "depression is an illness" idea... I feel like it totally trivializes the human condition. (It's a total tangent, but it also seems to me that reformulating depression as an illness very conveniently allowed companies to sell billions of dollars worth of drugs to people who feel bad about their lives).
Tyler9000 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 10:52 am
I don't think full-time work is turning you into a zombie. From your explanation, I think your perception of "productive" full-time work is turning you into a zombie. Try reframing your mindset where Wednesday-level effort of progress mixed with procrastination is the norm to be strived for every day, and I suspect you'll start to feel better. And by establishing a sustainable work pace, you'll likely become even more productive in terms of week-long accomplishments. It's the binging and purging that's wiping you out.
That's a reasonable perspective, thanks. The slight problem is that in my case is that, due to my "star contractor" status, I'm making way more than most of more colleagues (easily 2-3x times what they are making), which obligates me internally to be at least as productive as the best of them... Perhaps I should recognize that my value for the company is not only in my individual output, but also in leveraging my experience and making team more productive as a whole - my managers have said as much previously.
Tyler9000 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 10:52 am
And no, "follow your passion" is not a solution. If anything, it's often counter-productive. Doing what you love will only accelerate the exhaustion and eventual burnout for people who don't know how to turn it off and pace themselves in a healthy way.
I've been following quite closely a couple of people who have great achievements in the fields I had some interest in (programming, game dev, art). Without exception, all of them are absolute beasts in term of productivity and effort put it, and they sustain it over decades. I guess it's just that their natural baseline energy level is high and, combined with doing something they really love (which is rare in itself, I don't think most people really love doing anything to that degree!), they are able to consistently work for 60 hours per week.

chenda
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by chenda »

I find I only have 3 - 4 hours of optimal concentration per day, usually late morning to early afternoon. Outside that zone I'm pretty useless at anything remotely challenging so maybe you could find your best time and distribute it throughout the week rather than maxing out too early in the week ?

Tyler9000
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by Tyler9000 »

I hear ya on the depression thing. I phrased that part poorly, and there's a lot more to it than just a medical issue. All I'm sayin' is that (if it's something you're dealing with) it's worth seeking professional help rather than just hoping for it to sort itself out. Ignoring depression while blaming yourself for not being productive enough will just dig a deeper hole.

zbigi wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 11:39 am
I've been following quite closely a couple of people who have great achievements in the fields I had some interest in (programming, game dev, art). Without exception, all of them are absolute beasts in term of productivity and effort put it, and they sustain it over decades. I guess it's just that their natural baseline energy level is high and, combined with doing something they really love (which is rare in itself, I don't think most people really love doing anything to that degree!), they are able to consistently work for 60 hours per week.
I can also guarantee that they've sacrificed some other part of their life in the process. The greatest achievers are often the most dysfunctional outside of their narrow field of expertise. Is that what you really want for yourself?

Maybe more directly to the point -- You seem very career focused. There's nothing wrong with that (I've been there), but since you're on a board about ERE I expect you have an open mind to a world beyond 60-hour work weeks as a measure of your value as a human being. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Is the core issue really that you don't have enough energy to fill your Outlook calendar to the brim every day, or that you define yourself so much by your "star contractor" work achievements that you can't think of anything else worthy of your time?

No judgment, BTW. Lots of us have been in your position and know how you feel. I'm just trying to understand your thought process so that we can offer the best advice.
Last edited by Tyler9000 on Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

lumps
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by lumps »

I'd often leave work and tell myself I was going to finish work at home, then never actually work at home but also never actually relax because I'd beat myself up for not working. Weird times.

Although you may not be doing that during off-work hours, it sounds like you go through a similar thought process on the days you procrastinate. It helped me to recognize that I based a lot of my self-esteem off work performance, and once I began decoupling those two everything was less stressful without detrimental effects to productivity (learned this as part of therapy, no antidepressants [although I am not against them]). Like Chenda said I've also learned to accept I can't be productive for 8 straight hours, but I'm guessing you can accomplish a lot more in 4 hours than the average person in your field, so that is ok.

One temporary cheat code might be to not present everything you've made progress on on the tuesday/wednesday meetings, but space it out. That might help ease the stress since you wont seem like a slacker like you said.

zbigi
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

Tyler9000 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 12:39 pm
I can also guarantee that they've sacrificed some other part of their life in the process. The greatest achievers are often the most dysfunctional outside of their narrow field of expertise. Is that what you really want for yourself?

Maybe more directly to the point -- You seem very career focused. There's nothing wrong with that (I've been there), but since you're on a board about ERE I expect you have an open mind to a world beyond 60-hour work weeks as a measure of your value as a human being. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Is the core issue really that you don't have enough energy to fill your Outlook calendar to the brim every day, or that you define yourself so much by your "star contractor" work achievements that you can't think of anything else worthy of your time?

No judgment, BTW. Lots of us have been in your position and know how you feel. I'm just trying to understand your thought process so that we can offer the best advice.
It's complicated I guess. I would really love to be just some middle of the pack guy and do some chill out work, but unfortunately there's way less money in that. That would in consequence mean having to work many more years till FIRE and it seems just pointless when I have an option not to. So, for better or worse, the rational choice is to present myself to the world as the "star contractor" who is worth the money company pays him, and who can stash it away for a quick FIRE. Of course, this leads to some anxiety (for a star contractor, I'm not doing that much work...).

On a larger scale, I think I have an issue with doing things badly or just at ok level... A typical perfectionist I guess. That's why I drop hobbies when I see that I'll never be halfway decent at them with the amount of energy I can put into them.

As for "what I like to do outside work". That's a good question. I used to take breaks between contracts to pursue various ideas (startup-like, nothing major), learn new technology to satisfy curiosity and have an option of a career change, learn drawing etc. I think my last ten years I've been oscillating between SE contract work and these exploratory breaks (6 months long on average). The last one (this summer) was different though - it's as if the well of curiosity is finally running dry, and I have spent most time just reading and playing games. It's as if, over the last 10 years, I have explored everything I wanted, none of these things have caught enough of my attention to turn them in to a multi-year pursuit, and there's nothing new and interesting on the horizon anymore. That's sort of new and scary, as it shows that I might have trouble filling my ERE time and there's a real risk I'll, for lack of better ideas, turn into a videogame (playing) zombie. That would be sort of sad after all the effort of accumulating the money.

7Wannabe5
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Maybe you need to join a Fight Club.

zbigi
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:39 pm
Maybe you need to join a Fight Club.
There are actually groups like that in Poland (and across EE in general)! Groups of young, frustrated men bond over football teams, and do some serious fights against similar groups from other towns. Sometimes (but very rarely) people do get killed. Unfortunately, 90% of those guys are total morons so the last thing I'd like to do is be around them.

Example footage: https://youtu.be/HW4aB-E8KxI?t=10

guitarplayer
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by guitarplayer »

Have you looked at the food you eat?

Recently I have been trying to think of food as a medicine, which essentially it is in that it keep everyone alive. But beyond that, it can also make one drowsy or more energetic etc.

I am pretty sure it is a very idiosyncratic matter and any specific advise other than 'experiment' would be difficult to find, but hey can be worth experimenting.

white belt
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by white belt »

zbigi wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:15 pm
It's complicated I guess. I would really love to be just some middle of the pack guy and do some chill out work, but unfortunately there's way less money in that. That would in consequence mean having to work many more years till FIRE and it seems just pointless when I have an option not to. So, for better or worse, the rational choice is to present myself to the world as the "star contractor" who is worth the money company pays him, and who can stash it away for a quick FIRE. Of course, this leads to some anxiety (for a star contractor, I'm not doing that much work...).
Income is only one lever in the FI equation. Why not just spend less money so you don’t need to work extremely demanding jobs in order to have a high savings rate? It sounds like you are destroying your physical and maybe mental health.

7Wannabe5
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@zbigi:

I only made the suggestion because I am a complete wreck physically (old, out of shape, near constant pain from IBD), but my current job teaching inner city 7th/8th graders basically forces me to remain in high adrenaline mode. Then I barely make it up the 4 flights of stairs to collapse on my floor mattress. But, the cycle is daily, not weekly as you describe. Which is again kind of different from energy cycle when engaged purely under self-direction.So, maybe give some thought to artificially tweaking external factors.

zbigi
Posts: 124
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 2:18 pm
@zbigi:

I only made the suggestion because I am a complete wreck physically (old, out of shape, near constant pain from IBD), but my current job teaching inner city 7th/8th graders basically forces me to remain in high adrenaline mode. Then I barely make it up the 4 flights of stairs to collapse on my floor mattress. But, the cycle is daily, not weekly as you describe. Which is again kind of different from energy cycle when engaged purely under self-direction.So, maybe give some thought to artificially tweaking external factors.
I had the most energy when worked on a startup-y project which I really believed in. The work itself was really fun too, I was learning a lot of things that interested me. This shows that the lack of internal motivation is at least part of the problem.

zbigi
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by zbigi »

white belt wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 2:15 pm
Income is only one lever in the FI equation. Why not just spend less money so you don’t need to work extremely demanding jobs in order to have a high savings rate? It sounds like you are destroying your physical and maybe mental health.
I'm basically already FI. Right now, I want to work extra couple of years so that my account are padded against potential catastrophes in the coming decades (I might not be the type who manages to get any real income going post-retirement, which means that my livelihood for the next 40-50 years will depend solely of savings - so, better safe than sorry - totally anti-ERE, I know).

As for "demanding" - I think it's partially in my head. Actually, one of the bosses recently suggested I should be asking for a raise, so she's not unhappy with me. I'm mostly unhappy with myself, due to my standards not matching my real (limited) potential. Also, I like many aspects of the work (I have a problem-solving kind of mind, software engineering is often like play for people like me) and I'm just sad that I don't get to do more of it in a given week due to energy limitations.

white belt
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by white belt »

zbigi wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:15 pm
I think my last ten years I've been oscillating between SE contract work and these exploratory breaks (6 months long on average). The last one (this summer) was different though - it's as if the well of curiosity is finally running dry, and I have spent most time just reading and playing games. It's as if, over the last 10 years, I have explored everything I wanted, none of these things have caught enough of my attention to turn them in to a multi-year pursuit, and there's nothing new and interesting on the horizon anymore. That's sort of new and scary, as it shows that I might have trouble filling my ERE time and there's a real risk I'll, for lack of better ideas, turn into a videogame (playing) zombie. That would be sort of sad after all the effort of accumulating the money.
Sounds like you are running into the limits of the fulfillment a post-FI but still consumer lifestyle can provide. Hence what Jacob and others talk about how there aren’t great self-actualization options for early retirees to continue consuming. More money will not solve this lack of fulfillment problem.

But back to your fatigue issue, I would echo others that you should seek medical expertise (just to rule out an underlying pathology). At the very least I would get blood work to rule out physiological issues or nutritional deficiencies. I would also talk through your sleep issues with your doctor and see if they recommend a sleep study. It’s quite possible you could have some kind of sleep disruption that is causing your fatigue issues (e.g. sleep apnea is quite common and very difficult to identify yourself).

I would also consider talking to a therapist about your self-identified patterns with perfectionism and overworking yourself. These aren’t problems that you can logic your way through.

7Wannabe5
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Re: How many of you are low energy?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Maybe switch to 4 x10 hour schedule if possible, and play golf on Wednesday. There’s a reason why a lot of humans with typical surgeon-like personality types choose to do this when afforded the opportunity.

I am pretty much the opposite of a hard-driven perfectionist, but I have a good deal of experience with hitching my Dora the Explorer floatie tube to one of their speed boats, so I’ve seen a lot of this second hand.

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