Check-In

20 min

Warm up, catch up, and get going!

Step 1: Icebreaker

Group activity

1 min per member

An icebreaker is a powerful tool to help us become present with one another and ourselves. One by one, fill in the sentence below and share it with your Circle. Listen carefully as each member takes a turn and say thank you when she’s finished. Avoid the urge to slip into conversation.

  • Today I am feeling . . .
  • Most days at work, my energy level is. . .
  • What I most want to learn today is . . .

Step 2: Member Updates

Group activity

2 min (or less) per member

Once you’re warmed up, go around your Circle and share personal updates. As a general rule, personal updates should be brief and focus on big changes and important decisions in your life. (It’s OK not to have one every month!)

If you have a One Action update, share that with your Circle at the same time. (A One Action is one concrete action you committed to take at your last meeting; the goal of a One Action is to step outside your comfort zone or practice a new skill.)

For example, a member update might go like this: “Since our last meeting, I asked my boss for a big assignment and got it. I’m thrilled but a little nervous [personal update]. For my One Action, I asked that coworker I’ve been struggling with out for lunch. She immediately said yes, and I was surprised by how easily we got along. I can see it helping in the office, and we’re going out for lunch again next week—her invite! [One Action update].”

Activity 1: Key Takeaways

5 min

Before you jump into today’s meeting, review the key takeaways of our “Energizing" video individually or as a group:

There is no solution to work-life balance other than managing energy. Extensive research confirms that work-life balance is an elusive ideal that few, if any, of us attain. In fact, the very notion of work-life balance is flawed: work is not all draining and home life is not all energizing. Instead, if you shift from managing your time (spent at home versus work) to managing your energy—where it comes from and how you use it—balance will become achievable. And you may find that you spend more time doing the things that matter to you. This is a more practical and useful solution!

Monitor your emotions and physical state. Energy can be measured as high or low, positive or negative. Over the course of the day, try taking your “energy pulse”: check your emotions (how you are feeling) and your physical state (what your body is doing) to determine which zone you are in: performance, survival, burnout, or recovery.

Who wouldn’t want to be in the performance zone all the time (high positive energy)? But without knowing it, most of us slip into the high negative energy zone (survival) and continue working. Eventually, we find ourselves in the low negative energy zone (Burnout). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We cannot be in high performance all the time—no matter what. Most of us want to stay in the high performance zone at work, the equivalent of finishing a marathon daily, weekly, and yearly. The research of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz underscores that we cannot be in high performance without building in regular recovery periods. In fact, they report that you cannot go into the Performance zone from Survival or Burnout without stopping in Recovery first. So building in periods of low positive energy is crucial.

If that is true, why do so many of us postpone recovery to the weekends or, worse, to irregular vacations?

Mind-sets stop us from building in recovery. If you find yourself routinely not taking time for recovery, explore the beliefs or mind-sets that drive this behavior. People who ignore the signals from their physical and emotional states often have entrenched and limiting mind-sets. Here are a few we hear most often: “hard work requires suffering”; “only slackers take time”; “committed people put in long hours and are always available”; and “I just don’t have the time.” Once you identify your limiting mind-sets, consider shifting. The most important shift you can make is from managing your time to managing the quality of your energy.

We all have four sources of energy that fuel us. Most of us know plenty about how to build physical energy (get enough sleep, eat healthy, drink lots of water, work out three times a week). That said, many don’t realize that there are three more sources of energy that you can tap: mental, emotional, and spiritual. You can recover in as little as ten minutes at a time, and there are dozens of energizing activities you can do at work in those ten minutes; for example, practice mindfulness (mental); call a friend (emotional); read a favorite poem (spiritual). Many of these activities touch on more than one energy source.

Build in a sustaining recovery practice. The key is to identify the practice you want to do and then embed it into your work day. A sustaining recovery practice is a concrete and specific activity that you commit to carrying out with specific timing and duration, and with results that can be tracked. Think of it as a ritual that you choose to do.

To embed a ritual, you first have to do it consciously until your practice becomes second nature. To begin, plan the ritual you commit to in great detail. Keeping a journal helps to reinforce your success. After a while, your ritual will become hardwired—as easy as brushing your teeth day and night.

Activity 2: Feeling Your Energy

Group activity

10 min

Research shows that the clues to our energy level may be emotional or physical. Here is a fast way to get in touch with them. Stand up. Imagine an activity in the Performance Zone (top right quadrant). As a group, move your bodies to act out the physical and emotional sensation. Repeat this in each of the remaining quadrants and you’ll literally feel the difference!

Diagram of energy zones

Activity 3: Shifting Your Energy

10 min

Step 1: Score your energy

Individual activity

1 min

Write. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the most energized), score yourself on each energy dimension:

_____ Reliability. How much energy do I have available? How active, fit, nutritionally satisfied, rested do I feel?

_____ Mental. What is the quality of my focus in the present? To what extent am I intellectually engaged with my full attention?

_____ Emotional. What am I feeling? To what extent am I experiencing positive emotions? How connected to others do I feel?

_____ Spiritual. Is what I am doing meaningful to me? Am I spending my time and energy on what really matters to me?

Step 2: Share an interest or passion

Pair activity

2 min per partner

Now, find someone to pair up with. Still standing, share your greatest interest or passion and thank each other after.

Step 3: Score your energy again

Individual activity

1 min

Write. Sit down and score yourself on each energy dimension again.

Step 4: Share how you feel with your Circle

Group activity

4 min

Raise hands to see how many Circle members observed an increase in their scores in at least two dimensions. If anyone’s scores decreased, take a minute together to explore.

Activity 4: Practice Sharing Gratitude

5 min

Step 1: Reflect on what you’re grateful for

Individual activity

3 min

Write. Write down as many things as you can that you are grateful for—you feel happy and joyful about these things. Try to be specific about the value you get and what exactly you feel grateful for. For example, instead of writing “my family,” try to list each person in turn with a quick reason (“Jetta for her optimism”; “Gaby for her rapping”).

When everyone is done, count up the number of items you recorded on your sheet.

Step 2: Share how you feel with your Circle

Group activity

2 min

One by one, share how you feel after this exercise. Gratitude is one of the few universal energizers.

Activity 5: Practice Mindfulness

Individual activity

10 min

Mindfulness practice uses the body’s natural ability to become centered. We suggest this as a Recovery practice or a daily ritual to get in the present. You’ll find yourself feeling more physical and mental energy (and maybe spiritual energy) right away!

If someone in your group has taken meditation or yoga, or even mindfulness classes, ask her to facilitate. If no one in your Circle has experience with such exercises, ask a member of the Circle to volunteer to guide you through these steps:

  • Sit up straight and comfortably in a chair, feet uncrossed and hands gently resting on your lap. Balance your head on your spine and feel the chair holding you. Place your feet on the floor and feel the ground holding them.
  • Close your eyes to reduce external stimuli.
  • Scan your body and become aware of all sensations. Relax your body starting with all the small facial muscles, your neck, shoulders, and on down all the way to your feet.
  • Now exhale deeply, pushing all the air out on exhalation and letting the breath flow back in by itself. Do this two or three times.
  • Let your breath assume its regular rhythm and gently draw your attention to it, feeling the rise of your chest, perhaps the airflow from your nose or mouth.
  • Your mind will wander to thoughts, noises, or body sensations. This is entirely normal and natural. When you notice it has wandered, just let these thoughts or noises or body sensations go and gently bring your attention back to breathing.
  • It may help you to place one or both hands in the center of your chest (at your heart) and imagine a loved one or favorite place there. As your thoughts wander, effortlessly and easily bring your attention back to your breath.
  • After ten minutes, gently bring your attention back to your surroundings. If you rub your hands together and then place them over your eyes, you may find it very refreshing.
  • Stretch gently.

One by one, share how you experienced the activity and how you feel now.

Tip: If you are interested in learning more, we recommend Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners. Some participants use smartphone apps. If someone in your Circle has experience with a different mindfulness practice, consider all trying it together.

One Action

20 min

We recommend you close every meeting by committing to a “One Action”—one concrete thing you’re going to do before your next Circle meeting to step outside your comfort zone or practice a new skill.

Step 1: Commit to a sustaining practice

Individual activity

10 min

Given the importance of recovery, what sustaining practice will you commit to for yourself? (Hint: Find the smallest activities that will make the biggest difference to renewing your energy.)

Write. Develop one or two practices. Refine them with a discussion partner and choose one you will commit to.

Energy Practice One

  • What will I do? (be specific)
  • When and where will I do this?
  • What will get in the way?
  • What tools or structure can I put in place to help?
  • What new mind-set will underlie this practice?
  • What are the benefits for me— my performance and fulfillment— if I do this?

Energy Practice Two

  • What will I do? (be specific)
  • When and where will I do this?
  • What will get in the way?
  • What tools or structure can I put in place to help?
  • What new mind-set will underlie this practice?
  • What are the benefits for me— my performance and fulfillment— if I do this?

Step 2: Share your One Action with your Circle

Group activity

1 min per member

One by one, go around your Circle and share the sustaining practice you are committing to.

Move quickly from member to member and consider cheering on one another as you go.

Wrap-Up

10 min

What’s next, and a few final words.

Step 1: Finalize logistics of your next meeting

Group activity

10 min

Before you break, make sure you have the basics covered for your next meeting: day and time, location, food and drink. Decide what you’re going to do when you get together or who’s going to send out ideas. You may also want to talk through what worked—and what didn’t—in today’s meeting and brainstorm improvements going forward.

Step 2: Close on an energetic and inspirational note

Group activity

2 min

To punctuate the end of this meeting, go around your Circle one by one and complete the sentence below:

  • As we finish today’s session, I am feeling . . .

Optional: One Action Update

Use the following prompts to give your One Action update during your next meeting. You can even prepare your answers ahead to maximize your time with your Circle.

  • The sustaining renewal practice I am following is: _____________
  • When I practice it, I notice: _____________
  • What has worked well: _____________
  • What I’m still working on: _____________