Energy Quadrants… Where Are You?

Accountability Productivity Well-being


Key Point: Research tells us that we experience four different energy zones and only one (high/positive) is optimal for personal performance.

Feeling overwhelmed and overworked is a common feeling amongst people everywhere. And when we hear about over reactions to being stressed out, (like road rage where someone cut off in traffic pulls out a chainsaw to make a point), well maybe we need to pause and ask, “What the heck’s up?” We need more self-awareness and personal management tools to help. Ideally, we can all spend more time in the performance zone and stay completely out of “chain saw” mode. What are the four zones? What can we do to spend most of our time focused on performance?

When we expend high and positive energy, we are likely in the performance zone. We describe our feelings as focused, excited, joyful, productive, and optimistic. When we live in the renewal zone, we are essentially resting and refueling. We describe ourselves as meditative, relaxed, and with Zen. Typically we are purposefully replenishing ourselves, and while the energy is very positive, expenditure of energy is low. In the survival zone, we are worried, distracted, anxious and on edge. If you frantically can’t find your house keys and shut your head in your car door, you’re likely in this zone. Being very combative and “fighting” with people you care about are other indicators that you’re in survival. Energy expenditure in this quadrant is very high and is also very negative. The place none of us knowingly wants to be in is the burn out zone. This is where we are depressed, in despair, and totally “fried.” We’ve almost given up and we are expending huge amounts of negative energy just to open our eyes and get out of bed.

Today, the world of work offers little institutional support for helping us stay in the performance zone. Most of us can work non-stop if we choose to do so. Nothing shuts down. We are always on, unless we consciously choose to stop working. There are no natural institutional “breakers” to help us rest and refuel. Switchboards don’t stop at 5:00 p.m. Work never stops because we always have access to email or the company data. Vacations and weekends are no longer automatic rest sanctuaries. We constantly are pushed towards the survival zone, whether we want to be or not. And if we spend too much time in the survival quadrant, we can unwittingly find ourselves in “burn out.” For some of us, before we get to burn out, we do one of two things that are usually non-productive: We fight or flee. So what can we do about this?

Character Moves:

  1. Learn how to refuel daily!!! We move in and out of the performance zone regularly. Typically, we eventually transport from performance to the survival zone. If we don’t recognize that we are sitting in “survival,” we under perform. Usually it’s because our arousal levels and adrenalin is so high, we miss key things around us. Essentially, in the terms of athletic performance, we “choke.” We are so wound up; we can’t slow things down enough to be fully aware. We must learn how to breathe… Sloooooowly… Deeply… Daily. We have to learn how to consciously step into the renewal zone to get back to the performance zone!
  1. Embrace meditation, yoga, better nutrition, hydration, walking meetings, etc. When I had my own business, and the only way to feed my family was to bill my time out, I ran for one hour in the river valley every day. Often I would close my eyes and nap in the afternoon. I was my own boss and self-accountable.  Why should it be different in today’s corporate settings? Nap! Meditate! Have walking meetings! Drink sparklingly water instead of pop, etc. Do whatever you need to do to stay out of the survival and especially the burn out zone!! You’re self-accountable. If your boss is managing your time instead of performance, you’ve got the wrong boss!
  1. Recognize that the only way back from the survival or burn out zone is to spend meaningful time in the refuel zone. Perhaps most importantly, the only path to high performance is to stand in the refuel zone, and then like a rattler, you’re ready to strike… High energy… Positive energy… Hitting “home runs” in the performance zone!

In the Zone in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: This blog discusses personal choice and mindset quite a bit, but it’s because it’s just that important. Things can get truly stressful, hectic, and sometimes overwhelming… But, just to put things in quick perspective, we as humans are living in the best time there has ever been to live in, literally in HISTORY. Despite all the bad stuff that clutters our news headlines, it’s STILL the BEST it’s EVER been. A podcast host I listen to regularly once said something I believe in, along the lines of, “If more than five percent of your daily life is truly miserable, then buddy, you need to consult someone for help.” Life’s too good, manageable and changeable for the burn out zone.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis