One question I hear a lot from introverts and highly sensitive people (HSPs) is “How do I find the energy for career or self-employment exploration when my work is draining me?” It sounds like an impossible trap, huh?
I know how hard it can be to find energy when work and life are draining. It can take a lot of conscious effort to manage our energy even when we love our work. I sometimes have stuck-on-the-couch Saturdays too.
And yet, I want to offer you some hope and practical advice. I asked a lot of people how they are managing it, and I got permission to share their advice.
I believe that finding the right fit for work — something that feels both meaningful and sustainable — is possible even when you think there’s no time or energy to find it.
Here are a few ideas from other introverts and/or HSPs that might give you some hope or ideas to help you get there too.
1. Follow the Energy.
You have to work with the energy you have at the moment—some days the energy level will be high and some days it will be low. I don’t view it by days, I view it by the month: What did I accomplish this month?
What keeps me moving forward is knowing where I am is not the way I want to be living for the rest of my life. I know what works for me and what doesn’t.”
I really like the idea of working with your energy. If you know you have higher energy times of day, or times of the week, see if you can use those times to do some exploration.
Also, see if there is something that drains your energy that you can let go of, even for a while. I like to regularly look at my calendar and to-do list with fresh eyes.
I try to keep (or increase) the revitalizing things, and drop any draining stuff I can. In other words, I don’t just drop things. Sometimes it’s equally about adding what is enjoyable and energizing.
Maybe there is a way to do some of the career or business exploration itself in a way that feels more energetically aligned. For instance, instead of an informational interview over Zoom (tiring), meet for a walk in nature or for tea. It’s usually more energizing that way, and the conversation can be more easeful and informal too.
2. Ask for What You Need. (You might get it.)
I started voicing my concerns about how much work I did and saying out loud (to my boss) that it was unreasonable and something had to give. And then I just let some things slide, and when questioned, I said, ‘I told you this would happen.’ I had to accept that I couldn’t do it all and I got assertive about the things I’m not going to do. It’s hard, but it’s helped a lot.”
Wow, let’s cheer Lora on with that one! That could serve as inspiration for having an honest talk with a (caring) spouse too, like asking for more support with housework, errands, or child care.
One of the things I often talk to my clients about is making their current situation work better for them. Sometimes asking for (and implementing) changes in your work environment or home responsibilities can make a big difference.
That might mean pointing out when the work load is unreasonable, like Lora did, or you might ask to work from home or adjust your hours.
Start noticing what drains your energy at work and get curious about what you might do to change that. You’d be surprised how many people manage to get changes in place even when they are sure they will hit a brick wall when they ask. 😲
3. Find What Sparks You.
In my experience, the energy is there but has not been activated. We need to find the sparks, the passion. It will come.” —Idalia
I agree. Having career or self-employment ideas that excite you comes with energy to go look for it. Wow, that surprised me when it happened. I see it happen to others too.
And a true kind of calling comes with the best kind of energy. It’s amazing what a difference a spark can make. It reminds me of this:
When you can see a light at the end of a tunnel, that tunnel is not so stressful any more. It actually becomes more exciting.
So consider career clarity a first step, to find your light at the end of the tunnel, which will give you the spark.
Luckily that discovery process itself is usually energizing and fun! (If you value depth and growth, you’ll love the career clarity process.)
You’ll have more spark from there. That clarity of what sparks you also boosts your confidence since you’ll be uncovering your natural strengths as one of the clarity steps.
Yes, the externals still might be a big weight, but more clarity and spark truly helps. Find and follow the spark.
Practical Steps You Can Try
There’s still the in-between time during the search, which does take time, patience, and fortitude for the ups and downs. So let’s run down some specific practical ideas you could consider.
The following list of ideas was generated in a discussion with the members of my Explorers Group:
- Consider self-care is in your job description since taking breaks will help you at work too.
- Let your anger and frustration fuel you.
- Connect with someone who can keep their eyes out for ideas for you.
- Consider that taking a pay cut could be (often is!) worth the freedom when you have time to focus and move towards what you really want.
- Ask to work part-time for a while.
- Work from home and save time by not commuting.
- Let yourself take longer breaks at work.
- Renegotiate your job description so that it fits your energy and interests better.
- Connect with people who believe in you for a boost in energy.
- Consider finding a recruiter in your field who can connect you to new options.
- If the job is really draining, consider a different job, for now, what I call a Bridge job.
- List things that give you energy and systematically do more of the energizers.
- Do a lower spending challenge for a while so you can save up as much money as possible so you can quit or reduce your hours. (Assuming there’s any wiggle room at all.)
- Hire a career coach or business coach to guide you through the process so you don’t have to think so hard. Feeling a sense of progress is energizing in itself as you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Take a step-by-step, self-paced course so you can relax into a professionally designed and efficient process (such as Career Clarity Course), instead of reinventing the wheel.
- Use your vacation time or even sick time. It’s good for your well-being which is what vacation and sick time are there for.
- Take a short (or long) leave of absence to get some time and energy back.
- Find ways to have less Zoom time, while still connecting with others. Phone still works and is less draining. Better, take a walk together.
What About the Perseverance Energy to Develop Your Own Self-employment?
Are you considering self-employment as an option in your career exploration? I think self-employment is a natural fit for many introverts and HSPs.
One step you could take is my easy and reassuring course, Bridge to Self-Employment. You’ll get concrete answers to your worries about money, energy, risk, and managing the transition — all with introverts and highly sensitive people (HSPs) in mind.
It’s primarily a self-paced, online course, so you manage this stage of your exploration based on your energy. There are also some live calls you can attend that people say are energizing and inspiring.
Work doesn’t have to feel draining … and it’s possible to find a new path, even while you’re working at “day job.” It takes a little creativity, and a bit of perseverance for the short-term. And it usually means letting in some help.