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Energy & Engagement Tracking

November 30, 2023

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About This Episode

(Season 4, Episode 14)

The more you understand about yourself, the better you’ll be able to align your life with the things that are really meaningful to you.
In this practicast, Practicing Connection co-host, Jessica Beckendorf, shares her experience with energy and engagement tracking, a practice adapted from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ book, “Designing Your Life.”

“Practicasts” are shorter episodes of the podcast highlighting a specific practice to help empower us to work together to improve our resilience and readiness.



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Bob Bertsch: The more you understand about yourself, the better you’ll be able to align your life with the things that are really meaningful to you. Hi, everyone. I’m Bob Bertsch. Welcome to this week’s Practicing Connection practicast, where we highlight a specific practice you can use in your personal and professional growth. This week’s practice is Energy and Engagement Tracking from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’s book Designing Your Life. Here to share her experience with the practice is my practicing connection co-host Jessica Beckendorf.

Jessica Beckendorf: I love this activity. It has helped me to understand which activities, projects, and tasks I am most connected to. I’m excited to share my slightly modified version with all of you.

Bob: Can you tell us a little bit about Energy and Engagement Tracking?

Jessica: Absolutely. Energy and Engagement Tracking is all about reflecting on the activities, projects, and tasks that make you feel energized and engaged, and inflow, or some combination of all three. The goal here isn’t to ensure that everything you do is always energizing, engaging, and puts you in flow. The goal is to understand exactly what energizes and engages you and which tasks put you into flow and then examine how much time you’re spending doing the things that make you feel energized and engaged and the amount of time you’re spending on doing things that drain you.

When you have that, I guess, figured out, from there, you can figure out how you’re going to do more of what you love and a little bit less of what drains you. I know that this can sound almost impossible if you feel like you have no control over what you do or the tasks that you have in your work or frankly at home sometimes, but you do have some agency over your career or over some bigger picture pieces.

An example that Bill Burnett and Dave Evans share where an engineer realized what he loved to do and what drained him. Prior to doing this activity, he was considering going back to school for a business degree. After doing this activity, he realized it would’ve really been a big mistake because what he discovered was that he really loved engineering, so he ended up doubling down and getting an advanced degree in engineering instead.

He concentrated on an area that allowed him to solve complex problems because that’s the thing that he loved the most, was solving complex problems and minimizing the activities that were bogging him down like administrative details. I don’t know who loves administrative details, but I know that there are probably people who do.

Bob: Some people do.

Jessica: Yes. Sorry. Obviously, that is my own self coming out there. [laughs] I don’t love administrative details. What I like about using this activity to follow what lights you up, activity you mentioned or even a values exploration, you could also use this to follow up a values exploration, is that it helps you to see what you love to do in the context of what lights you up and the things that you value and care about.

Bob: I know you’ve done this tracking yourself. How has it helped you?

Jessica: Yes, I’ve gone through this activity a few times. Usually, I’ll go through the activity when I’m feeling a little bogged down, or sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, or when I’m having trouble feeling motivated. I would say that the activity has helped me a few different ways. One way it has helped me is to see patterns in what I enjoy doing.

When I realized that I’m energized and engaged when I have a microphone in my hand, which is a little embarrassing to admit. [chuckles] I have to say it’s a little embarrassing. [laughs] When I looked at my energy and engagement tracker, I realized that my current job provided me with many opportunities to have a figurative microphone in my hand, even if it’s not usually a literal one.

Facilitating, for example. It helped me to see my facilitating work differently and enjoy it even more than I already did. I already love facilitating, but there were times when I just felt very drained by it depending on the circumstance. When I realized that facilitating was one path toward that thing I really love, which is I guess in a way entertaining or performing– When I realized that that was something– it was a pathway towards something I loved, it helped me to see facilitating even in those moments where it would’ve been more draining in the past.

It helped me to see those moments as something that I love as well. Another way this activity has helped me was to point out that I was spending a lot more time on things that really drained me. While I couldn’t rid myself of all of those tasks, there were a few I was able to pinpoint to identify and negotiate for someone else to take those tasks on, like being the primary point of contact for a small program that I ran. It drained me to think that I might be a bottleneck.

If I’m being honest, it drained me to know that I was a bottleneck. I was able to negotiate with one of our administrative staff to be the primary point of contact for that program, only involving me when there was a more complex issue that required my attention. For the things that I couldn’t offload, it was still really helpful to know that those tasks drained me because I could plan to do them when I had the most energy for them or I could plan to co-work with a colleague to make it a little more fun.

Bob: When we do this practice, how are we able to tell what gives us energy or gets us engaged, or at least, how did you tell that for yourself?

Jessica: This is a really good question. I think it’s probably a lot easier for some of us to know what drains us versus what gives us energy and puts us into a flow. I bet anyone listening, and I bet you can as well, think of some things off the top of your head that you hate doing. A lot of times these are the things that you procrastinate on. They’re the things that you can’t muster the energy to do because it drains your energy so much that you don’t even want to get started on it. Those are the things that you know will drain you. I want you to track those just as much as the things that give you energy and engagement.

How I knew is when I thought about the activities that made me feel energized and engaged. It was more of a gut reaction for me. I’ll give you a couple of clues. Reflecting back on how I felt doing that activity or working on that project, so really trying to immerse myself in that moment, even though the moment has passed, and really reflect back, “How did I feel doing that? How did I feel about the people I was working with, and how did it feel to work with them?”

For me, when I thought about an activity that made me feel energized or engaged, I just felt a little lighter. I maybe even smiled a little when I thought about it. Then, I would think about, “Okay, was it energizing or engaging or a little bit of both?” Then after I figured out what level I felt like I was energized or engaged, I would think about, “Okay, was that a flow activity?” I would remember the energy I was feeling in the moment and how it felt to engage in that activity.

I remembered how focused I was on the activity task or project. Those are the two main things to think about. How did you feel like? Were you energized by the task, or the project, or the activity? How did it feel to engage in that activity? Were you highly engaged? Were you sitting back and just listening? Then, how focused were you on the activity, task, or project?

If you weren’t very focused on it at all, then it was not a flow moment. I can tell you that. [chuckles] The questions to ask yourself when you think about flow is, were you so focused that the next time you looked at your clock, it was hours later and you only looked up because you were hungry? That’s a good sign that you found an activity that puts you in flow.

I would say most of the activities that I track, anytime I do this activity, most of them are not flow activities, but tracking when you’re in flow is still a really good way to tell which activities put you in flow.

There are a few activities though that were also contextual for me. Writing is one of those activities that seems to show up as an activity that gives me energy and really engages me. It can even put me in flow, but not always. It depends on what I’m writing, what mood I’m in, whether I’m feeling rushed by other projects, or whether I’m feeling overwhelmed in general. Sometimes, an activity could be contextual. I always have been a person who felt like writing was part of my identity. When I saw that I was drained by writing, it was disappointing. I just got curious about that, and I investigated that a little more, and I realized it was contextual.

Bob: I think it’s time to give this a try, Jessica. Would you mind walking us through the steps?

Jessica: Yes, of course. It’s really a pretty easy activity. I’ll walk you through it the way I like to practice it, which is a slight modification of how Bill Burnett and Dave Evans teach it. First, you’ll want to start a page in your journal or start a note in your favorite app or you can download the worksheet at the link that we provided in the show notes. Next, you’re going to reflect on your activities over the past three to four weeks.

Now, this is the way I do it. Sometimes, getting out your calendar and looking at the same time can help. If looking back three to four weeks is too long of a time period for you, you can instead just reflect on the past week, and then you can repeat the activity for the next 2-3 weeks so that you have a little more data to work with. On the far left of your page, you’re going to list the activities, tasks, and projects that you recall doing. I’m not talking about taking out the trash, although if you want to list it, you’re very welcome to do that. I’m talking about the activities, tasks, and projects that were more significant.

Then for each item on your list, you’re going to rate your energy level on a 1-5 scale, or of course, if you’re using the downloadable, there’s a little scale that you can use. Rate your energy level on a 1-5 scale with 1 being low. You’ll then rate your engagement level on a scale of 1-5, again with 1 being low. Write the word flow next to any activity for what you feel you might have been in flow. Again, flow is the state of being so energized and focused that you might even lose track of time. Next, once you have 3-4 weeks of data, take a look at it and see if you find any patterns, trends, or new insights. Think about what specifically contributed to your energy and engagement ratings.

For example, was it the meeting itself that was energizing, or was it something that happened at the meeting or something that you contributed to the meeting that was energizing for you? Was it because you were able to dig into something with no interruptions, or was it because there was a group of people involved and everyone was building on an idea together? Be as specific as it’s helpful for you to fully understand why an activity was draining or energizing and engaging.

Finally, brainstorm some ideas on how you can make some adjustments that will allow you to do a little more of what you love and a little less of what you don’t. You can take it a little further by imagining some bigger goals if you like. For now, just even small tweaks to our current situation could go a long way when we’re coming from a place of self-knowledge and intention.

Bob: Thanks for guiding us through that, Jessica.

Jessica: You’re welcome. I really enjoy this activity because it has been so eye-opening for me in the past.

Bob: That’s it for this episode. Thanks for joining us. We hope you’ll give this practice a try and share your experience in the practicing connection community on LinkedIn, where people supporting military families practice the skills that empower us to work together so that we can positively impact our communities and help families thrive. You’ll find the link to the community on our website at We’ll be back next week with an in-depth podcast episode sharing reflections from some of our guests from the past years on the topic of finding balance. Until then, keep practicing.

Kalin Goble: The Practicing Connection Podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military, Family Readiness Policy, US Department of Defense, under award numbers 2019-48770-30366 and 2023-48770-41333.


[00:13:35] [END OF AUDIO]


November 30, 2023
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