Catalysts and Drains: Get a Handle on Your Energy


This is a follow up to my post, Manage Energy, Not Time.

A few folks have asked me how I figure out energy drains and catalysts.

Some people jazz you.  Some people don’t.  Some tasks jazz you.  Some tasks don’t.

Just paying attention to this fact can help you start to get a handle on your energy.

Energy is your premium resource in today’s world.   You need to know where your passions come from, just as much as you need to know what gets in the way.  Simply noticing this will help you start to see patterns of things you do or who you spend your time with.

Tasks and People

I have a simple way of looking at it.  For me, clarity came when I broke it down into:

  • Tasks
  • People

I think in terms of people and tasks.  Working on tasks that drain me, with people who jazz me, help me keep going.  Likewise, finding a way to work on better tasks with people who drain me, help me mitigate the drains.

The ideal scenario is working on tasks that jazz you with people who catalyze you and unleash the best version of yourself.  But on the practical side, knowing your catalysts and drains is more than half the battle.

Once you realize this secret, you can be more selective and you can find more ways to adapt, adjust or avoid situations or people to live your best life.

On the Task Side …

I learned to think more carefully about tasks during one of my training sessions.  You can actually think of tasks in terms of whether they energize or drain you.  Or put it another way, whether they make you strong or make you weak.

This hit home for me when one of the instructors gave some example scenarios:

  • You have to analyze a few 1000 rows of data in a spreadsheet
  • You have to give a last-minute presentation for a few thousand people in an hour
  • You have a whiteboarding session to design a product
  • You have to code a 1000 lines to solve an important problem

Ask Yourself How You Feel

The instructor asked, “how do you feel?” about the various scenarios.  He said some people will have “energy” for some of these.  Others won’t.  Some people will be excited by the chance to drill into data and cells on spreadsheets.  He said others will be excited by painting the broader strokes.  He then gave more examples, such as, the irony of how you might have the energy to go skiing, but not to go to the movies.

The point he was making was that energy was relative and that you should be aware of what gives you energy or takes it away.

On the People Side …

I pay more attention to people now in terms catalysts and drains:

  • With some individuals, I’m impressed at their ability to sap energy. (I can almost hear Gauntlet in the background …”Your life force is running out …”).
  • With other individuals, they are clearly catalysts, giving me energy to move mountains.

It’s interesting for me now to think of both people and tasks in terms of catalysts and drains.  Now I consciously spend more time with catalysts, and less time with drains, and I enjoy the results.

You Might Also Like

Manage Energy, Not Time

The Secret of Time Management

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Image by wsilver


  1. Right on!
    I am stretched lately quite a bit. But it does not stop me to create more time. It turned out it is not enough. When i tried to use the time i created for something i planned i felt so drained i could not move a finger. Managing energy is definitely the next skill i need to master.

  2. This is an awesome post! I like it because it is simple and brings clarity and awareness almost immediately. Thanks for providing succinct examples to drive point home.

    You are doing good work. Keep doing what you are doing!

  3. I have just watched the What If? movie on Robin’s blog and that movie talks about energy use and living…people who eat nothing, but are healthy and fine…about how our brains and bodies work together..

    April 1, I took myself off all of the medications – ALL because I know if I transform my energy usage I can heal myself and be fine. I know I can, and that it is not about hours and hours of exercise and just the right foods…it is about how I use my own fuel and energy.

    I am so giving – I must need to start with being selfish….I am going to learn to play…and be funny…

    You always write such good posts for me to read…and your timing is so good too.
    Thank you

  4. So true J.D., this is a great post! I haven’t thought about it like this before. We all know we can’t ALWAYS do what we want, but from now on I’m going to try and cushion that a bit with a with who we want factor. 😀

  5. JD,

    I love the simplicity of this post. There are only 4 permutations when we think in terms of tasks and people, and catalysts and drains. Great perspective as usual.

  6. Finding those people that add to our energy is vital to improving our lives. I feel like I used to be a energy drainer in my early twenties. I felt like I needed to give more back. I slowly started changing my attitude and now I consider myself a catalyst.

    Thanks for sparking this memory.

  7. Oh yes, I’ve been paying attention to this for a long time now – except I think of it more in terms of people and tasks that suck the energy out of me and the ones who restore it. Best practice for me has been to avoid the energy suckers as much as possible and balance them out carefully with anything that restores me to factory state 😉

  8. @ Alik

    One thing that’s helped me with energy is anticipation. I think mindset too. The more I feel like I’m driving results and ready for surprises, the better. It’s like a shift from anxiety to skilled awareness.

    @ Shobana

    Thank you. It’s a lens that really opens a lot opportunities for awareness, especially in terms of teams, as well as just knowing yourself … figuring out what makes you strong and what makes you weak.

    @ Patricia

    I’m a fan of the body brain connection.

    I like your determination. If it helps, I remember a section in the book Feeling Good where Dr. Burns compares drugs vs. cognitivive therapy. The results without drugs were amazing. The key point was that your thoughts create chemical changes, so effectively, “you are what you feel.”

    As far as healing, I’ve heard that “nutritional density” plays a huge role. In other words, some foods are rich across the spectrum so your body has more of what it needs. In fact, some foods have anti-inflammatory properites which help you while you heal. One of my mentors studies Dr. Furham and has had amazing results ( )

    Please take care.

    @ Louisa

    It’s like carving out your world by design. I used to spend too much time with drains using them as a challenge to grow myself. I then realized I’ve got better places to grow 😉

    @ Daphne

    Thank you. I think the big “ah ha” for me was the task part. I started paying a lot more attention to various tasks I do and asking whether I inherently get energy or get drained from them. I’ve also noticed more patterns in terms of people and I have precision around what drains me and what gives me energy.

    @ Karl

    I consider you a catalyst Karl. I think it’s the fact that you push yourself and push others to be something more. I think that’s great.

    @ Melissa

    That’s a perfect practice. I have recurring lunches that help me get my energy back. It’s helped me balance the chaos in my life and roll with the punches. I can always count on spending time with at least a few catalysts each week.

  9. The people in our life is very important. They can uplift us or bring us down, so we have to choose who we spend our time with wisely.

    Thank you,
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  10. Hi JD

    It took me quite some time to figure this one out. I battle a great deal with lack of energy. And my issue (mostly): people. The problem stems from my being an introvert (and probably oversensitive too). In most cases my only solution is to have enough alone-time. And I need a great deal of it. I’ve had to adapt my life to this. This came after decades of struggles with it.


  11. @ Giovanna

    Well put. People make the world go round.

    @ Juliet

    I know what you mean. I schedule my week to include alone time and buffers so I get my think time. It recharges me.

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