Most people are familiar with the idea of a financial budget. Most of us get a set amount of income each month, and we have to figure out a way to make that money last through the month until we get our next check. I think our energy and emotions work in a similar fashion. We wake up each morning with a certain amount of energy and emotional capacity. We spend that throughout the day on work, conversations, relationships, etc. We need to budget our energy and emotional capacity so that it can last us through the day. This is especially true if you are a parent and need to come home with a big smile and a ready hug and say, "Hi sweetie(s), how was your day?"
Just as with receiving a bonus at work or side gigs we might do to augment our income, we can get little influxes of extra “income” by going to the gym or taking a break to meditate. You have to be realistic about how those will play into the budget. These rarely turn out to be the magical lottery winning that eliminates the need to budget.
Now, people do go into debt sometimes to get through the month, but you know that's just going to be a problem later when you have to pay off those credit cards. The same is true when we go into emotional or energy debt. We can borrow against tomorrow and keep pushing ourselves even when we are exhausted, but the bill will inevitably come due. And you could be looking at a painful payment plan - laid up in bed with an infection, medical leave, or an embarrassing public emotional outburst.
Writing out a budget and checking your bank balances regularly makes all the difference. Many of us have large fixed expenses -- rent or mortgage, school tuition, health expenses. We have similar large fixed emotional/energy expenses -- parenthood, an ill family member, a difficult boss,. Put those in the budget first to make sure that they are accounted for, so that you’ll have sufficient funds for the expenditures that are most important to you.
The other key practice is checking your account often. This allows you to catch problematic patterns or budget shortfalls early. If you check your account once a year and find that a significant amount is missing or your credit cards have been maxed out, good luck figuring out what happened. If your check your accounts weekly, you can quickly notice a developing expensive Starbucks habit or a small charge that turns out to be identity theft. Same thing emotionally -- the more often you check-in with yourself, the easier it is to notice that you are spending more energy than you can afford on a random colleague or Facebook.
A hallmark of a successful budget is having extra funds to save or donate. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, we include retirement, rainy day funds, and charitable donations in our budget. How wonderful would it be to be able to include the equivalent in our emotional budget? When we can go to bed at night with a little extra to spare, we could start the next day perhaps a little more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We could chose to take the extra time to get to know a stranger, or help a friend move, or have a relaxed conversation with grandma about whatever she wants to talk about.