Here’s a picture of me celebrating life in November of last year! 

Gosh, am I glad the year of the Tiger is over.

Every year before Chinese New Year, my family has a special tradition. My mom loves to read all of our various fortunes and tell us what we can look forward to that year. Last February was the first time I was given negative news. “Your health will not be good,” my mother said. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it afterward because I didn’t put much stock in it.

In October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After two surgeries, I was deemed cancer-free. A good friend joked that I am so efficient and timely, that I was able to fit it all within Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Let’s face it.

When you get a cancer diagnosis, no matter what stage, the foreseeable future will be consumed with visits to the doctor, calls to/from their offices, referrals to other doctors, and last, but definitely not least, a significant amount of time having conversations with your health insurance company.

After I got the call, day-to-day activities seemed like a blur. One thing I do remember being extraordinarily intentional about was how I chose to manage the use of my energy. This is something my very first executive coach shared with me, and I pass onto the people I coach – Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. So, in preparation for the upcoming encroachment of my time and energy, I did just that.

I created a list of personal policies.

Unlike boundaries that can be crossed, policies should not be violated.

-I proactively resigned from all volunteer activities (2 advisory boards for start-ups and one nonprofit board) to focus on my health. This may sound extreme, but doing so preempted the inevitable guilt I would feel if I had to decline every meeting one by one when I couldn’t make them.

-I chose to not make any social plans.

-I chose to share the news with only people who I knew would be mindful of not requiring emotional energy from me. 

Unfortunately, this did not include my own parents.

These may seem a little extraneous, but it’s all in the name of self-preservation. If you need some time to focus on anything, you should be preserving your energy for the important things in your life.

Do you have standing activities or commitments that you don’t look forward to? You don’t have to wait for a life-threatening diagnosis to take control of your energy.

Here are some examples that can help you get started:

– I schedule meetings at no more than two locations in one day (if your job involves multiple locations).

– I do not accept more than two evening meetings in one week.

– I block my meetings calendar for a specific time when I am exercising/meditating/focusing on other tasks. 

– I cook ‘x’ times per week. 

Consider creating your own personal policies of your own. It’s a very freeing feeling that can help you regain control during troubling times.