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Have you ever heard of “spoon theory”?

I was introduced to the topic through an emerging leader I mentored. In a group discussion, she casually threw out the phrase and immediately all of us in the virtual meeting were googling and firing questions to learn more.

The concept deeply resonated.

The phrase was coined in 2003 by Christine Miserandino as a way to express the limited mental and physical energy a person has available for daily activities, especially those living with chronic illness. For example, someone with lupus, Parkinsons or fibromyalgia can often hit a limit of what their bodies and minds are able to attend to in a day.

As our conversation took off, we realized that this theory, expanded more broadly to any individual, could help with assessing, monitoring and spending our own energy reserves on a daily basis.

If each spoon is a unit of energy, we all have a different daily capacity. Let’s say you usually have 15 spoons of energy a day to spend. Your friend who tackles productivity like the energizer bunny might be working with a daily reserve of 25 spoons. And when you’re sick, tired or overwhelmed, your spoon count for the day may be lower, like 11 spoons.

Then, each task or activity we engage in spends our energy, or spoons. For some extraverts, meeting with a group of friends in person may only take 1 spoon of energy. For introverts, the same gathering with friends may utilize 4 spoons of energy. Doing laundry can be 2 spoons for some and 5 for others.

  • First point: Everyone’s capacity of spoons they have in a day differs, as well as how they are spent.

  • Second point: Self-starters and leaders are often great at productivity, which in and of itself, can be a very good thing. Until it’s not. When the desire for productivity consistently puts your spoon spend at a deficit on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, you can be headed for burnout.

  • Third point: How tuned in are you to understanding what the day or week ahead is asking, so you can be thoughtful about your spoon spend? If it’s a big week, does doing meal prep on Sunday help ease the spoon spend? What needs a healthy “no”? Or maybe it’s necessary to extend the deadline of one project, so the higher priority project can get your undivided attention.

In our group, one participant said that this theory empowered her to say “no” to the slew of invitations she receives from work, family and friends. The idea of pausing to check in on her spoon reserves was just as important as checking availability in her calendar.

When the things that "need to get done" make our plate VERY full, don’t forget to check in with your energy and spend your spoons thoughtfully!

And if things are out of balance and you’d like to right the ship, reach out! I’d love to explore if coaching could be helpful to your situation.

Make it a great day!






Plus a few other links of interest:


1. NOW BOOKING! TIMEOUT, a 2-day private coaching retreat! Travel to the resort town of Traverse City, Michigan for an escape from distractions to clearly think, regroup, prioritize and plan. 


2. Could your team benefit from upgrading their leadership? Inquire about Leadership Essentials Academy, a 6-month leadership training & coaching cohort for new and emerging leaders.


3.  Time for a new journal? Pick up a new copy of my Know Thyself Journal for daily support towards your most important intentions for the next 90 days.


4.  Are you into individual assessments? Here is a link to take a free Core Values Assessment (CVI). It only takes 10 minutes and measures your innate, unchanging nature. Take it yourself and feel free to forward it to a friend, too. 


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