What is energy accounting?

The idea was first described by Christine Miserandino in 2003 as SPoon Theory as she sat in a café with her friend trying to explain what it felt like to live with her chronic health condition – lupus. Struggling to explain the extent to which energy levels impacted every aspect of her life, she gave twelve spoons to her friend suggesting these would represent the total amount of energy she would have that day. She then asked her friend to talk through her day. As she did so, Christine took away a spoon, or more than one, as each part of the day was revealed. Quite quickly it became apparent her friend was going to run out of spoons before the day was even half over – she asked for more spoons. Christine smiled – there were no more spoons.

Energy Accounting takes this idea a step further. In recognising there will be many times each day where our energy is drained away, activities and time needs to be built in to counteract this. This means a more proactive approach to managing our energy levels. Working out what our own personal drains and gains are may be the best way to do this.

Everyone’s drains and gains will be different. And each person’s system for keeping track of this might be different too. Some people like the idea of the spoons, other people use gauges. If using this idea with children, it is really important the scale is something they not only understand but can engage with: marbles in a jar; slices of pizza; perhaps something connected with an element of their special interest – though the removal of elements should not have any form of distress associated – so use the latter connection with care. Whatever it is, the scale needs to be able to accommodate the concept of adding and taking away.

As you think about this initially, it is probably relatively easy to identify your drains on a macro level, particularly when at initial glance a drain might be ‘school’ or ‘work’. In these instances it is rarely possible to remove oneself entirely, so then it becomes much more about identifying specific elements which are problematic and identifying new accommodations or new activities which re-energise.

Getting to grips with this technique does take quite a bit of thought, as it is only as you begin to work out the minutia of your day that sensory accommodations, stim opportunities, safe people and places will begin to appear beyond the obvious re-energiser of timeout.

Ongoing monitoring of your energy levels in this way can feel a little artificial as you get used to thinking this way. But assuming you have bought into the concept and the scale being used, there should be some quick wins appearing very quickly.

We would be very interested in hearing what is working for you.