The Batteries are Draining Me!

Those of you who have been reading this column for a while know that I love to sail.  And of course those of you who own boats know boating is a never ending opportunity to learn “stuff.”  I still really dig the “learning stuff” part and this past week it was about the electrical system and particularly batteries.  There are four of them, along with an alternator and lots of wiring.  Now I could be wrong, but I think we are all generally frustrated and baffled by batteries and I won’t go into the details of the charging issues I encountered on the boat, but it did take me over to another issue with batteries…my laptop. There I was sitting on the boat researching about batteries using my laptop, wearing a miner’s light on my head because by this time the sun had gone down and of course you know the end of this tale…the laptop battery died. So my brain switched over to thinking about capacity in our workplaces.

It seems to me that engineers who design batteries keep it complicated because they find it amusing.  Heck, even my local Batteries Plus store has a hard time with the stock they carry, and besides who would have figured there would be a need for a Batteries Plus store anyhow?  To say nothing about the fact that there are about 350 of these stores nationally! It also seems to me that people don’t understand how capacity works – ours or the people we interact with.

So I sat on the boat looking a bit odd with the minor’s light on my head. Which by the way, I think those things are the best invention for us boaters. With two of my most important systems down, I vowed that when I got landside and had plenty of electrical capacity I’d noodle on this and share my thoughts. To continue the correlation between people and batteries I’m convinced that everything is about capacity. So let’s see if I can draw the picture in your mind. You probably know that you can’t judge capacity in new batteries, new certainly doesn’t mean “fresh” and ready to work at full capacity. Hmmm, sounds like most people I know including myself.  Anyway, back to human capacity. In one sense we all have the exact same capacity. We all have 24 hours in the day. And like some batteries there are different loads (impacting capacity) during our given 24 hours.  We have complete control over how we spend the hours, although I know there are some of us right now thinking “oh no we don’t,” but frankly, you do! And by the way, the idiom “recharge your batteries” is part of our lexicon for good reason. We can all think of times when we use it or should abide by it.

Clearly understanding human capacity is a much bigger problem that battery capacity. I hope it’s not as boring and clearly both are really important. Both require some attention if the goal is to use the power correctly, so it’s important to check the calibration. In a human sense let’s refer to this as analyzation. Take note of the draws on capacity. Track when they happen, why they happen. This means metrics. This means tracking. This may mean new ways of tracking, because the old ways sometimes lose accuracy. Batteries use gauges which sometimes need calibrating and yours will too.

So the best tip I know for people and batteries is, to learn as much as you have tolerance for and then test and retest/calibrate. Understand the “loads” and don’t always trust the tried and true indicators. People and most rechargeable batteries do best with frequent, shallow charges.  That means unlike other batteries where you’re advised to deplete them and do big, full charges, follow the rule that people and rechargeable batteries all like to be well fed – keeping the battery’s charge near full whenever possible.  So I hope my frustration with boat batteries has inspired you to take better care of your human ones!

The Batteries are Draining Me!
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