Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement
 
 

Let’s get to the point: How can we be our best at work when demands are constantly coming at us from all directions?   How do we actually do it?  Even when we’re willing to deal with stress, we don’t always feel able.  

Consider these common scenarios at work:

  • You arrive geared up for an important project but after a couple hours you feel distracted and scattered. 
  • You leave one meeting and go to the next, but you’re not present for any of them.  
  • You push through the day looking for caffeine or sugar to keep you going.  
  • You feel exhausted.  You go home and collapse in front of the TV with a drink.

We often think if we could only add more hours to the day that our problems would be solved.  While we can’t add more hours, we do have power to change the energy we bring to these hours.  

Consider these growing statistics: 2

  • 59% of workers are physically depleted, emotionally drained, mentally distracted, and lacking meaning & purpose in the workplace.   
  • 68% report they can’t focus
  • Only slightly more than 33% workers are able to effectively prioritize tasks
  • Only 21% workers see their leaders modeling sustainable work practices

Performance is grounded in the skillful management of energy.  Great leaders are stewards of managing their own energy and the organization’s energy.  

Our energy comes from 4 related sources.1  

Physical –work, rest, fresh air, diet, exercise, sleep

Emotional – authentic connection with others; enjoyment and satisfaction; a sense of safety and trust; being believed in and taken care of; valued and respected

Mental – empowered to set boundaries and focus in an absorbed way; creative and strategic thinking; flexible work that supports needs

Spiritual –meaning and purpose at work and in life; inspiration from a compelling organizational vision and values; inspiration from leaders and role models

The name of the game is to build capacity by expending energy and renewing it.  This allows you to work at your best when the job becomes demanding. 

The secret to building capacity is understanding this:  All human beings and all of nature are made of energy that’s moves in a rhythm.  Your breathing right now consists of inhaling and exhaling in a continuous rhythm.  Phases of the moon, tides, waves, planets, seasons…all move in a rhythmic motion.

The human body moves in 90-minute cycles throughout the day, during which we move from higher to lower alertness.3    This means that after working for 90-120 minutes it’s necessary to renew your energy.  Chronic stress without recovery and chronic recovery without stress both serve to reduce capacity. 

To build capacity, renew energy with positive rituals that are specific routines and habits for managing energy.  The more effective our recovery rituals, the more quickly we can restore our energy reserves.

Here’s a tip:  If you work all day using your mental and emotional energy, then renew your energy from one of the two other sources:  physical and spiritual. 

For example, if you’ve been focusing mentally on a project - planning, strategizing, making decisions - then use a ritual that taps one of the other 3 sources.  Walk around, check in with your employees, share appreciation with people, talk about something that is meaningful with another person, have a one-on-one meeting outside. 

An employee who takes a break every 90 minutes, even a brief one, has a 40% great ability to think creatively.   

What energy source are you working with right now?  How long have you been working?  Is it time to stop and renew?  What's your ritual for renewal?

Practices

  1. Work in 90-120 minute blocks of time then take a break.  Renew your energy using a different source than the one you just worked with.     
  2. Monitor your energy during the work day, evenings, and weekends.   
  3. Look at the 4 sources of energy in your life: which one needs your attention right now?
  4. Use rituals for renewal.
  5. Cut distractions: take your cell phones off the table when you are in a meeting. Your presence, focus, contribution, and satisfaction will be doubled. 

Resources

  1. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz 
  2. The human era @ work: Findings from The Energy Project and Harvard Business Review   
    Go to www.theenergyproject.com/key-ideas
    and scroll to bottom of the page to download report.
  3. “Sleep, wakefulness, and consciousness” Nathaniel Kreitman - www.psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/54/4/354
Of what is the body made? It is made of emptiness and rhythm.
— George Leonard, The Silent Pulse
Motion or change, and identity or rest,
are the first and second secrets of nature:
Motion and Rest.
The whole code of her laws may be written on the thumbnail.
— Emerson, Nature