Have you ever felt that there are just never enough hours in a day? You are trying to juggle the ever increasing demands at work; everyone wants a ‘piece of you’; household chores taking up your weekend; looking after your family’s needs eating into your precious me-time… So you are trying to cope by putting in more hours, work harder, sleep less, outsource, giving up the things you do for fun just to make time for things that need to be done. But instead of getting more done or becoming more efficient, you are just getting increasingly burnt out, losing control, disenchanted and frustrated and overall less productive. Does this sound familiar? If so, read on.
For a long time, I was under the impression that all I had to do to be effective and stay afloat was better manage my time and prioritise. I mean, who else has not attended at least one workshop in their life about time management? However, I came to realise over the past few years that the underlying issue is that time is a very limited resource, as we only have 24 hours of it in a day at our disposal.
So if the usual method – working harder and putting in more time – is no longer the ultimate answer, what else can we work with?
Managing energy trumps managing time
I attended a workshop a while back where I was told that managing your energy, not time is key to high performance, personal effectiveness and renewal. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz wrote a book about this called On Form, in which the central thesis is that performance, health and happiness are grounded in the smart and skillful management of our energy. The authors point out that managing our time efficiently is no guarantee that we will bring sufficient energy to whatever it is we are doing at work, in our homes, in sports etc. Their bottom line is that to be able to function fully and be effective we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.
From the law of physics we know that energy diminishes with overuse – too much energy expenditure and insufficient recovery leads to burnout and breakdown. The authors point out that, “It is not the intensity of energy expenditure that produces burnout, impaired performance and physical breakdown, but rather the duration of expenditure without recovery.” This means that we need to balance our energy expenditure with time to ‘refill our cup’.
A few tips on managing energy
Based on the book, let me share a couple of instant and practical tips that can help you manage your energy day to day:-
Managing energy in the physical dimension
- Take at least one big break at work – get away from your desk to go out for a walk or immerse yourself in a good book or magazine in your lunch break. If there is a quiet room at your disposal (usually labelled as meditation/prayer/first aid room), use it to get some quiet time and to realign your thoughts. This is likely to help you see things more clearly, or from an entirely new perspective.
- Improve the quality of your sleep by putting away the electronics at least half an hour before bed time and try to go to bed at a reasonable time so you can wake up feeling rested and ready to face the day.
- Exercise – whatever you enjoy doing, be it a high energy gym class, a scenic run etc. I could just go on and on about the physchological and physiological benefits of exercising and being active. I guess my whole blog speaks for this!
- Eat well! See my previous post about ‘Coming Clean’.
Managing energy in the emotional dimension
- Use some easy breathing exercises to neutralise the negative emotions you may be facing, such as impatience, anxiety, frustration, and irritability. You may want to listen to some relaxing music or sounds on your phone whilst you are doing this to maximize the effect.
- Express appreciation and gratitude to yourself and others on a regular basis. Albert Einstein once said that ‘There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle”.
- You also can cultivate positive emotions by learning to change the stories you tell yourself about certain events/defining moments of your life. Often, we tend to cast ourselves in the role of victim, blaming others or external circumstances for our problems or disappointments. Becoming aware of the difference between the facts in a given situation and the way we interpret those facts can be powerful in itself. You have a choice about how to view a given event and to recognize how powerfully the story you tell influence the emotions you feel!
- Invoke pleasant and positive emotions such as enjoyment, adventure and opportunity through so-called ‘swet spot’ activities that you are passionate about and enjoy doing either alone or with your friends and loved ones.
Managing energy in the mental dimension
- When you are at work, try to do tasks that require high focus away from the distractions of your phone and email. Respond to emails and phone messages at designated times during the day.
- Stop multitasking and focus on one thing at a time if possible – for example, if you are in a conference call, it is not the best time to read through your emails, no matter how tempting! Chances are you will miss or misinterpret important pieces of information that can give you lots of headaches later.
- Use visualization of the things you want to achieve and practice positive self-talk daily.
- Leave work outside of the door of your home and give your mind a rest from work related matters.
- Give yourself a break from feeling worried or anxious about things that will/may/might/should happen. Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.
Managing energy in the spiritual dimension
- Identify and live your deeper values so that you can be your authentic, true self in every kind of situation and all walks of life. This will not only lead to inner peace but also respect from others.
- A lot of us are living at such a furious pace that we rarely stop to ask ourselves what we stand for and who we want to be. As a result, we can fall into the trap of letting external demands and other people dictate our actions. Find your purpose and let it be your driver in everything you do! Ask yourself “What do I want to be remembered for”, “What will I wish I had done more of on my deathbed?”.
- To a certain degree, we all yearn for purpose and a higher meaning for our lives. I have found this by connecting to God through the Christian faith. Obviously, I still have not got all the answers to the most pressing questions of life, however, my faith in God has given me a greater perspective, comfort and hope in all areas of my life.
What are the things that help you manage your energy?
What else can you do to be better at managing your energy?
In what areas of your life would managing your energy better make the biggest difference?
Read the executive summary of the book here: https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time
Order the book from here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Form-Achieving-Performance-Sacrificing-Happiness/dp/185788325X