Here, we examine the four key principles of energy management. Before you know it, your whole morning has been hijacked. Faced with this situation, most people start to manage their time. They cut meetings short, send curt emails, and generally try to squeeze out a few extra minutes.
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Do you want to get more done? In less time? Do you want to have more energy? Better health? More happiness? The premise is simple: Performance, health, and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. Looking for more great books? The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not.
It is our most precious resource. The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become. If we want to perform at our best, we must first and foremost manage our energy, not our time. Work project not moving forward? Work more and work harder. Want to have better relationships with your family? Spend more time with them. Want to get healthier? Spend more time in the kitchen and exercise more often.
Feeling burnt out? Take more days off. See the problem? Optimizing our performance, health, or happiness is not about the quantity of time, but about the quality of energy.
The bottom line is: The key to living life at your best is to optimize your energy, not your time. We are not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time.
Instead we are performing at our best when we move between expending energy and intermittently renewing energy. We live in a so-called oscillatory universe that is characterized by rhythmic, wavelike movement between activity and rest. Think about the ebb and flow of the tides, the movement between seasons, and the daily rising and setting of the sun.
Likewise, all organisms follow life-sustaining rhythms—birds migrating, bears hibernating, squirrels gathering nuts, and fish spawning, all of them at predictable intervals. So, too, human beings are guided by rhythms. The most famous rhythm which we adhere to is the circadian rhythm.
We live our lives in 24 hour periods. A period of activity is followed by a period of rest. A period of energy expenditure activity is followed by a period of energy renewal rest.
Sooner or later we need to refuel our energy. So: If we want to be at our best, we need to live a rhythmic life with periods of intense activity followed by periods of intense rest. We need to live life as a series of sprints, not a never-ending marathon. We need to either fully engage, or strategically disengage… 3. Instead, many of us live our lives as if we are running in an endless marathon, pushing ourselves far beyond healthy levels of exertion. Now imagine a sprinter such as Usain Bolt: powerful, healthy, strong, bursting with energy, and determined.
The sprinter looks much better. He fully exerts himself and then follows that by a period of rest. Like the sprinter, we want to live our lives as a series of sprints, oscillating between periods of intense engagement and equally intense renewal.
Makes total sense, right? It is, however, not how most of us live. Instead, most of us are in a state of constant energy preservation. Never fully engaged and never fully disengaged. Instead of living oscillatory lives, we live linear lives which is the complete opposite. Think about a typical work day for example. Do you take frequent breaks? Chances are you do none of these things. For example, most of us view breaks as a sign of weakness and instead work in a state of constant energy preservation for hours and hours on end.
This is neither our natural nor our optimal way of living. You want to be either fully engaged or strategically disengaged. This insight first crystallized for Jim when he was working with world-class tennis players. As a performance psychologist, his goal was to understand the factors that set apart the greatest competitors in the world from the rest of the pack.
Jim spent hundreds of hours watching top players and studying tapes of their matches. To his growing frustration, he could detect almost no significant differences in their competitive habits during points. It was only when he began to notice what they did between points that he suddenly saw a difference. While most of them were not aware of it, the best players had each built almost exactly the same set of routines between points.
These included the way they walked back to the baseline after a point; how they held their heads and shoulders; where they focused their eyes; the pattern of their breathing; and even the way they talked to themselves. Well, one difference is that the top players are oscillating. They optimize the rest between each point. Tony Schwartz and Tim Loehr have found that the top players are able to lower their heart rates between points by up to twenty beats per minute. Physiological measures such as heart rate, hormonal levels, muscle tension and brain-wave activity all increase during the first part of the cycle - and so does alertness.
After an hour or so, these measures start to decline. Somewhere between 90 and minutes, the body begins to crave a period of rest and recovery. Signals include a desire to yawn and stretch, hunger pangs, increased tension, difficulty concentrating, an inclination to procrastinate or fantasize, and a higher incidence of mistakes.
For about 90 minutes you are in high performance mode. Your alertness, concentration, creativity, emotional resilience, and mental stamina are all at the top of their game.
Then, for a period of about 20 minutes, your body needs time to rest and renew its energy stores. Note: We are able to override these natural cycles by summoning the fight-or-flight response and flooding our bodies with stress hormones that are designed to help us handle emergencies. Toxins and stress hormones will build up in our system and over time take a toll on our bodies.
Over relying on caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines is NOT a long-term solution. OK, so when we have to take a break every 90 minutes or so, what exactly should we do during that time? Replenish our energy duh! The authors suggest energy rituals: 6. The point of these breaks is to renew your energy.
Potential energy-renewing activities are going for a walk, having a conversation with a work buddy, doing a quick workout, meditate, do some breathing exercises, take a nap, or whatever. All of these renew your energy and optimize your performance for the next minute work or full performance section. In contrast to will and discipline, which require pushing yourself to a particular behavior, a ritual pulls at you. Think of something as simple as brushing your teeth.
It is not something that you ordinarily have to remind yourself to do. Brushing your teeth is something to which you feel consistently drawn, compelled by its clear health value.
You do it largely on automatic pilot, without much conscious effort or intention. The power of rituals is that they insure that we use as little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving us free to strategically focus the energy available to us in creative, enriching ways.
Energy rituals then have kind of two benefits. They 1 replenish your energy without 2 using up any energy or willpower. Use them to your advantage. Note: You can also create weekly not just daily energy rituals such as going out for dinner with your spouse every Thursday.
Or play some tennis against your work buddy every Monday morning. A full sprint followed by a break. A period of full engagement followed by a period of strategic disengagement. A period of energy expenditure is followed by a period of energy renewal. But according to research from the book and my own experience you will get a lot more done by working this way than by working in a more old-school, linear type of manner.
You completely exhaust yourself and work as hard as you probably never work in a regular energy preservation mode. These work sprints will allow you to get a LOT more done.
Anyway… So how do we know what to do during these energy rituals? That depends on your personal needs. Let me explain… 7. How does your nutrition look like?
Most productivity thinkers over the years have fixated on the idea of time: there are only so many hours in a day, so if you want to be an effective person, you should learn to manage them wisely. What you can manage is the energy you bring to those hours. If you have a ton of energy, you can get many things done in very little time. The Power of Full Engagement is about managing your energy, and helping you find ways to feel more energetic each day. Energy is finite, but expandable. You only have so much energy to use each day, but our capacity for productive effort expands as we use it.
The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr (Book Summary + PDF)
The Power of Full Engagement: The Four Energy Management Principles That Drive Performance