In today’s world, we are all trying to figure out how to do more in the same 24 hour cycle we’ve always been given. Usually we think, “If I could just manage my time better…” or “If I rearrange my schedule to look like…” And we keep doing that over and over. Some research suggests that we should ditch the idea of time management because time is finite. Instead, we should focus on increasing our personal capacity which has everything to do with energy management.
Energy, unlike time, can be expanded and regularly renewed with intentional practices.
Just sit on that concept for a few minutes.
This article written by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy breaks down this idea of energy management. https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time I’ll be honest. The first time I read this I thought they were just creatively presenting a bunch of information we already know. Eat well. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Take deep breaths. Practice gratitude. The list goes on. But then I read it again. This time recognizing the wholistic approach they used and called “The Energy Project.”
What really struck me about energy management is that it is 100% uniquely what works for you. It’s about what intentional practices work best for you, your energy, your job, and your lifestyle. If you can maximize your energy, you will increase your capacity.
Schwartz and McCarthy break energy down into four categories:
The Body (Physical Energy)
We already know that nutrition, exercise, and sleep are important for our energy levels. This section shares some examples on how to create rituals that renew your physical energy. I really appreciate the non-traditional examples such as not skipping meals, working walks into your day, and the power of short breaks.
The Emotions (Quality of Energy)
This is all about emotional intelligence. Do you recognize when you are in fight or flight mode? Research shows that this happens to use several times a day! Can you fuel positive energy back to yourself? Deep breathing, gratitude practices, positive self-talk, and seeking alternative perspectives all can help you renew your energy.
The Mind (Focus of Energy)
Oh the power distractions have over our lives! There are far too many ways for the ding of a message or email, a phone call, or knock on the door to distract us. And in these days of working from home you can add a few more things to the list (kids, deliveries, etc…). I really liked some of the systemic changes they suggested to ensure you have time to focus and concentrate. Only checking email a few times a day was my favorite. There are also opportunities to turn off instant messaging, phones, and other distractions. The key is to communicate with your team that these are times you are unavailable (and include the reason why!). You can get yourself some quality work time and lead by example.
The Human Spirit (Energy of Meaning and Purpose)
Aligning your values with your everyday work and activities will definitely expand your energy. Nothing is more motivating than doing work that really matters to you. And yet this often feels like the hardest thing to do. Especially when the companies we work at and the managers we work for have a lot of influence on our assignments and the work we get to do. The one thing you can do every single day is to ask yourself “What do I want to be remembered for today?” Finding meaning and purpose can be tough work. If you feel your life is out of alignment with your values, seek a mentor or professional coach to help you.
There are a lot of good suggestions in the article that might be just the golden nugget you need to read and try out. Whatever you do, make it YOURS. Pick one thing and try it out.
I’m currently testing out the suggestion to time block email management. I only check my email at certain times so I don’t lose minutes constantly checking it or get side tracked when a non-priority task comes through. This allows me to focus my energy on higher value work. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Now it’s your turn. Invest in your energy. Increase your capacity. Live more intentionally.
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