You can't increase the number of hours there are in a day, but you can increase the amount of energy you have.
Time is the resource we usually turn to to meet the demands of life. As an illustration, if your workload increases, your answer is probably to put in more hours. But there comes a point where you can't put in more hours because time is a limited resource.
The good news is that there is another resource you can turn to and that resource is energy. Energy can be systematically expanded and it can be renewed regularly.
Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr explain in his book The power of full commitment: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal that you need to start thinking about your energy instead of your time to be more efficient throughout the day.
Energy is your ability to work. If you build the container of energy that you have available to you – that is, if you put more fuel in your tank – you have increased capacity. In addition, by creating rituals that regularly replenish your energyy, you will systematically refill your tank and increase your resistance.
Continue reading below to discover how to manage your energy to get more done.
The four sources of energy
We need four sources of energy to perform best: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy and spiritual energy. Here is an explanation of each:
Physical capacity is the foundation upon which everything else rests. If you do not have enough physical energy, it will affect your ability to focus your attention, your ability to manage your emotions under pressure, and so on. Physical energy is about the amount of energy you have available to you.
Physical capacity has four components:
- Restoration or renewal (equivalent to daytime sleep)
Emotional energy is about how you feel, which dramatically affects how well you perform, how well you lead and how well you interact with others. Emotional energy is about the quality of your energy.
In order to be fully engaged in an activity – that is, to be able to concentrate your energy entirely on the task at hand – you must silence your chat and let go of negative emotions.
Mental energy is the focus of your attention. We do our most effective work when we focus on one thing at a time.
However, Shwartz explains that the average person in a US organization stays on the task for 11 minutes before moving on to another task. And it gets worse: during these 11 minutes they interrupt with something else on average every three minutes.
When we temporarily move our attention from one task to another, it increases the time required to complete the primary task by as much as 25%. This is known as the "switching time" phenomenon.
You can increase your mental energy by learning how to focus your attention.
Spiritual energy is the energy that comes from the feeling of living with purpose and from an adjustment to how you say you want to live your life and how you actually live. The better that adaptation is, the more powerful is the energy source available to you.
For example, if you say that your family is very important to you but you hardly spend any time with them, your spiritual energy will be misaligned. Spiritual energy is "why" the energy.
Review your energy
This is a test created by Tony Shwartz to help you review your energy. For each statement below, answer "true" or "false". The statements you answer "true" are the ones you need to work with.
- I do not regularly get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and I often wake up tired.
- I often skip breakfast, or I settle for something that is not very healthy.
- I do not exercise enough, which means cardio training at least 3 times a week and strength training at least once a week.
- I do not take regular breaks during the day to renew and recharge, and I often eat lunch at my desk.
- I often feel irritated, impatient or worried at work, especially when demand is high.
- I don't have enough time for my friends and family, and when I'm with them, I'm rarely "with them".
- I take too little time for the activities I enjoy.
- I rarely stop to express my appreciation to others or to enjoy and celebrate my accomplishments and blessings.
- I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time and I get easily distracted during my day, especially via email.
- I spend a lot of my time responding to immediate demands, rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage.
- I do not take enough time for reflection, strategy and thinking in a creative way.
- I work in the evenings and / or on weekends and rarely take a vacation off work.
- I spend too little time at work doing what I do best and enjoy it the most.
- There are significant gaps between what I say is important in my life and how I actually live.
- My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
- I do not invest enough time or energy in making a positive difference to others or the world.
The importance of renewal
At night, you go through the basic rest activity cycle. Throughout the night, during periods of 90 to 120 minutes, you go from a small sleep stage (REM), into deep delta sleep. A similar bicycle exists during the day.
People are rhythmic and we are designed to balance energy consumption with intermittent energy renewal if we are to maintain energy at the highest level. When we wake up, we move every 90 to 120 minutes from a high state of physiological arousal, slowly down to a physiological drop.
At the drop scream, the body screams at you, "Give me a break." But instead of taking a break, you probably just need a diet coke or a cup of coffee and keep going. You also override your body's need for a break with cortisol and adrenaline, the body's own speed.
What you should do is build a rhythm during the day so that when you work you are really engaged and after a period of intense activity you take a break for renewal.
Energy renewal is crucial if you want to maintain your energy at a high level. This is something that Tony and his research team learned from athletes: they consistently found that athletes performed best when they respected the work quota ratio.
Some of the things you can do during your renewal breaks are the following
- Sit back in the chair and listen to music on your iPod.
- Get up and walk up and down the stairs or take a short walk outside.
- Do some stretching exercises.
- Talk to a colleague about something other than work.
You don't want to be a marathon runner. Marathon runners are gaining momentum instead of giving the race everything, as they know they have a long run ahead of them without any breaks in sight. They cannot push themselves fully to sooner or later release them like a rock.
What you want is to be a sprinter. The sprinter gives 100 percent commitment to 100, 200, 300 or 400 yards in front of them. There is a finish line. They know that they will give everything for a limited time and then stop and recover.
Schwartz claims that most of us have dropped the finish line in our lives. We just keep going and going. However, it is important that we set stopping points for renewal or that we will be burnt out.
Build positive rituals
Tony explains The power of full commitment that in order to manage energy optimally, we must build positive rituals in our lives. These positive rituals are very specific behaviors that become automatic over time.
Relying on our pre-frontal cortex to adopt new behaviors – that is, relying on our willpower – is not the best way to make change. What we need to do instead is get help from our automatic nervous system. We have to get help from the part of our physiology that gets things done automatically.
How can we do this? By training us through regular rehearsals. The idea is to make us act without having to think about it.
Look back at the energy audit you took above to gather clues about the behaviors you need to turn into rituals to permanently incorporate into your life. For example, you may realize that you need to start doing the following:
- Start eating a healthy breakfast each morning instead of having a coffee and donut on the go.
- Start a walking regimen.
- Spend some time planning your week every Sunday night.
Let's imagine that there is an important project that you need to work on. Consider the following two scenarios:
In the first scenario, you got some sleep the night before so you are tired. As you work on the project, you switch to other tasks, such as checking your email. Also, you are constantly thinking about the fight you had yesterday with your spouse. You continue to work past the fatigue point and continue to refuel with coffee.
In the second scenario, you got a good night's sleep the night before. You will work on the project before you handle anything else, you focus completely on it without being distracted and you take regular breaks to renew your energy.
In which of the two scenarios do you think you will do more? It is obvious that it is the other. Getting more done is not about investing more time; it is about properly managing your energy.
Have you taken the energy audit? What do you need to work on? What behavior should you turn into rituals?
Live your best life Learn how to manage your energy.