How I Work Less and Accomplish More (by Managing My Energy)
Posted October 8, 2010 in How-To, Productivity
It’s really hard to find decent productivity advice these days. Most of the productivity ‘gurus’ are self-proclaimed and offer techniques that aren’t backed up with any evidence.
I actually struggled with those people for the past two years. I was trying to find a way to be more productive (work less and accomplish more) but and was trying out these ‘techniques.’ Nothing worked, however.
Until finally, I found something that did work. I’ll share what I found with you in this post.
Why Energy Is So Important
One day I accidentally stumbled upon a book called “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, not Time is the Key to High Performance.” I recognized the truth in the title because I knew that I had a lot of time and yet, I haven’t had the energy and the will to make use of it. I finally found why most ‘time managing’ and productivity techniques were bad (more on that later).
Going back, the principle I’ve learned in that book is the most powerful principle that I’ve learned (and implemented) in my life. Managing energy, not time is the key to productivity. That is the principle.
I later found that the author of the book (Tony Schwarz) was also a guest blogger for Harvard Business Review (one of the most reputable magazines for top CEOs in the world) and that energy principle has been applied at many big companies like Pepsi Co, Proctor & Gamble and so on. He has a lot of free articles that offer priceless advice on productivity.
Okay, so that’s all about the book author. I thought it important to mention my story because it will probably resonate with you very well. Managing your energy, not your time, is a very important principle to grasp and I don’t think you’ll reach your full potential (in terms of productivity) if you don’t start implementing it in your everyday life.
Now that you realize that you need to manage your energy, not your time, how do you get started?
How to Become More Energetic
I’ll mention a few basic principles you need to grasp to start managing your energy:
- Live your life like a sprinter, not like a marathoner. This is the most basic principle you need to grasp. What’s the difference between a sprinter and a marathoner? As a sprinter, you run for a specific period of time and then take a rest. You then start running again fresh. If you’re a marathoner, you don’t take any breaks, but just run for a long period of time and reach your final target (some marathoners don’t make it) and are very exhausted. The basic principle of managing your energy is to work for a specific period of time (anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes) and then take a break (usually 1/3 of the time you were working, so if you work for 45 minutes your break would be 15 minutes). While you’re working, forget about multitasking and interruptions. If you get frequent phone calls, turn off your phone. Eliminate potential interruptions. These things can interrupt your workflow. Also, while you’re resting, don’t check your email. That’s not resting. One important thing here: not doing anything does not necessarily means you’re resting. There are certain activities that might refill your energy tank, like meditation and yoga, walking or exercising. If these activities help you relax, then do them and return to work again after the time is up.
- Stick to the fundamentals (get proper sleep, cardio-vascular and weight exercise, positive mood). All of these things are very important and can have a significant impact of your energy. There have been many studies that show that even a small deprivation of sleep can lead to a huge loss of energy through the day. Also, many studies show the benefits of regular exercise on your health. What about your mood? When you’re in a negative mood, many of your responses are ‘fight or flight’ and you can’t really think clearly and rationally or for the long run. Negativity also deprives you of energy (just look at your past experiences). Positivity helps a lot in productivity. In my personal experience, positivity helps me a lot.
- People are creatures of habit. You can’t change overnight. I bet that 60-90% of the things you’re going to do today are the same things you did yesterday (or the day before yesterday). We are creatures of habit. Our free will is not unlimited…which is a good thing, if you ask me. By properly understanding our limitations, we make more informed decisions. The first step to overcoming a problem is becoming aware of it (although I wouldn’t call the fact we’re creatures of habit a ‘problem’).
Okay so what can you do here? A good first step is to learn a good way to establish new habits.
Let’s take one example: Suppose you want to read a book for 30 minutes, five days a week. Now, if you say to yourself: “I’m going to read a book for 30 minutes, five days a week.” What are the chances you’re actually going to do that?
Very slim. You need to be more specific. What about that statement: “I’m going to read a book for 30 minutes, Mon-Fri.” That’s better. Now, let’s make it better: “I’m going to read a book, Mon-Fri from 3:00-3:30PM.” Great, we’re making progress.
The next step would be to find books to read for the next two to three weeks so that when the next Monday comes, the only thing you actually need to do is to pick up the book and start reading! The key is to eliminate every thought for the plan and set up things so you exactly know what to do.
What About You
How do you get more energy? Share your tips in the comments.
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