Book Review: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
Organizations are demanding ever-higher performance from their employees. People are trying to comply, but the usual method – putting in longer hours – has proven to be inefficient. Employees are getting exhausted, disengaged and are more likely to quit.
Longer days at the office do not work because time is a limited resource whereas, according to Schwartz and McCarthy, personal energy is renewable. Energy comes from the body, emotions, mind and spirit. By fostering simple rituals that help employees regularly rejuvenate their energy, organizations build workers’ physical, emotional and mental resilience. These rituals are behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible. Most large organizations invest in developing employees’ skills, knowledge and competence. Very few help build and sustain their capacity (their energy), which is often taken for granted. Greater capacity makes it possible to get more done in less time at a higher level of engagement and with more sustainability.
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
The energy renewal program begins by focusing on physical energy. Inadequate nutrition, exercise, sleep and rest diminish people’s basic energy levels, as well as their ability to manage their emotions and focus their attention. Examples of renewing your physical energy include: eating small meals and light snacks every three hours, engaging in cardiovascular activities at least three times a week, and taking brief but regular breaks, away from your desk, at 90- to 120-minute intervals throughout the day. These breaks for renewal result in higher and more sustainable performance. The length of renewal is less important than the quality.
When people are able to take more control of their emotions, they can improve the quality of their energy. To do this, they must become more aware of how they feel at various points during the workday and of the impact these emotions have on their effectiveness. People tend to perform better when they are feeling positive energy and are not able to perform when they are feeling any other way. Without intermittent recovery, people are not physiologically capable of sustaining highly positive emotions for long periods. Because people are confronted with high demands and unexpected challenges, they tend to experience negative emotions a few times a day. When executives learn to recognize which events trigger their negative emotions, they are able to take control of their reactions.
Deep abdominal breathing is a ritual for defusing negative emotions such as irritability, impatience, anxiety and insecurity. Exhaling slowly for five seconds induces relaxation and recovery. A ritual that fuels positive emotions is expressing appreciation to others, which is as beneficial to the giver as to the receiver. Examples include a handwritten note, an e-mail, a call and a conversation (the more detailed and specific, the higher the impact). As with all rituals, choosing a fixed time to do it, increases the chance for success.
People can also improve positive emotions by learning to change the stories they tell themselves about the events in their lives. Becoming aware of the difference between the facts in a given situation and the way you interpret those facts can be powerful in itself. The most effective way people can change a story is to view it through any of three lenses, which are alternatives to seeing the world from the victim perspective:
- You can adopt a ‘reverse lens’ to ask, “What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he or she be right?”.
- You can use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months?”.
- You can employ a ‘wide lens’ to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”.
Many executives view multitasking as a necessity, but it actually undermines productivity. A temporary shift in attention from one task to another increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by 25%. It is more efficient to fully focus for 90 to 120 minutes, take a true break, and then fully focus on the next activity. To renew your mental energy, you should perform high-concentration tasks away from phones and e-mail. Another example is to respond to voice mails and e-mails at designated times during the day. You should also identify (every night) the most important challenge for the next day and make this your first priority when you arrive at work in the morning.
If the work people are doing really matters to them, they typically feel more positive energy, focus better and show greater perseverance. To renew your spiritual energy, you need to identify your “sweet spot” activities, those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption and fulfilment – and – find ways to do more of them. You should for example delegate the tasks you hate doing to someone who loves doing them. You should allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your evening relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you are home. You should practice your core values in your everyday behavior. There can be a gap between the values you aspire to and how you currently behave. For example, if consideration is important to you, but you are always late for meetings, practice intentionally showing up five minutes earlier.
How companies can help
To succeed, renewal efforts need support and commitment from senior management. Organizational support entails shifts in policies, practices and cultural messages. Firms can build “renewal rooms” where people can regularly go to relax and refuel. They can subsidize gym memberships, encourage managers to gather employees for midday workouts, and suggest that people stop checking e-mails during meetings to make the meetings more efficient. Organizations invest in their people across all dimensions of their lives to help them build and sustain their value. Individuals respond by bringing all their multidimensional energy to work every day. Both grow in value as a result.
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Info on Authors:
Tony Schwartz is President and CEO of The Energy Project. “Helping individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance”.
Catherine McCarthy, Ph. D. “My approach, blending cutting edge research and real life application, designed to help people intentionally take control of their physical well-being, their emotional states, and their mental focus to become more resilient and to excel personally and professionally”.