Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, way back in 1932, hinted that:
Technology advancement would free people from toil
Over 80 years later, people seem to be working harder than ever! While most of our parents used to have 9-5 jobs, we now have jobs stretching for over 9 hours. Research suggests that over-work leads to decreased productivity; a Stanford research remarks that productivity drops dramatically after 8 hours. In fact, productivity may drop so much after some point as to become negative. So my question to you is - What is the point of sitting in the office for 10 hours while not being productive? I'm sure most of us struggle with this issue of time management - trying to juggle between multiple activities simultaneously and not being able to finish any. But today, I am not going to talk about time management, I'm going to talk about something called, Energy Management.
I recently chanced upon an article titled, Manage your energy, not your time. It was published in a Harvard Business Review. It seemed a bit counter-intuitive in the beginning, so I read on. We keep hearing about time-management on and on, and now they tell you that it's not important? The authors of the article maintain that while time is a finite resource, energy is flexible. That's why they think that energy management is the true key to productivity. We can improve our productivity by re-energizing our body frequently. Today, I am going to tell you how to manage your energy to be more productive.
The basic premise is that:
Our energy comes from 4 different wellsprings - body, emotions, mind, and spirit; the idea is to regularly renew our energy, initially with some effort, but slowly it should become unconscious and automatic.
The human energy spectrum spans across 4 dimensions - the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Let's try and understand each of these.
To manage our physical energy, we need to have adequate nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Simple lifestyle changes like going to bed at a stipulated time, reducing alcohol, exercising at least 3 times a week, eating short frequent meals every 3 hours, taking brief breaks from your desk at 90-120 minutes will all go a long way in improving our overall physical energy levels. They say that every 1.5 to 2 hours, our body goes from a high-energy state to a physiological trough. This is when you start losing your focus, start getting bored, feel irritated etc. Identifying this state and taking a break at the right moment will help you get out of that situation soon. It's not the length of the interval that counts, but the quality of it.
Managing our emotional energy is very essential both at work and at home. One way is to take deep abdominal breaths to defuse any negative emotions like irritability, anxiety, impatience etc. We also need to fuel positive emotions in ourselves and others around us by regularly expressing appreciation to others through notes, emails, calls or conversations. Another effective way to look at upsetting situations is to consciously change the lens through which we view the world. Use the following lenses to effectively mitigate frustrating situations:
- Reverse lens - 'What would the other person in this conflict say and how might he be right?'
- Long lens - 'How will I likely view this situation in 6 months?'
- Wide lens - 'How can I grow and learn from this situation?'
Now let's talk about managing the third type of energy, the mental energy. Even though many executives view multi-tasking as a must have skill, it in fact undermines productivity. It's far more efficient to fully focus on one activity for 90-120 minutes, take a true break and then focus on the next activity. Avoid any interruptions like emails, chats, Facebook, etc. when you're working. Make sure that you respond to emails at designated times during the day, and set expectations right with your colleagues. Another important thing we can do is to identify the most important challenge for the next day and do it first thing in the morning.
Now we get to managing your spiritual energy. This is the energy of meaning and purpose. The idea is to identify your sweet-spot activities - something that you like doing and keep you effortlessly absorbed. Find ways to do more of these. One executive who hated doing sales reports delegated that to someone who loved doing that activity! Here's what we could do to refill our spiritual energy:
- Allocate time and energy to what you consider important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your commute home to relax so you could connect with your family members once you are home
- Last but not the least, live your core values. For example, if you value reaching office on time, and you are not able to reach office on time everyday, then you are in conflict with your own self. Try avoiding such scenarios intentionally.
In short, managing yourself and taking charge of your life boils down to managing your energy. At a time when the 24 hours in a day is not enough, energy management is something that needs some serious attention. After all, life is not about time management, but energy management. Thank you.