Are you managing your time or your energy? Your answer matters.
I bet you’ve learned to prioritise, to notice when you’re at your most productive and to learn to say ‘no’. Classic time management tips. And yet you’re busier than you’ve ever been: you’re bouncing from meeting to meeting and you’re spending more time than ever recruiting staff from a smaller and smaller pool of relevant candidates, you’re going home exhausted and having little left for yourself or your loved ones.
But managing your time is unlikely to help enough. Managing your energy makes the sustainable difference.
Back in 2007, Harvard Business Review published an article by Tony Schwarz and Catherine McCarthy entitled Manage your energy, not your Time https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time. For me it was a seminal article (as was the book ‘The Power of Full Engagement’) that really pushed me to rethink so-called time management. So, what is ‘managing your energy’ and why does it matter to you? And those around you?
Here’s my current energy wheel that I use with coaching clients. It’s had a few tweaks over the years but the principles have remained the same.
- Meaning & Purpose: When you have a true sense of what really matters to you, research shows that you are significantly more productive and considerably happier. You know why you’re doing what you’re doing so you’re much more likely to find a way to achieve it – whatever the circumstances. Where’s your meaning and purpose? What really matters to you? As Simon Sinek says, ‘ Start with Why’.
- Mind-set: When I was introduced to strengths expert Mike Pegg for the first time, I asked him that time-honoured question, ‘How are you?” and he replied, “I’m choosing to feel fantastic”. It’s an approach that’s stayed with me since: at any one moment in time, I can choose how I want to feel. It’s liberating. For me, it’s about taking responsibility for myself. I’m fortunate that I have yet to experience the depths of depression that others suffer with and I don’t in any way wish to trivialise their experiences. But for the rest of us I’m sharing the idea that it works well for me. Even as I’m writing this I’m noticing that it’s making a positive difference to me. Today, I’m choosing to feel fantastic too. How are you choosing to feel today?
- The Gallup research has demonstrated year after year that when we have an opportunity to use our energising strengths every day we are 6 times more engaged than those that don’t. We’re approximately 20 – 38% more productive. We’re about 50% more creative. We’re happier, we’re more fun to be around and we’re more effective leaders too. Do you know what your energising strengths are? Are you developing them?
- Food & Drink: Did you know that a study demonstrated that when you’re 1% dehydrated you’re 12% less productive? It’s easy to stretch this study to conclude that greater dehydration could account for even greater drops in productivity. And food? Well, you already know that a healthy, low glycaemic intake will energise you. The thing is: how can you make it easier for yourself to eat the colourful fruit & vegetables that are packed with energising vitamins and minerals? How will you plan to integrate more wholefoods into your packed schedule? Where could you start?
- Exercise: You already know that exercising will give you more energy. I know it too. I know it three times a week when I prepare to go to bootcamp even though I hate it. I find it really difficult. Every time. I absolutely hate exercising! What makes me go? Meaning & purpose. I go because I want to increase my health-span so that I can be healthy, useful and emotionally connected to my family, my friends and my clients for several more decades. That’s what gets me to bootcamp. That’s what’s been getting me to bootcamp for the last 7 years. What’s important enough to you to do some proper exercise regularly?
- Sleep & mindfulness. I confess that I find regular sleep difficult and have done for decades. Sometimes I’ve been lying awake worrying because I know my relationships and effectiveness will be negatively impacted if I get less than 7 hours sleep a night. But my sleep has improved immeasurably in recent months. Why? Because of mindfulness training. Now, I’m not very good at sitting still and doing nothing so it wasn’t an obvious connection for me but I experimented and it’s worked for me. Anyone who struggles with sleep will know how important that is and the difference it’s made. If you’re willing to experiment, I’d recommend trying www.headspace.com or www.calm.com.
- Colleagues, Friends & Family: Who energises you and who drains you? Who consistently brings out the best in you? And who seems to trigger the worst? It’s an easy concept that can be difficult to apply but I’d recommend starting with drawing on a piece of paper a friends map. Capture who energises you most and who drains you most. And then track how much time you’re spending with them. How can you invest more time with the energising ones and less time with the drains? And as it probably won’t be easy….what’s in it for you to do this?
- Physical Environment: When I ask clients which physical environments they find most energising they generally reply that its somewhere in the natural world. But it’s also true that many people are energised by the buzz they experience of being in an inspiring city. Whatever your answer, invest some time in thinking how you can spend more time there: both physically and in your mind. Clients often decide to bring reminders of their preferred environments into their workspaces. Maybe it’s a photo, maybe it’s a particular colour on a wall, maybe it’s a smell or something tangible to hold. Whatever it is, find your energising environment and bring it to work with you. Which environments energise you?
Managing your energy rather than your time is considerably more effective. And the best way to make it happen (rather than it simply being a ‘good idea’) is to create habits. And keep to those new habits for at least 21 days. I bet you brush your teeth twice a day every day, so what ‘energising habit’ could you invest in developing over the next 21 days?
Which of the above are you most drawn to? And what would be the most effective start point? What habits could embed it into your life?