Manage Your Energy, Not Just Time

April 18, 2009 by Lynn Faughey

Well, if you are like me, and many other busy folks, you are probably dying to have someone give you the gift of time, right?  Do you always feel like there is never enough time to get it all done?
Many of you know that in addition to partnering with Rose to run FlexPro, I also do part-time Project Management contract work for our pharmaceutical clients.  I’ve had the privilege of helping out with projects in the “wellness” arena and working with experts who focus on “human performance” which is so enlightening. 

What I’ve learned and recently applied is that I should spend less effort on frantically trying to manage my time and start focusing on managing my energy.  So, I know what you’re thinking… “What in the world does that mean??!!!”

Let me start by sharing this quote:

“Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy – in companies, organizations and even in families. They inspire or demoralize others first by how effectively they manage their own energy and next by how well they mobilize, focus, invest and renew the collective energy of those they lead. The skillful management of energy, individually and organizationally, makes possible something that we call full engagement.”
— Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz: The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal

As leaders in our organizations and families, we impact those around us more than we realize, in both positive and negative ways.  When we exhibit positive energy, we motivate those around us to be at their best.  When we exhibit negative energy (by chronically complaining, for example), we “infect” the people we work and live with and make it difficult for them to excel.  It amazes me how much impact my mood or “energy level” has on my family, how about you?  Just think of that same powerful influence happening at work.
What’s also become clear to me is that although I could always benefit from more time, what I actually need is to get more focused with more energy during the time that I have. To practically achieve this, I am now more “tuned-in” to when I’m being productive and when I’m not.  If I’m not at my best, I simply stop what I’m doing and do something else.  That something may be picking up the phone to call a friend, taking a walk, or tackling a different task.  The worst thing to do is to continue to plug along when my mind is not fully engaged and focused on the task at hand.  It becomes a huge waste of my time!  So, if I disregard my instincts and continue anyway, I end up using a bunch of effort with mediocre results.
Bottom line is that “downtime” is not wasted time.  Even athletes need rest and recovery periods to be at their best. We all need it to sustain high performance in whatever we do.  So, go ahead and plan some “recovery rituals” into your day.  Why not try a 15-minute walk at lunch or a leisurely stroll with your spouse after dinner.  Ideally, plan a regular workout everyday as part of your daily habit.
If you’re like most high achievers out there, you probably feel guilty sometimes when you’re not working, right?  Sadly, we often get addicted to stress as it produces a sort of endorphin rush that feels good.  Well, consciously turning off the computer and the blackberry for planned downtime is not only “recommended” but really a “must-do” to reach the highest levels of creativity and overall performance. How else do you explain how some of our best ideas come to us when we are in the shower or walking the dog or on vacation?  Give yourself permission to take a break.
Big lesson for me that I’d love to share with you all…. Focus on whatever is going on RIGHT NOW and “be present” fully.  Devote all your energy to the activity that’s going on right in front of you. Whether it’s watching my kids play sports or participating in a meeting, I try to focus my mind on that moment (even when I know that I have a million other things to do!)  At work, try to resist the temptation to look at your e-mail everytime your hear a beep on your computer if you are focused on something else important.  Many of you have known me as the “queen of multi-tasking” so this is a new way of thinking for me.  Now, I still find myself completing many of the things I have to do, just not all at the same time!
So, here’s my big “aha” about this concept of energy management.  It’s important to to take frequent breaks from my work so that I can recharge my batteries and then be really good at whatever I do.  It’s more than just OK, it’s the secret to keeping me energized and focused. I confess that I wasn’t sold on it originally myself until I really tried to put it into practice.  I’m still working on getting it totally right but the rewards are definitely starting to show.  Give it a try yourself and let me know what you think.
When you’ve learned to manage your own energy, then you will inspire those around you too!
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