When people talk about productivity, one term that often shows up in their conversations is time management. There are countless books that talk about time management. But there is one less-popular term that may actually be more important when it comes to productivity. That term is energy management.
The importance of energy management is discussed thoroughly in The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The book argues that managing your energy, not time, is the key to high performance.
Looking at my own experiences, I agree with them. If you want to be productive, managing your energy is more important than managing your time. To see if it’s true, just look at your experiences. Have you ever been so productive that you can accomplish a lot in little time? On the other hand, have you ever felt like you can’t accomplish anything despite having a lot of time?
These experiences show that the quantity of time you have isn’t necessarily related to your productivity. What makes the difference is your energy level. In the first situation, your energy level is high and that’s why you can accomplish a lot in little time. In the second situation, your energy level is low and because of that you can’t accomplish much.
So how should we manage our energy? Here are four proven principles discussed in The Power of Full Engagement:
1. Maintain your four sources of energy
There are four sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. You need to maintain all of them so that you can draw energy from them. Miss one of them and your performance will suffer.
Here are several things you can do to maintain your four sources of energy:
- Have breakfast.
- Have between seven to eight hours of sleep every day.
- Do regular workouts.
- Spend time with your loved ones.
- Allocate time for your hobbies.
- Have positive self-talk.
- Learn new skills.
- Define and follow your purpose in life.
- Pray or meditate.
2. Increase your energy capacity
Rather than just maintaining your energy sources, you need to build your energy capacity. This way you can improve your performance over time.
To build your capacity, you need to expose yourself to more stress while giving yourself adequate recovery. For example, you may learn new skills in unfamiliar fields to expand your mental capacity. Or you may increase your workout duration to expand your physical capacity. In short, you need to move beyond your comfort zone.
Just don’t forget to give yourself enough recovery periods. Otherwise you may experience burnout.
3. Build positive rituals
Negative habits deplete your energy. To overcome them, you must replace the negative habits with positive rituals. Rituals are precise actions you consistently do in specific times to achieve certain objectives. Waking up at 5am every day, for example, is a ritual. Drinking water instead of eating whenever you are tempted to overeat is also a ritual.
The key thing about rituals is you have to make them automatic. Why? Because by making a ritual automatic you don’t need to push yourself to do it. Instead, you will be pulled to do it. Doing the rituals will be as effortless as brushing your teeth.
Of course, you need to train yourself to make a ritual automatic. The acquisition period lasts between thirty to sixty days.
4. Be a sprinter, not a marathoner
Effective energy management requires you to balance stress and recovery. In your daily work, one good way to apply that is by working like a sprinter rather than a marathoner. It means that you should have an intense work session (called ultradian sprint) for about 90 to 120 minutes followed by a shorter rest period. The rest period recovers your energy and prepares you for the next intense session. This is a much better way to work than working continuously because it follows your body’s energy cycle.