In the past 5 years, how often has your boss come to you and said? —
Hey, listen. I want to take a few things off your plate.
Since you’re a high-performer, it’s likely been the opposite of that.
Most of us just throw more time into work when we get more (or higher levels of) responsibilities. The problem is that time is finite—a zero sum game. More time working means less time for your family, working out, hobbies, and other things that matter to you. Shortchange those higher level priorities long enough and you’ll start feeling the toll on your body. And pretty soon, it’ll start messing with your head. In the long run, you’ll end up less engaged and resentful because deep down you know your work is taking too much of you.
In this essay, you’ll learn the key to making the best use of your time is managing your energy.
Understanding Your Natural Rhythm
Most of us have certain times of the day when we’re in flow—when it seems like we can get the most done. Mine starts two hours after I wake up and goes until I get hungry for lunch (about 5-6 hours in total). But it’s different for everyone. For example, I know someone who works best between 9pm to 1am. By then, I’m deep into sleep! My point is—figure out what times are best for you and what are you using it to accomplish. Set this time aside for your most important work and save the necessary minutiae for when your body naturally dips in energy.
Limiting Your Exposure to Drainers
The importance of this lies in the influence other people have on our lives. Most of that influence can happen without us even noticing. The late Jim Rohn was known to say:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
I urge you to select those people with care.
Increasing Your Energy Tank
It’s hardly Earth-shattering news that eating well, exercising, and sleeping enough increases the amount of energy we have throughout the day. Yet, taking care of our bodies continues to be one of the first things we neglect when the workload gets heavier. Taking care of ourselves is the better choice. Not only will this lead to having the ability to increase your level of output over the same amount of time but it will also lead to an overall healthier life.
Refilling it Before it Hits Empty
I work in a manufacturing plant filled with robots and equipment. Every eight hours, our teams intentionally shut them down to perform maintenance that keeps them from breaking down. If a robot needs a breather once in a while, what makes you think you can power through your day and sustain peak performance?
Find out what refills you outside of another cup of coffee and schedule them throughout your day.
The Role I Believe Companies Play
We need to invest in our people if we really want them to thrive in a demanding work environment. The investment however can’t end at teaching them leadership and project management principles. We have to create programs that help them with all areas of their life. In my mind, a person who is highly satisfied in their personal life is a great asset to the company. Instead of trying to squeeze the most out of the relationship with our people, we have to be in it for the long run.
Like I alluded to above, we’ve developed systems and processes that result in equipment being able to reliably run 99% of the time we call on them to. On the other hand, only 32% of the U.S. workforce is engaged at work. If the that 99% for equipment were to drop to 32%, someone would be throwing a fit. Of course, finding the key to employee’s level of energy and engagement could be a lot more complicated than keeping a robot running. Still, why do we put up with such a low number for what most companies say is their “greatest asset”?
What I’m Doing to Improve
I write these articles partially to remind myself of what I already know but could be practicing better. The bookends of my day are pretty well set. My morning and night routines take me two hours to complete but they work together to get me revved up before I walk out the door.
Where I could do better is listening to my body when it’s telling me I need a break. I have a bad habit of continuing to trudge forward despite the hints that point to taking a few minutes off. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve kicked off the following habits:
- lift weights right before lunch
- never eat lunch alone
- work in 60-90 minute sprints and take 5-10 minute breaks in between
I think it’s still too early to tell how these are working out for me (and frankly I can hardly call them habits because I’ve been about 50% successful in sticking with them). But, to me, choosing to experiment like this is the way to continuous improvement. Your company has a part to play but if we’re honest, the bigger part (and the most easily influenced one) is ours.
Already managing your energy to the fullest and still have to much to do? Sorry, you’re out of luck haha. When you figure that out, let me know!