Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

As the demands of the workplace keep rising, many people respond by putting in ever longer hours, which inevitably leads to burnout that costs both the organization and the employee.

Most large organizations invest in developing employees' skills, knowledge, and competence. Very few help build and sustain their capacity—their energy—which is typically taken for granted. In fact, greater capacity makes it possible to get more done in less time at a higher level of engagement and with more sustainability. Organisations generally feel that it is employees' problem to practise healthy behaviours. Given the amount of time an employee spends at work and the detrimental impact poor mental and physical health has on the employees' performance at work, organisations need to encourage, and where possible, facilitate the development of healthy physical habits.

I recently came upon an article in the Harvard Business Review "Manage Your Energy Not Your Time" by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy that is really worth knowing about. The feel that organisations need to change the way they view the relationship between themselves and employees in order to create a mutually beneficial and sustainable association, an environment needs to be created that energises employees and unleashes their creativity. Organisations should invest in their employees across all dimensions of their lives, thus building and maintaining their value. In this way individuals turn up at work energised and consequently more productive than ever.

Schwartz and McCarthy pointed out the following four dimensions of personal energy and ways to increase these levels of energy. By starting the simple practices below it will lead to remarkable results across organizations.

Emotional Energy

Most people realize that they tend to perform best when they're feeling positive energy.

Find ways of re-fueling positive energy. Do you find yourself feeling impatient, anxious and insecure during your workday? These states of mind not only drain your energy, but they can also cause friction in your working relationships. Take the time to pinpoint what triggers these types of emotions, then focus on finding a solution that allows you to return to a state where you can think clearly, logically and reflectively.

Schwartz and McCarthy suggest building the following habits into the day in order to avoid slipping into negative emotions. It will allow people to think clearly, logically and reflectively.

  • Deep abdominal breathing. Deep abdominal breathing assists in diffusing negative emotions such as irritability, impatience, anxiety and insecurity.
  • Expressing appreciation. Regularly expressing detailed specific appreciation to others in notes, emails, calls or conversation stimulates positive energy in yourself and others.
  • Use the lens approach to upsetting situations. View upsetting situations through three different lenses:
    • a) The reverse lens: "What would the other person in this conflict say and how might they be right?"
    • b) The long lens: "How would I like to view this situation in 6 months' time?"
    • c) The wide lens: "How can I grow and learn from this situation?"

Spiritual Energy

If what a person is doing really matters to them they typically feel more positive energy, focus better and show greater devotion. According to Schwartz and McCarthy to access the energy of the human spirit, people need to clarify, prioritize and establish accompanying rituals in three categories:

  • Do what they do best and enjoy most at work; (Do what you love and love what you do)
  • Consciously allocate time and energy to the areas of their life, other than work, such as family, health, service to others -they deem most important.
  • Live their core values in their daily behaviours.

Mental Energy

Switching from one task to another can increase the amount of time required to complete the primary task by as much as 25%. Momentarily stopping a task to answer an email or a phone call requires you to refocus your concentration back on the primary task costing you time. Build the following simple rituals into your day in order to prevent mental fatigue and remain energised:

  • Reduce interruptions by performing high concentration tasks away from phones and email.
  • Reply to voice mails and emails at designated times during the day.
  • Recognise the most important task for the next day every evening. Then make it your first priority the following morning.

Physical Energy

Succumbing to poor energy habits such as skipping breakfast, refusing to take time for reflection, or spending too little time on activities that offer a sense of purpose, all lead to low energy levels. We all need nutrition; exercise, sleep and rest in order increase our energy levels high so that we can focus our attention and manage our emotions.

  • Nutrition. Eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Organisations can assist by having healthy food available in canteens, throughout the day and not only over lunch time.
  • Exercise. Leaders within the organisation could encourage and come up with some innovative group exercise activities. Not only would these increase energy levels but build up a good team spirit and bring about a bit of fun and laughter.
  • Sleep. Go to bed earlier and reduce alcohol use. A Power nap (also known as a NASA nap) helps to reduce stress and rebuilds energy levels.
  • Rest. The key is to ensure you block off time for several recovery breaks throughout the day, and pursue an activity that gets you away from your desk. As a result, you will come back feeling refreshed, more creative and ready to tackle the tasks at hand.

Click here to watch the video clip by Tony Schwartz.

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