Managing Your Energy

“We are the generation capable of doing many things at once, without enjoying any of them..” 
Dinesh Kumar Biran

Let’s say you spend your entire day running from one meeting to the next, switching from one task to the next, constantly checking your phone, and not getting enough sleep on top of it all. I seem to be describing 90 per cent of the people I know so you might be wondering why I’m even pointing these things out. Isn’t that a “normal” day for most of us, and what’s wrong with that, apart from the fact that it’s totally exhausting?

First of all, according to time management guru Harold Taylor, “not getting enough sleep has been associated with reduced blood flow to the brain which leads to bad decisions”.  Harold goes on to say that learning to manage your energy helps you maximize your performance, maintain good health and protect your brain and I couldn’t agree more.  We all know that in order to have a good level of energy we need to eat well, exercise regularly and get seven to eight hours sleep per night. However, in order to maintain energy we need to use our time to ensure we have enough energy for those important decisions. Try managing your energy with these tips:

  • Minimizing interruptions – according to one study, distractions consume an average of just over two hours a day. Do your best to stop interrupting yourself by controlling technology and encourage others to interrupt you less by setting aside a specific time each day when other people can come and talk to you or when you will respond to their requests via other methods of communication.
  • Maximizing your use of high-energy time – I remember reading somewhere that most of us are at our best for making important decisions or working on high energy tasks about two hours after we wake up. So, that means you should do your best to work on the important stuff first thing in the day and leave all of the other, not quite so important stuff, for later. Even if you can spend one hour every morning on your most important priority you will be much more successful and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished a lot. The more demanding a mental task is, the greater drain on your energy.
  • Avoid performing two tasks at the same time – in his book Your Brain at Work, David Rock worked with a scientist who showed that the cognitive capacity of people doing two conscious mental tasks at the same time can drop from that of an MBA to that of an eight-year-old. So, please try to finish one task or make enough progress on a project, so that you can set it aside and focus on the next one.
  • Taking breaks – I have read advice that says you should take a break anywhere from every 20 to 90 minutes.  Personally if I took a break every 20 minutes, I would never get anything done, so I try to stick to the once-an-hour rule. Although if I write this newsletter in less time than that, I get to take a well-deserved break before I move to the next task on my list!

If you think that working long hours with no sleep and constant interruptions is the best way for you to be at your most productive, remember that is your “cognitively-impaired brain” (as Harold Taylor calls it), telling you that is the best way for you to get more done. Just sayin’!

Have you incorporated any similar techniques for managing your energy? Have they worked well?

“When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually multi-switching. That is what the brain is very good at doing – quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. We think we’re being productive. We are, indeed, being busy. But in reality we’re simply giving ourselves extra work.” Michael Harris

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