Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Dec 08, 2009

If you’re looking for a great read, pick up “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. It was recommended to me last year by Julie Ireland of the David Allen Company and Mike Williams (Zone By Zone Blog – great read, by the way), as I engaged in some tele-coaching and conversations. This book is a great complement to Getting Things Done.

The core message is that you have to manage your energy and not your time to achieve results. We get so caught up in “time management” and ABC prioritizing, etc., that we many times fail to look at what really drives performance.

Think of yourself like an athlete. If you’ve played any sport, you know that you go through periods of intense activity followed by periods of rest and recovery. Look at boxing or wrestling. Two to three minute periods, followed by a minute or so of a break. Do you really think a boxer or wrestler can perform at their peak if they didn’t get that rest/recovery time? Same for a basketball player, hockey player, football player, soccer player, weight lifter. The list goes on and on.

I plan on writing a lot about this topic, as I find it the most important part of being productive. How many of you find yourself going down internet rabbit trails throughout the day, and your mentally exhausted? The reason is you lose your focus after a certain amount of time if you don’t allow yourself to recover.

Loehr says that you should take a break at least every 90 minutes. I believe this is different for everyone, although 90 is a good starting point. For me, I actually try and break my day into what I call Sprints. I work in 25-30 minute intervals typically and do focused work for that time. Then, I take a break. I highly recommend getting away from whatever you’re doing and getting some fresh air if you can. This can be 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever you need to recover. Another key aspect of this is to track your time. I actually set my blackberry alarm for 25 minutes. For example if it’s 1:40pm, I will set me alarm for 2:05pm and then get after it. As soon as 2:05 hits, I take a break. The reason you need to set an alarm is that time will get away from you.

Remember, this is unique for everyone, so tinker with your “Go times” and “rest/recovery.” I’d love hear feedback on what you find works for you and if you try any of these tips.

Stay tuned for more on managing your energy. There’s an awful lot to talk about.


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