Learning to manage your energy, not your time
Reading time: about 7 min
Posted by: Lucid Content Team
“Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you're going to use it by knowing what you want and what it takes to reach that goal.”
Over the past two decades, a generation of tech entrepreneurs and their Silicon Valley startups have unofficially introduced a new set of work-culture concepts and mainstays, from free food and flexible vacation time to relaxed dress codes and open workspaces.
Employees have come to expect such perks as they consider different corporate office environments. But on the employer’s side, there’s usually one expectation: the unwritten rule that employees should regularly put in over 40 hours a week to fulfill their goals.
If the constant pursuit of greater output and steady growth are critical to your organization, it’s time to understand the real cost (and main culprits) of energy-depletion, caused by a host of everyday activities.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the four energy types and explain how you (and your team) can achieve the energy focus to accomplish even greater things.
What does it mean to manage your energy levels at work?
Throughout the workforce of any highly competitive, goals-driven company, it’s not uncommon for employers (and quite often, the employees themselves) to have a 50-hour workweek. For some, 60+ hours are now the norm.
Those who adhere to this mindset believe that working as long as possible is the only way to get tasks done, achieve greater results, or vanquish their competitors.
Many millennials view their tireless work ethic as a badge of honor or bragging rights.
However, the basics of energy management would suggest otherwise. Pushing yourself to put in 10 to 12 hours every day isn’t necessarily effective or efficient. While time is static, energy levels ebb and flow. So, when it comes to maintaining productivity, striking a balance is key. Once the team’s energy is restored, their capacity to work more proficiently tends to elevate along with it.
When you’re at a point where your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual energy levels are constantly running on empty, putting in more time at the office won’t make a difference. In fact, burning the midnight oil may actually prove counterproductive.
How to manage your time by understanding the way energy levels work
According to Tony Schwartz, TEDx speaker and founder of The Energy Project, energy management requires a balance between energy expenditure and energy renewal. “It can be expanded. It can be renewed. And you can even learn to use it more efficiently.”
As you determine the best way to instruct your team members on how to manage their time better, it’s helpful to observe how your own energy levels differ throughout any given workday.
For example, take the morning. Do you feel energized after a full night’s rest and always set aside personal time for exercise or breakfast before heading to the office? Or maybe you feel more inspired and ready to make decisions in the afternoon once you catch your second wind? Observations like this help establish the types of management strategies that will best correlate with the times your energy levels are high.
There are also low-energy times. For some, this could be in the morning (before coffee) or the sudden lull people feel after lunch. It’s critical to recognize these moments, too.
By doing so, both leaders and team members gain the ability to schedule and prioritize different work activities throughout the day in relation to their changing energy levels. Maybe some team members need to arrive at the office first thing in the morning when they’re most excited to tackle the day or work late into the evening after everyone else has gone home and they can focus.
Now, let’s explore the manner in which the four energy types are used and regenerated.
Your physical energy (or body energy) is perhaps the most observable of the four types of energy—and it’s the easiest one to control. The key to maintaining peak energy levels involves getting adequate amounts nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest.
However, many employees may find it difficult to practice healthy behaviors on a regular basis, especially with the myriad of other demands competing for their attention at work or home.
As far as the renewal and sustainability of physical energy are concerned, quality and frequency are equally more important. What constitutes an energy renewal activity? Some examples include:
- Talking with a co-worker about non-work activities
- Setting aside 15 minutes simply to watch YouTube
- Taking a relaxing walk outside to clear your mind
Just remember to make these activities a part of your daily routine.
In the modern workplace, multitasking is not only ineffective and unproductive; it can be costly. A report by project management software developer Realization suggests the mistakes attributed to multitasking cost the global economy up to $450 billion annually.
Switching focus to take a call or check email further compromises your mental energy, increasing the time necessary to complete your primary work task by as much as 25%.
Designating specific times for your team to address these ancillary tasks can help reduce interruptions and sustain their mental energy levels. Other ways to prioritize work tasks include:
- Creating a daily to-do list prioritized by importance
- Setting reminders in Outlook or another platform to increase productivity
- Working in a quiet conference room to avoid distractions
By committing longer stretches of time to tackle the bigger priorities, your team becomes better equipped to produce quality work and guard against mental burnout.
Emotional energy impacts the effectiveness of your work. Most of us recognize that we perform best when we’re in a good mood. Of course, controlling emotions like happiness can prove challenging at best.
Under a barrage of consistent demands and external pressures, emotional energy shifts from positive to negative feelings, often back and forth throughout the workday. While in panic mode, people become irritable, impatient, and anxious. In turn, this makes it difficult for employees to focus and perform well or for managers to lead effectively. Fortunately, there are solutions.
During unpleasant situations, deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation exercises can:
- Encourage positive feelings in the workplace.
- Reduce tension in individual and team relationships.
- Improve how employees respond to stress triggers.
When employees learn to recognize what kinds of events prompt the onset of negative emotional energy, they also gain a greater capacity to control their reactions.
People maximize their spiritual energy levels when the work they perform provides them with a greater sense of purpose and coincides with what they value most. Unfortunately, the realities of corporate life don’t always allow for people to find deeper meaning or lasting gratification in their work.
To access spiritual energy in the workplace, employees need to establish clear priorities and start being more attentive to their deeper needs to influence their work satisfaction.
This process begins by purposefully allocating time to the areas of life we deem most important while allowing these core values to be reflected in our daily behaviors. Those life areas can include:
- Spending time with family, friends, and loved ones
- Attending church services or practicing your beliefs
- Volunteering and serving others in your community
The end result? Through greater awareness of their spiritual energy (and taking steps to build up reserves of it), people begin to feel more positive, enjoy greater focus, and demonstrate greater perseverance in the face of difficulty.
Work vs energy—putting it all together
When the importance of energy levels is continually disregarded, several things happen. Employees feel increasingly stressed, anxious, and defeated. Companies end up compromising by taking on employees who lack real engagement and must continually hire and train new people to counter the inevitable attrition.
By investing in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of their people, organizations can attract and retain employees who bring all of their multidimensional energy to the office. As a result, both entities gain fresh opportunities to grow in value and impact.
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