“We live in digital time. Our rhythms are rushed, rapid fire and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate breadth rather than depth, quick reaction more than considered reflection. We skim across the surface, alighting for brief moments at dozens of destinations but rarely remaining for long at any one. We race through our lives without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go. We’re wired up but we’re melting down.
Most of us are just trying to do the best that we can. When demand exceeds our capacity, we begin to make expedient choices that get us through our days and nights, but take a toll over time. We survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become short-tempered and easily distracted. We return home from long days at work feeling exhausted and often experience our families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.”
At Tech Image, we’re always searching for new tips and tricks that can help us work smarter, not harder, and we found some great advice in a book we recently read. In “The Power of Full Engagement,” authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz argue that energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.
They found that people who managed their energy, instead of just their time, tended to outperform their close-to-burnout peers. To do this, the book instructs us on how to maintain our four kinds of energy – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – live a life of purpose, and accept our limitations. Here are 5 key lessons from the book that will help you become more engaged.
Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.
“Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not. It is our most precious resource. The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become.”
This is book’s main argument. If we want to perform at our best, we must first and foremost manage our energy, not our time.
In our always-on digital world, the standard advice is often to invest more time to complete more work. However, we all only have 24 hours in the day, and it’s impossible to do everything. Sooner or later, we all run out of time.
It’s not about the amount of time you invest in something; it’s about the quality of energy you bring to the table.
There are four sources of energy.
“To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”
Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Physical energy is vital to daily functioning. Without physical energy, you won’t be able to do anything. It comes from how well you sleep and eat, and how much you exercise.
Emotional energy allows you to react to situations with a broad set of feelings and not just let the world push your buttons. Positive emotions fuel performance; negative emotions harm performance. In order to perform at our best, we must access pleasant and positive emotions: the experience of enjoyment, challenge, adventure and opportunity.
Mental energy fuels your attention span. It’s your ability to focus on what you want, when you want, and for however long you want. It helps you not cave when things get tough, and power through the boring parts of work when you need to.
Spiritual energy is not about religion; it’s what gives us the motivation to act. The authors define spiritual energy as having a set of values and a purpose beyond our own self-interest. It is your life’s compass, and it helps motivate you.
You should be either fully engaged, or strategically disengaged.
“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal. Instead, many of us live our lives as if we are running in an endless marathon, pushing ourselves far beyond healthy levels of exertion.”
As human beings, we are not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. Rather, we perform best when we are strategic by oscillating between expending energy and intermittently renewing energy.
Use energy rituals.
“We use the word ‘ritual’ purposefully to emphasize the notion of a carefully defined, highly structured behavior. In contrast to will and discipline, which require pushing yourself to a particular behavior, a ritual pulls at you. Think of something as simple as brushing your teeth. It is not something that you ordinarily have to remind yourself to do. Brushing your teeth is something to which you feel consistently drawn, compelled by its clear health value. You do it largely on automatic pilot, without much conscious effort or intention. The power of rituals is that they ensure that we use as little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving us free to strategically focus the energy available to us in creative, enriching ways.”
In order to optimize our energy throughout the day, create habits and patterns to replenish your energy. Rituals are specifically designed to manage your energy levels and help individuals become more engaged and perform better.
Energy rituals can be anything that replenishes your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual energy, and helps you reset and feel refreshed. Some examples of energy-renewing activities are going for a walk, having a conversation with a coworker, doing a quick workout, meditating, taking a nap, etc.
Practice this advice.
So now that you understand the premise of managing your energy, how are you going to practice it in your life? Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr advise precision and specificity.
Simply setting an exact time and exact place for when you’ll do something dramatically increases your chances of actually doing it.