This quote inspired me to write this blog post. If we want to perform at our best, we must first and foremost manage our energy, not our time.
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.”
When something’s not working properly in our 24/7 world, the standard advice is to double down on the time you invest in it.
Work project not moving forward? Work more and work harder.
Want to have better relationships with your family? Spend more time with them.
Want to get healthier? Spend more time in the kitchen and exercise more often.
Feeling burnt out? Take more days off.
See the problem? It’s impossible to do more of everything… we all just have 24 hours in a day… sooner or later we run out of time.
It's not just about the quantity of time you invest in something, but it’s about the quality of energy you bring to the table.
The bottom line is: The key to living life at your best is to optimize your energy, not your time.
So how can be better manage our energy?
It starts by acknowledging that we are human beings, NOT supercomputers. We are not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. Instead we are performing at our best when we move between expending energy and intermittently renewing energy.
I have been obsessed about managing my energy so I have been doing a lot of research on the topic and came across a couple of body rhythms that help explain how energy works and how to manage it to maximize our performance and productivity. Let's me share a summary with you:
The most famous rhythm which we adhere to is the circadian rhythm. It explains that we live our lives in 24 hour periods. We’re on and awake for 16–18 hours (spending energy) and then we’re off and asleep for 7–9 hours (renewing energy).
A period of activity is followed by a period of rest. A period of energy expenditure (activity) is followed by a period of energy renewal (rest).
Our energy resources aren’t endless. We can’t sprint 100% for more than 10–20 seconds. We can’t concentrate for hours and hours on end. We can’t stay awake for much more than 18–20 hours before our performance plummets. Sooner or later we need to refuel our energy. The key takeaway is that if we want to be at our best, we need to live a rhythmic life with periods of intense activity followed by periods of intense rest. We need to live life as a series of sprints, not a never-ending marathon.
I read recently on a book recently this concept that We need to either fully engage, or strategically disengage.
Another well renowned cycle is the the ultradian rhythm. This cycle repeats itself countless times during the day. It states that for about 90 minutes you are in high performance mode. Your alertness, concentration, creativity, emotional resilience, and mental stamina are all at the top of their game. Then, for a period of about 20 minutes, your body needs time to rest and renew its energy stores.
Again, this is just one of many different rhythms your body follows during a regular day. Experts advice that in order to get the most out of your working day, go full out for 90–120 minutes* (fully engage) and then take a 15–20 minute break (strategically disengage).
I have been tracking this for myself and what I have found out is that for me, those high performance periods look more like 50 minutes. After that I start to get distracted and my productivity starts to suffer. But I also learned that I don't need 15-20 minute breaks to recharge, for me 5-10 minutes breaks are enough to be able to recharge.
So let me share how I use this and some other tips on how to generate and keep high levels of energy so you can maximize your performance:
Identify the things that ignite your energy and the things that deplete your energy: If you have ever read the book Strength Finder and taken the assessment that comes in the book, you might want to revisit those, as probably any activity related to those is going to be an energy igniting activity for you. You also want to identify what are the activities that deplete you energy. What are those things that you feel drain your energy through the day.
Make sure you always have an energy building activity built in your calendar. Now that you know what are the things that ignite and deplete your energy, make sure you schedule at least one energy building activity in your day, every day. When you schedule those activities during the day can impact your ability to keep high levels of energy, so be strategic as to when you schedule them. For me there are three times during the day that I like to schedule energy building activities:
First thing in the morning.
After an energy depleting activity
Take breaks throughout the day. We need breaks! Our brains are not design to go non-stop all day long. There are studies that show that high performance successful people take breaks every 50 min. Yes, I know, sounds like a lot, but when I am talking about a break I am referring to a 2-3 minute breaks. During these breaks I like to stand up, go to the restroom or fill up my water bottle, sometimes I just stay where I and take 10 deep breaths.
Establish a consistent morning and evening routine. In episode 4 of the Leading Yourself podcast I dedicated the entire episode to establishing a consistent morning routine and I talked about the 7 elements I intentionally have built in mine. At that time I did not addressed evening routines but these are also very important as they can contribute to a better night sleep. Listen to episode 9 to get some ideas around activities you can build in your evening routine to help you fuel your energy.
Stay optimistic and find the bright side on every situation. When you stay optimistic you are most likely to keep high levels of energy vs when you have a pessimistic mindset. I am not suggesting that you stay positive and cheerful all the time every day, but rather what I am implying here is that you stay realistic but try to focus on the potential positive outcomes on every situation. Focused on what can go wrong on a particular situation can drain our energy. On the contrary focusing on the potential positive outputs on every situation not can only help us increase our energy but also the probabilities of achieving that positive output.
Cross a few things off your list first thing in the morning. Have you ever felt that when you are most busy, most stressed out you feel you have more energy to keep going? I am not suggesting that you incense your levels of stress in any way, but rather that you cross a few things off your list first thing in the morning. When we are able to create that feeling of accomplishment that early in the day we are most likely to generate and keep high level of energy through the day.
Take care of yourself: Form my perspective there are 7 key things you can do to focus on yourself:
Nutrition: eat healthy and balanced
Exercise: move your body for at least 30 min every day
Hydrate: drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water
Stretch: never skip a good stretch or practice some yoga
Meditate, pray or/and self-reflect
Get a good night sleep: adults need 6-8 hours of good quality sleep a day