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Time Management - Managing Energy Versus Managing Time

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Sep 19, 2013

"Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time."

-- Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker

There are lots of quotes about time management.  We all work within the same limits of 24 hours each day.  You can’t make more time, but you can utilize your time better.  Power of Full Engagement Book  resized 600Today we’ll explore principles from Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz book, The Power of Full Engagement.  Their declaration is, energy not time is the fundamental currency of high performance. 

Why don’t we get more done each day?  Our conscious capacity for self-control is limited and easily depleted.   Without this understanding we cannot fully appreciate the critical value that rituals and routines provide to help us be good stewards of our time.  If you look at your life and note those aspects that you do extremely well you probably notice a pattern emerge.  You are good at certain skills because you practice them. You have a ritual or routine you follow that supports you.  In the Power of Full Engagement, Principle #4 is; Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.  How many times do you and I commit to do something only to be distracted by a phone call, co-worker, an email, or something taking up space on our desk?

Tony Schwartz got his start working with tennis players.  He wanted to discover what the difference was between great and mediocre achievers in tennis.  What he discovered provided the principle for the book The Power of Full Engagement and subsequent HBR article, “Manage Energy Not Time: The Science of Stamina,” Schwartz made a surprising discovery.  What occurred during play in tennis was not the deciding factor in which tennis player was better.  Over and over while observing tennis matches he discovered the difference in top achievement was what the player did between points.  It was how they recovered energy to help them play the next point that helped them to beat their opponent.

Athletes turned out to be a demanding experimental group because they seek measurable, enduring results. Schwartz then began working with FBI hostage rescue teams, U.S. marshals, and critical-care workers in hospitals. They discovered something completely unexpected: The performance demands that most people face in their everyday work environments dwarf those of any professional athletes we have ever trained.

Professional athletes typically spend about 90 percent of their time training, in order to be able to perform 10 percent of the time. 

Although most of us spend little or no time systematically training in any of these dimensions, we are expected to perform at our best for eight, ten and even twelve hours a day.

 Professional athletes have an average career span of five to seven years. By contrast, you can probably expect to work for forty to fifty years without any significant breaks. Given these stark facts, what makes it possible to keep performing at your best without sacrificing your health, your happiness and your passion for life?

You must become Fully Engaged. The challenge of great performance is to manage your energy more effectively in all dimensions to achieve your goals. Four key energy management principles drive this process.

PRINCIPLE 1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. All four dynamics are critical, none is sufficient by itself and each profoundly influences the others.

PRINCIPLE 2: Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

PRINCIPLE 3: To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.

PRINCIPLE 4: Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Applying the principle #2 here is that life is not a marathon, but rather a series of sprints.  It’s important to take critical recovery periods in order to help us perform at our best.  As Gazelles coaches we recommend following the guidelines Schwartz and Loehr provide for regular recovery periods.  The maximum time we can maintain concentration is 90 minutes.   In our workshops and during your work day, you should plan to take a break every 90 minutes to help you recover.  It can be as short as a couple of minutes.  In fact they’ve trained stock traders on Wall Street to take short recovery periods of less than a minute on their jobs. 

There’s another rule that’s very important for managing time and working on your top priority each day.  You must avoid distractions and interruptions.  It takes the mind approximately 23 minutes to get up to speed on any subject or work we take up.  In our work environment research shows we are interrupted every 7-9 minutes.  That means we never get up to speed on anything.  This is why you must schedule your top priority for a time you can have absolute concentration.  Block yourself off from any interruptions.  Interruptions come from outside sources, yet frequently we are our own worst enemy.   We distract ourselves by having a desk or office space cluttered with letters, mail, and unfinished business.  As such we are culpable for distracting ourselves.  We often fail to concentrate on any task for much longer than a few minutes.  Spending the first hour or more of the day working on your top priority will give you great leverage on achieving your priorities and being more productive.  More importantly it will start a positive ritual which we’ll work for you long term.

Over a year and a half ago I started to meditate each day in the morning.  It didn’t seem possible that I could take that habit into my busy business day, yet I can tell you that because it was extremely important to me for my health and because I schedule it each day the night before using precision of time and specificity of behavior I’ve been able to meditate almost every day at least once for almost two years now.  You can achieve this with whatever you wish as well.  Once you get the habit started it takes on a life of its’ own. 

Recall Principle #1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. All four dynamics are critical, none is sufficient by itself and each profoundly influences the others. To perform at our best, we must skillfully manage each of these interconnected dimensions of energy. Energy is the common denominator in all dimensions of our lives. Physical energy capacity is measured in terms of quantity (low to high) and emotional capacity in quality (negative to positive). These are our most fundamental sources of energy because without sufficient high-octane fuel no mission can be accomplished.  We’ll discuss the power of purpose in drawing on these four sources in another blog.

The importance of full engagement is most vivid in situations where the consequences of disengagement are profound.

Imagine for a moment that you are facing open-heart surgery. Which energy quadrant do you want your surgeon to be in?

A key to managing your time is to recognize specificity of timing and precision of behavior dramatically increases the likelihood of success

Managing your time today is not as important as managing your energy levels.  What are the keys to managing your time better? What should you remember from this blog?

  • Energy not Time is the fundamental currency of high performance. 
  • Only by scheduling ourselves for specificity of timing and precision of behavior can we successfully eliminate our conscious capacity for self-control.
  • Prioritizing each day at the end of the day with the parameters for specificity of timing and precision of behavior puts us in control.
  • Do your number one thing first thing each morning.  Schedule yourself to prevent interruptions from your office and clear your desk to prevent distractions.

We’ve all heard the statement: use it or lose it.  It’s true for managing energy and improving time management.  We’ll discuss Principle #2 in our next blog. 

Topics: priorities, time management, performance, precision and specificity

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Doug Wick, President

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
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