Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is Energy Management Child's Play?

Everyone is familiar with time management. It's either a skill you've mastered or something you're working hard to improve. Some professionals have their calendars synced, task lists efficiently organized, and days tightly scheduled from start to finish, while others (perhaps more creative types) operate more freely, and with less structure. So which way is the right way? Suppose they are both correct. It is possible and energy management is the reason why.

Energy management takes time management to a deeper level and argues that in order to achieve maximum productivity, you need to do more than just plan your time and set goals for tasks. In order to properly manage your day, you need to evaluate which tasks are going to require the most energy and plan so that you have the energy you need, when you need it.

There are many articles circulating in the media right now about energy management and other topics related to efficiency and work-life balance. The popularity of the subject isn't really surprising when you consider that the vast majority of us are interested in making the best use of our time. Productivity and concentration can be hard to find in our busy, super-connected world that is constantly bombarding us with distractions, updates, and immediate access communication. So, how do we stay focused and task-oriented amid the information onslaught? The key is using energy carefully and purposefully.

There are experts who argue that to keep our energy levels high, we need more time off and shorter work days. (These experts are my personal favorites.) In an ideal world, this would be the obvious fix, but in the real world less work and extended vacations are unlikely solutions. The overwhelming consensus is that we bring the energy drain on ourselves by packing our schedules with too many activities and bombarding our brains with constant media distractions. There might be some truth to these thoughts. Think of how often your smart phone informs you that you have a new voice mail, text message, or email in just one hour of time. But try to tell aspiring med students they should dial it back a few notches, busy parents balancing work, family, and life that they need to cut something out, or successful C-level professionals that they don't have their priorities straight, and you better be ready for a backlash of eye rolls, sarcasm, and possibly a flying object or two.

Before making any drastic changes in lifestyle, perhaps it is easiest to start with the simple. With summer upon us, we are surrounded by the gentle reminders of childhood and light hearted activities such as playing outdoors, settling down with a good book, and enjoying time with family and friends. This leads one to wonder if some of the basics of energy management can be found by connecting with our inner child. 

Why do children seem to have an endless supply of energy? Their secret isn't a groundbreaking one. They are taken care of -- and people who are taken care of flourish. So, if we want to flourish in our careers or help our businesses to succeed, we need to take care of ourselves and our employees. Here are five simple energy management techniques that we can glean from our inner child:

  1. Eat well: Provide yourself with regular, balanced, and healthy meals. No skipping breakfast, working through lunch, and then picking up fast food on your way home. Don't underestimate the power of good nutrition and what it can do for your focus, creativity, and productivity. 
  2. Sleep: Do yourself a favor and set a bedtime. In each day there is much to get done and there never seems to be enough time to do it all. Denying your body and brain the rest they need to renew will only start you off with a disadvantage tomorrow. There is personal variation in regards to the magic number for a perfect night’s sleep. But that’s the great part about being an adult; you know how much sleep you need. Now just make sure you’re giving yourself the opportunity to get it.
  3. Avoid energy vacuums: Energy vacuums are elements of the adult world that consume our energy or distract us during what could be our most productive times. We can't avoid distractions all day, because work and life just won't allow for that. However, you do have the power to avoid, or at least lessen your distractions for a small part of the day. By simply paying attention to how you work, you should be able to easily figure out when you are usually at the top of your game. It may be the first 90 minutes of work in the morning. Others may not be morning people, so for them it could be late morning or early afternoon. Whenever that time is, make it yours; turn off or silence your phone, close your email, and politely let co-workers know that you're focusing on projects during this time. Making time for you and your thoughts for an hour or two will have a huge impact on your productivity.
  4. Dream/Imagine: The magic of truly believing that most anything is possible enables us to continue creating new and different things and keeps our minds free of barriers and discouragement. As adults we can get very comfortable with what is and forget to spend some time focusing on what could be. You may be past the point of becoming an astronaut or a race car driver, but the journey toward the best version of yourself, your product, or your business is a never ending one. "Bigger and better" isn't out of reach, it's right there with you if you have some energy for it.
  5. Celebrate the big and small: As children, every drawing, misshapen clay pot, and good report card was adored and displayed by those who loved us, but in adulthood recognition is much less frequent. Every now and then, a co-worker or friend might see me do the smallest thing and then hear me exclaim a quiet, but celebratory, "Ta-da!"  I don't really think I'm super awesome because I've just emptied my wastebasket, but what I've done is cheer myself on, and it feels good to get credit for doing something right. By celebrating the small, you will start a chain reaction of motivation. Maybe for you, "Ta-da!" is too vocal, so figure out what feels celebratory for you (i.e., checking things off your to-do list, taking a short break, grabbing a snack or a drink from the break room, etc.) and give yourself credit for the work that you do well. 
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review stated, "To effectively reenergize their workforces, organizations need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them, so they are motivated—and able—to bring more of themselves to work every day." This is true for organizations, but it is also true for us individually. Are you treating your parents’ pride and joy the way you should be? If you’re not, then maybe it’s time to make a few small changes.


Blogging with Bliss contributor Regina Gormanly is Brand Ambassador & Project Coordinator at Escoe Bliss. She finds her bliss by writing and managing content for Escoe Bliss' social media. Regina's love of learning and communication are the driving forces behind her blogs.

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