Give Your Productivity a Boost
October 15, 2018
By Angie Jung, RN, BSN, CRRN, CCM – CareerSmart Learning Contributor
Do you wish you had more than 24 hours in a day? According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 4 in 10 U.S. adults say they don’t have enough time in their day to achieve all their daily goals.1 Even though many of us are using time management strategies, such as reorganizing our daily routine, making a to-do list, or delegating chores to others, we may still end up feeling drained and unproductive at the end of the day. Why is it that we work hard all day but are still unable to cross off all the items on our daily to-do list?
Well, perhaps being more productive isn’t all about better time management. Have you heard of energy management? This concept is not new, but we tend to forget about it. It was first published in 2007 in the Harvard Review Business Journal by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, titled “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.”2 Mr. Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. The Energy Project is an organization which works with leaders and individuals to evaluate ways to increase their performances by providing unique approaches to re-energize the self. In his concept on “Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time,” Mr. Schwartz expresses that time is a fixed value in that there are no more than 24 hours in a day; however, energy is expandable and re-chargeable. We just need to learn how and when to hit that refresh button.
Mr. Schwartz is talking about our very own energy sources – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – which we often take for granted. Most of us are unaware of our own “energy-depleting behaviors.”2 This ranges from lifestyle choices and habits to the way we think, communicate, or react. Do we eat lunch at our desk so that we can get more work done? Do we let a minor negative comment from someone we don’t even know bother us all day? That’s a lot of wasted energy. If we each learn to listen to our body and our mind, they will let us know when we need to re-charge. However, we frequently ignore these signals and just keep pushing forward until we are exhausted both in body and mind.
Recharging our physical energy will boost our mind and brain power. Our body craves good nutrition and daily exercise. Practice maintaining a healthy diet and portion control rather than skipping meals; eating healthy and proper hydration is essential for the body’s cellular function. Establish an exercise routine and stick to it. Don’t let “too much to do” get in the way. Most importantly, get plenty of sleep. Do you ever feel irritable or have difficulty processing or concentrating? That’s our brain telling us that we need to rest or sleep. Sleep allows our body and brain to re-set and re-charge. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average of 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended for adults ages 26-64.3 Make sleep a priority on your to-do list.
We can recharge our emotional energy by refusing to let negative emotions drag us down. Exercise is a good way to clear out negative thoughts and improve our emotional and physical well-being. Most of us function better when we have slept well and feel good and refreshed in the morning. It is difficult to sustain that energy level as the day goes on, especially when hit by multiple events throughout the day that negatively impact us. Mr. Schwartz suggests the “buying time” technique, which entails pausing and taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly several times throughout the day. This kick starts our parasympathetic nervous system and releases hormones that relax us. Another way to help sustain energy is by consciously making choices to embrace positive emotions around us. This may take some work, but each of us has the power to make choices to channel positive emotions and to be aware of what upsets us, thereby allowing us to change the way we react to negative events.
Recharging our mental energy means not letting distractions divide our attention to a task. Mr. Schwartz relates this to the infamous technological society we live in and the pseudo-power of multi-tasking. He suggests that stopping in the middle of our task to answer a phone call or an email uses up to 25% more of our time to complete the original task.2 Recognizing what time of day our energy level is at its highest and when we experience mental fatigue is also important to determine how we prioritize our tasks.
Another way we can recharge is by simply walking away from what we are doing and allowing our mind and body to take a breather. A 10-minute walk outside, a power-nap, or playing with your pet is often enough to refresh and replenish your energy.
Lastly, we can recharge our spiritual energy by ensuring a sense of meaning and purpose in everything we do. Energy is found in doing what we value the most. Mr. Schwartz explains that there are three categories to consider in what we value most: know what we do best, know what we enjoy most, and consciously dedicate time and energy to these things. We also need to understand that we may do something very well and not enjoy it; conversely, we may enjoy doing something that we are not very good at. So, we may use up more energy in achieving things that we are not very good at but are invigorating, thereby recharging our spirit. Devoting our time and energy to what’s important to us will result in much more effective allocation of our spiritual resource.
These practical suggestions are not intended to be once-in-a-while things to consider but rather something to evoke a conscious effort to convert our old habits to more energy efficient ways of doing things. We can take ownership of managing and rejuvenating our precious internal energy level every day, and in return we will be more positive and productive and perhaps find that extra hour in a day.
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1Saad, Lydia/Gallup. Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by Stress. Dec. 20, 2017. Retrieved on 10/1/18 from https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx
2Schwartz, Tony and Catherine McCarthy. Harvard Business Review. October 2007. “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time”. Retrieved on 10/1/18 from https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time
3National Sleep Foundation. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? Retrieved on 10/1/18 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0