“Manage your energy, not your time” – Tony Schwartz

When we’re bored at work our productivity levels aren’t exactly at their peak, so we have to do our best to manage it.

The key to productivity is learning how to manage your energy levels. Things like eating properly, sleeping properly, and relaxing are all essential to how well you do your work.

Relaxing and reflecting are very important parts of being productive. Working until something is perfect is a very silly way of working.

It will never be perfect, so you’ll never be able to finish anything you’re doing. There are many companies that try this old school approach, of endless planning and arbitrary deadlines.

It’s been proven over and over that it doesn’t work, which is why I like agile methodologies so much. My favorite example of this is Google. Google is famous for releasing products that are still in beta, to collect feedback and iterate as they go. You should treat your personal work the same way. Finish something, then take time to reflect and relax, so that you can constantly tweak and improve whatever it is you’re working on.

Learning how to adapt and adjust your work around your energy levels will have a huge effect on your life.

When we talk about energy, there are really 4 elements that we can go deeper into. They are physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy. I’ll go through each one one by one, and discuss how you can improve each. This is important when trying to understand how to engage employees.

Manage Energy, Not Time

I first read this on John Maxwell’s blog. For those of you that don’t know, John Maxwell is an author and a speaker that is an expert on the subject of leadership . What he says is that time management is literally impossible. Everyone gets the same amount of time, and there are only 24 hours in a day, for everybody. Whether you’re a scientist or a police officer, you still get the same amount of time. So no one can have more time than the next person. What we can do, is manage how we use our time.

The secret is learning how to prioritize.

Since there’s no way you’ll be able to do all the tasks on your to-do list, you should think about which tasks will have the most return on your investment.

You’ll be much more productive if you’re well energized, and are maximizing your energy throughout the day. There was an interesting study done with pilots on long flights, looking at their reaction time depending on how much rest they got. Pilots that were allowed to nap improved their reaction time by 16%.

I’d recommend everyone reading this to check out The Power Of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz. I’ll talk more about Tony Schwartz and some of the work he’s done, but he’s an expert in productivity, specifically in managing energy.

Another thing we can do to always be bettering ourselves is to measure everything we do, and improve and optimize how we spend our time. This is a concept known as the quantified self, where we measure every little thing that we can. This is a great TED talk about the quantified self.

Stephen Wolfram (creator of Wolfram Alpha) became famous a few years ago for a detailed guide that he published on how and what he tracks about himself. This is a really interesting idea, and there are many apps that can help with this.

How To Improve Physical Energy

Physical energy is relatively straightforward and easy to understand. It’s all about answering how healthy do you feel right now?

The first part of understanding physical energy is understanding what you’re eating. Nutrition is the fuel to your body like gasoline is the fuel for a car. If you eat sugary foods, you’ll end up spiking and crashing, and your productivity will be shot.

We’ve written about superfoods that will increase your productivity, but most people know what’s good and what’s not. Make the right decision and eat to live, don’t live to eat.

The second part is exercising. It’s important to exercise to feel your best, and to feel happier at work.

An excuse like you don’t have time to workout doesn’t work anymore, because now you can get a great workout in 7 minutes. Make sure to squeeze a workout into your schedule, you’ll be much more productive after it.

The third part of managing your physical energy is your sleep. I’ve heard people say you need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep, but that’s not entirely true.

Our friends at Buffer wrote an amazing post about the importance of sleep and productivity. Also, check out this TED talk by Arianna Huffington on how sleep affects her productivity:

How To Improve Emotional Energy

Emotional energy is an important concept to understand. Of course we want to experience positive emotions like happiness and joy, and not sadness and stress, which will lead to being physically tired.

We can do things to manage our emotional energy, and there are a few cool tools you can use to help.

  1. Learn To Say No – This is one of the best ways to feel better emotionally, because you won’t be doing things that you don’t want to do. In the work context, it’s hard, because we want to impress our managers and coworkers, but saying no is important for your own well being. Lifehacker wrote up a great guide on learning how to say no.
  2. Surround Yourself With Good People – There’s an old expression that says “misery loves company”. The same is true for positivity. Surround yourself with happy people and you too will be happy.
  3. Have A Goal – One of the best ways to improve your emotional energy is to look ahead towards a big goal or milestone. It could even be as simple as a vacation that’s coming up. Something to keep yourself thinking positive.

A great way to improve your emotional health is to measure it so that you can optimize.

One of my favorite tools is called Lift, created by the Obvious corporation (the guys behind Twitter), is all about helping you form good habits. The way it works is you “check in” to habits, and you can track which ones you do over time.

What’s also cool about Lift is the fact that your activities are shared with the community, so other Lift users can give you praise for doing these things.

Happiness is another simple app that lets you input your mood, and tracks your mood over time. The app is pretty simple, you just swipe up a sliding scale to rate your mood, and then optionally add comments as to why you chose that rating.

I’d also recommend looking into Emotional Apps, looks pretty cool.

How To Improve Mental Energy

When I think about mental energy, I think about mental strength. When I think about mental strength, I think about staying cool and calm under pressure, and through tough times.

Everyone goes through tough times, and it’s important to stay mentally strong. There are actually exercises that you can do to increase your mental strength.

I was recently in Jamaica at an all inclusive resort, and I was amazed at the level of service the employees of the resort displayed.

They were always there for the guests, going out of their way to make their experience incredible. I was chatting with my father about how during their training, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trained to never use the word ‘no’.

It seemed as if the whole time I was there, they would never say no. It was always “let me see what I can do”, or “let me find out if that’s possible”, never “no, we can’t”.

To me, that seems like a great training exercise that you can take outside of the resort environment. It must have an overall effect on your happiness if you never use words like “can’t” or “won’t”. Try this trick with your employees.

How To Improve Spiritual Energy

When thinking about spiritual energy, the first thing that came to my mind was the book The Secret.

The Secret talks about the law of attraction. It’s all about the energy in the universe and using it to get what you want. If you put positivity into the universe, you’ll have success. I’ve heard Oprah talk about this a lot.

The thinking is that if you think negative thoughts, you’ll attract negativity, but if you think positive thoughts, you’ll attract positivity, so think positively all the time. It also talks about how thinking more and more about achieving a certain goal or something happening will make it more likely to happen.

Improving your spiritual energy is good for keeping your body and mind relaxed, which is why it’s important to take some time out of your day for reflection, and for positive thinking.

For more information on this, I’d check out the book The Law of Attraction: The basics of the Teachings of Abraham.

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in learning more about all of this, here are a few additional resources I’d recommend checking out.

1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

2. Tony Schwartz and Daniel Goleman sit down for a chat called Our Attention Is Under Siege.

3. Daniel Goleman on Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfilment
4. Daniel Goleman’s TED Talk: Why aren’t we all Good Samaritans?

Do You Often Get Bored At Work?

People who often say they’re bored at work tend to have low energy and lack motivation to accomplish tasks. It’s important to be able to manage your energy levels to be more productive.

What do you think? Any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments!