Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Two business men sitting at cubicle desk engaged in discussion

Sometimes less really is more.

In the first few years of my career I paid little attention to pausing for rich conversation, let alone rest or reflection.

I thought my best performance came from living on the ragged edge. I ran wide open on adrenaline 24/7—chasing the next deadline. I thought managing time meant doing more—not being more.

Sports psychology taught me to manage energy

Then I attended a leadership conference that drew from the work of sports psychologists Jim Loehr and Tony Swchartz. In their best seller, The Power of Full Engagement, the authors introduced the idea that managing energy is the key to sustained performance for business people as well as athletes.

I began taking inventory of what people, places, time of day and activities gave me energy—as well as those that demanded my energy. Here’s what I learned.

Energy downers:

  • I am drained by paperwork and tedious work with numbers
  • My brain becomes foggy after lunch so it’s not a good idea to schedule creative sessions in the afternoon
  • I lose my spark if I try to solve problems for people who really don’t want the help but enjoy the drama
  • Large, loud crowds are fun for an hour or two and then I begin to lose my mojo
  • Refined sugar makes my energy crash

On the other hand:

  • I find a well-spring of energy in teaching and coaching
  • This is the work that reminds me of who I am—it reconnects me to my purpose and provides fulfillment
  • My brain works best in the morning. I write from 7am to 9am every morning
  • I require regular blocks of time in solitude to renew
  • If I am unable to schedule alone time, which can be a long walk with the dogs, I begin to feel cluttered and restless
  • When I attend my Zumba classes 3-4 times weekly I run at a higher level of energy

Pause for authentic conversation

Central to my sense of connection and inspiration is pausing for authentic conversation with the people in my life. I am restored by the spark of meaningful found in conversation.

The strengthening of my relationships makes my life more meaningful—and successful. Every time I enjoy someone’s company for even a brief but real conversation I have more energy, more inspiration on which to travel.

I still run hard. But today my goal is to do more of what gives life and less of what robs me of energy.

If you are caught in the busy trap of “doing-ness” and unhappy with the results, consider managing your energy. Do something that restores you. Your inbox will be there when you get back.

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Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, CEO.com, and Fast Company.