Sustainable high performance is not just about how effectively you manage time. It is also about how well you manage the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resources which allow you to get things done.
During times of increased workload, growing demands, and looming deadlines, working more hours is not the answer. Human beings are not machines. They are not meant to run on full speed, continuously for long periods of time. They are meant to rest and recharge. Your energy limits what you can do with your time, so manage it wisely.
According to Tony Schwartz, performance expert, author of “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live” and CEO of The Energy Project, you can only perform at your best when you move between depleting and renewing your body’s four core energy needs:
- Your physical energy – health
- Your emotional energy – happiness
- Your mental energy – focus
- Your spiritual energy – purpose
These energies whilst different are interrelated and each is necessary for maximum performance. It is when these four elements of energy are in sync that you have the most leverage to get work done.
This is the key to all other energies. It is comprised of sleep, fitness, nutrition, and renewal.
On a physical level, you want to be well-rested and fit. There is no way you are going to get things done when you are exhausted.
Schwartz and McCarthy recommend these practices for renewing four dimensions of personal energy:
- Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime
- Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and strength
training at least once
- Eat small meals and light snacks every three hours
- Learn to notice signs of imminent energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating
- Take brief but regular breaks, away from your desk, at 90-to 120-minute intervals throughout the day.
Emotional energy is about learning to cultivate the specific emotions associated with high performance, because how people feel profoundly influences how they perform.
Most people burn up their emotional energy through the expression of negative emotions. Negative emotions are like a fire that burns up their energy so quickly that they have very little left with which to think positively and constructively. In fact, one five-minute uncontrolled outburst of anger can burn up as much energy as an average person would use in eight hours of work.
Your job is to think continually about how you can stay calm and positive, and work smoothly and efficiently, so you can have more mental energy to do the things that are most important to you in life.
On an emotional level, you want to be the conductor of your orchestra of emotions. When you are experiencing a storm of negative emotions it is very hard to focus and work on the task at hand.
Defuse negative emotions – irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity – through deep abdominal breathing.
Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, e-mails, calls, or conversations.
Look at upsetting situations through new lenses. Adopt a “reverse lens” to ask,”What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he be right?” Use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months?” Employ a “wide lens” to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”
- Identify your “sweetspot”activities–those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfilment. Find ways to do more of these.
- Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your bus commute relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you’re home.
- Live your core values. For instance, if consideration is important to you but you’re perpetually late for class, practice intentionally showing up on time.
Mental energy is about learning to focus in an absorbed way and switching intentionally between tactical and big-picture thinking.
The reason why most students fail to realise their potential in life and work is because they burn up their energy at the emotional level, or the physical level; therefore, they have very little energy left over for mental activities.
Lastly, on a mental level, you must have the desire and willpower to work. Both are resources that are not unlimited and must be managed properly. Lack of mental energy is usually the precursor to procrastinating.
- Reduce interruptions by performing high-concentration tasks away from phones and social media.
- Respond to voicemails and e-mails at designated times during the day.
- Every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Then make it your first priority when you arrive at school in the morning.
Spiritual energy is the energy derived from serving something larger than oneself.
Top Tips for Healthy Energy Management
Here are three things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action and actively address your energy and performance:
Take time to identify the different ways that you either use up or deplete your levels of physical, emotional and mental energy. How could you improve in each area? Ask yourself the following questions. Do you wake up feeling tired? Do you work out enough? Do you take regular breaks to renew and recharge? Do you often find yourself feeling irritable, overwhelmed, angry, emotionally volatile? Do you feel that you do not have enough time for the activities which you enjoy? Do you find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time? Be honest with yourself.
Renew Energy Levels During the Day
Sustained high performance requires that we create intervals of intense fully engaged focus and then follow them with shorter periods of true rest and renewal.
When you have recharged your energy you will be prepared to handle whatever comes next.
As human beings we can only perform at out best when we take time to rest and renew.
Recharge your energy by building consistent habits into your day:
1. Take daily naps of 10-30 minutes. Try to schedule those around the time when you know your energy dips. I call them “nana naps.”
2. Exercise Regularly
Human beings are not made to run at full speed for long periods of time. So be kind to your body. Stand up from work desk. Take a gentle stretch. In fact, move away from the table and go for a short walk. Close your eyes for a while and reflect on your day.
3. Sleep Better
Go to bed at a designated time. Sleep longer.
4. Maintain a Healthy Eating Plan
5. Change Channels on Friday
Disengage from school work for at least some of the weekend and make time for activities you enjoy. Engage with your family and friends.
6. Build a Reading Habit
7. Fully Focus for 90-120 Minutes
8. Listen to Your Body
When your body is needing a period of recovery learn to heed the signals which include: difficulty concentrating, physical restlessness, yawning, hunger. Many of us ignore them and keep on working.
8. Take Intermittent Breaks
Listen to music on your ipod, play the guitar, switch on your “do not disturb” on your phone, turn off social media notifications , take a 20 minute walk.