Manage your energy, not your time

SPM: New Practitioner


The start of a new year is often a time for reflection and resolution. The “new year, new you” concept can be found virtually everywhere, in both your personal and professional lives. After reflecting on the past, I decided to make a resolution for 2015. 

Managing energy

Starting in pharmacy school, my inability to say no in my professional life often resulted in becoming overcommitted. This quality, combined with the desire to complete all tasks to the best of my ability even if it means working all hours of the day, has often been at the expense of my personal well-being. The result is a loss of work–life balance and depleted energy. It is a pattern I have often repeated. 

I recently attended a time management program that really struck a chord. The program, “Manage your energy, not your time,” described the concept developed originally by the Energy Project’s Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarty. Many individuals find themselves working longer hours to become successful professionally, resulting in feeling overworked and less productive overall. 

As Schwartz and McCarty suggested in their 2007 Harvard Business Review article, energy is a different story. Human energy comes from four main sources: body, emotions, mind, and spirit. Because energy is not finite, it can be expanded and renewed using specific behaviors. These behaviors, some rather simple, should be practiced until they become ingrained into the subconscious.

Body: Physical energy

To maintain physical energy, one must have adequate nutrition, exercise, and sleep/rest. However, these are often among the first to be neglected. Some people try to find time by sleeping shorter hours, eating something quick (usually unhealthy), or worse not eating at all. Forget trying to find an extra 30 to 60 minutes to hit the gym. However, loss of productivity and energy is often the result of sacrificing these necessities. Even something as simple as taking intermittent breaks at work has resulted in better performance outcomes.

Emotions: Quality of energy

Having more control over one’s emotions allows for better quality of energy. People generally recognize that they perform better when they feel positive energy. Often feelings of being overworked or stressed lead to negative feelings, resulting in decreased productivity. Individuals should take intermittent recovery periods in order to sustain positive emotions over long periods of time. This can be done using deep abdominal breathing or by expressing appreciation to others. 

Mind: Focus of energy

In today’s society, there are many distractions and demands, including a constant barrage of e-mail, phone calls, and text messages. As a result, individuals often multi-task to increase efficiency, which unfortunately has the opposite effect in the long run. Find ways to minimize distractions. For example, check and respond to e-mail or phone calls at dedicated times of the day, rather than as they arise. More challenging activities should be done during periods of the day where productivity is higher. 

Spirit: Energy of meaning/purpose

People use energy of the human spirit when their activities are consistent with what they value or find purposeful. One can start focusing on this area once they have firmly established the other three aspects. When one has adequate energy of spirit, they see that being attentive to their own deeper needs will positively influence their productivity and satisfaction at work. This can be done by establishing priorities, such as doing what they do best at work and allocating sufficient time to other areas of life. 

In order to rejuvenate and re-energize your work force, the emphasis should be shifted from “getting more out” to “investing more in.” You must first recognize what energy-depleting behaviors you exhibit and then take ownership of changing them. 

My resolution

Schwartz and McCarty offer an energy audit tool to help one figure out which of the four areas are lacking. After using this tool, I have resolved to approach the new year with this idea of managing my energy better. I aim to renew my energy with the hope that I will become rejuvenated and more productive, and will no longer need to concentrate so much on the finite resource of time. 

I encourage you to consider setting a realistic resolution in 2015. Perhaps the idea of managing your energy, not your time, will strike a chord, as it did with me. Or perhaps, it will be something completely different. Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best!