Finding time, not just to survive but to thrive in today’s 24-7 plugged-in, non-stop environment may be the major challenge that faces us today, both as individuals and as a culture. How many of you, as you start to read this post are already thinking about the next item on your to-do list? How many of you wake up at night, worried about how you are going to respond to (or even scan) all of the e-mails piling up in your in-box? That’s and extremely stressful, energy-depleting, counter-productive way to live.
Last summer Tony Schwartz, President of The Energy Project, wrote an excellent piece in the NY Times titled “The Personal Energy Crisis.” He proposes that, rather than managing our time, we are better served if we focus on managing our energy.
Both time and energy are finite; but time is an external resource, while energy is something that we can actually renew for ourselves … IF we give ourselves the time to do it! As Mr. Schwartz notes:
“In physics, energy is defined simply as the capacity to do work. The more skillful we are at renewing our energy, the more capacity we have available. Human beings aren’t meant to operate like computers — at high speeds, continuously, for long periods. Instead, we’re physiologically designed to pulse, to move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy.”
We inhale and we exhale; we wake and sleep. The sun rises and sets; seasons come and go. We, along with our environment, are in a constant state of change and flux. If we don’t respect that and shepherd our energy, then we suffer … and our productivity suffers by extension.
“At night, we move from light to deep sleep and back out. During the day, we oscillate every 90 minutes from higher to lower alertness. In effect, our bodies are asking us for a break every 90 minutes. But we override the signals with coffee, sugar and our stress hormones.”
Respecting these rhythms requires risk and discipline.
- It requires risk because respecting the yin and yang of your energy, especially when confronting a pressured deadline or a time crunch, is counter-intuitive. When overwhelm looms, the knee-jerk response is to work longer and harder. But taking the risk of giving yourself a break will actually enhance your productivity.
- It requires discipline because giving yourself regular breaks are key to your success. Ironically, it probably requires more discipline to give yourself a break than to pull an all-nighter! There will always be that ‘one more thing’ that calls out to you, tempting you to move your time boundary and relinquish ‘just a little bit’ of your break. If you give in, more likely than not, your entire break will evaporate, and your productivity will take a nose-dive.
So, my question to you is, do you think you can schedule in brief breaks for yourself today? All week? I urge you to try it and see what kind of affect it has on your energy. My guess is that you’ll experience an immediate improvement in the quality of:
- Your energy,
- Your work products, and
- Your moments.
Managing your energy crisis can benefit you in so many ways!© Copyright 2012 Paula Eder, Ph.D.