Phrases like “manage your time,” and “do more with less” have become buzzwords in some business cultures. The idea is that if you can manage your time, you’ll be more productive in all areas of life. In other words, if you can manage time well you can push yourself to get more done. The flaw in this thinking is that time is finite. All this managing and pushing yourself tires your brain, drains your spirit, and disengages your soul. That’s when mistakes occur and burnout ensues. The key, then, is not to simply manage your time, but also to manage your energy.
Unlike time, energy is restorable. And when you manage your energy well, you’ll have more energy for your priorities, whether they are personal or professional in nature. If you don’t manage your energy, you can’t manage your time. Sure, you can think about all the things you need to do and you can schedule them, but if you don’t have the energy to do the tasks, you won’t be able to accomplish them appropriately.
While many advocate devoting ample time to all areas of your life, few address those things that make life purposeful and precious. With so many things competing for your attention daily, you need to give attention to energy replenishment. Then you can devote the time your life’s priorities demand and enjoy your life too. This is why it’s important to manage your energy before you manage your time.
The Three Pillars of Energy Management
Keeping your energy in check means giving attention to your brain, your spirit, and your soul. Think of it like a three-legged stool. For the stool to be useful, you need all three legs. Remove one leg from the equation, and the stool topples over and is useless. The same is true for your energy. Therefore, to keep your energy replenished, implement the following suggestions into your daily life.
• Stimulate Your Brain
The human brain likes control and certainty, and it’s very good at predicting the next thing that is likely to happen based on the information it has. That’s what brains do and that’s why you often feel better when you perceive you have control over a situation and feel stressed if you think you have no control over events. Additionally, the brain is programmed to fear. This is a good thing, though, because the inborn fear is what has allowed our species to evolve. The only drawback to this natural fear is that the brain will take a few pieces of information and make a story out of it—usually a negative one. This negative story becomes your reality until you get another piece of data. Then your brain pieces together a new story. And the pattern repeats over and over. Talk about an energy drain on your brain! In order to replenish your brain’s energy, consider the following:
§ Reconstruct your stories. You have to purposefully stop the story and seek out the missing pieces of information. For example, if you get an email from your boss telling you not to take part in an initiative you volunteered for, with no explanation why, you would likely think your boss doesn’t believe you’re capable of the work involved or has another person in mind for that initiative. In reality, your boss may need you for another task, he or she may think the task is not challenging enough for you, or your boss may simply not need any assistance on the project any longer. But you’ll never know (or stop the negative story in your head) until you ask.
§ Analyze what helps and hurts your thinking ability. For instance, do 200 emails staring at you first thing in the morning make you exhausted before you even start the day? If so, then don’t do that task first thing. Do the most important things when you’re alert and at your best, as those tasks will actually energize you so you can handle the stressful tasks later.
§ Give yourself two hours a day for focused attention on a key project—the earlier in the day the better. No multi-tasking during this time! Whether you are a night or a morning person, it’s a proven fact that your brain is rested after you sleep, so this is the key time for focused attention and productivity.
§ Since your brain is part of your body, it needs to be fed the right foods for optimum health and it needs exercise to increase the oxygen flow to your brain. Your body/brain needs a large quantity of water too.
• Invigorate Your Spirit
The human spirit yearns to soar. The spirit enjoys lofty goals, interesting ideas to ponder, and challenging responsibility. How spirited someone is often relates to how purposeful he or she is. In fact, it’s common that when people lose their purpose in life, they feel deflated and even depressed. Hence the phrase: “Her spirit was broken.” An invigorated spirit is what catapults you out of the mundane and into a new and exciting endeavor. In order to replenish your spirit’s energy, here are some tips:
§ Do one thing every day that makes your spirit soar. Whether it’s reading poetry, taking in inspirational writing, or listening to music, if you feel your spirit is fed by that, do it.
§ Dream big. Think about what you want in your life. Get specific. Write it down. Think about the steps between where you are today and where you want to be.
§ Read things that stretch your mind. Your spirit wants to reach for the next best thing. Unleash the power of your spirit by exposing your mind to new things. Think of the song from Man of La Mancha, The Impossible Dream.
§ Take time each day to think and concentrate. Many people are in knowledge-oriented jobs and need some degree of quiet time. So even though a particular task must get done, that task often requires planning and thinking. Your spirit can’t gain energy to tackle big goals unless it has some quiet time to prepare. So let people know that you require quiet thinking time, and actually put this time in your schedule. If others know your needs and intentions, they will respect them.
• Feed Your Soul
The human soul likes the familiar, the deep, and the poignant. The soul likes ritual, doing the same thing at the same time every day. It also enjoys the simple things in life, beauty, and nature. The soul is what connects you to life and to what is deeply meaningful to you. In order to replenish your soul’s energy, do the following:
§ Take time for enchantment. Linger through a museum. Enjoy preparing a simple elegant meal. Go outside regularly and experience the enchantment of nature. Your soul loves beauty and wants a connection with the earth.
§ Experience the present fully. Be mindful in regard to the things around you—the colors and textures. Fully engage in life in the moment. This moment is all you have. If you are serene, feel the serenity, if you are sad feel the sadness. If you are grateful, experience your gratitude. Feel yourself breathe.
§ Build rituals for yourself and your family. Even something as simple as eating dinner at the same time every day is a ritual. Both your soul and your brain crave ritual and gain energy from it.
§ Clarify your intentions and plan what you want your tomorrow to be like before you go to bed. This allows your subconscious to work on your challenges and big decisions while you sleep. Sure, you’ll be interrupted, but if you have a plan, you can go right back to that plan and avoid derailing yourself.
By focusing on these three areas of your life—your brain, your spirit, and your soul— you’ll gain the much needed energy to take on life in big gulps. With your energy consistently replenished, time will no longer be an issue. You’ll feel ready to handle anything that comes your way, usually with poise and confidence. So make the decision today to stimulate your brain, invigorate your spirit, and feed your soul. Your life’s energy depends on it.
Jean Kelley is a leadership development practitioner in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. Watch for the release of her new book, Discover the Leader in You, and check out her last book, Look Leap Lead.