As a culture, we are obsessed with managing our time. Our desktop calendars are glued to our IPhones and Blackberries. We tape schedules on refrigerators, bathroom mirrors, or on our steering wheels. But at the end of the day, we find that we simply can’t complete everything on our to-do lists. That is good news for your stress levels and your to-do lists, says psychologist Jim Loehr, cofounder of the Human Performance Institute and coauthor of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. “If it’s all about time, we are done: It’s a zero-sum game, because you cannot expand time,” he explains. “But the human system can expand its energy capacity in a powerful way.
There are four types of energy according to Loehr. Loehr became fascinated with the topic while working with some of the top athletes at a leading university. “We observed that it wasn’t so much the amount of time the athletes spent on practice, it was the energy they brought to the time they had.” Using this insight, Loehr and his colleagues began to quantify exactly what kind of energy improved the players’ game. Was it spiritual energy? The level of purpose and passion we bring to our lives. Was it mental energy? The quality of attention we bring to a task. Was it emotional energy? The way we manage negative and enhancing emotional states. Or was it physical energy? The product of basic nutrition, exercise, and rest)
Start off by articulating your purpose – whether it’s to serve others, or to be an extraordinary mother, or to create a spectacular work of art. You will have more energy for your most meaningful task by virtue of prioritizing them.
A simple way to align your spiritual and mental energy is to pay attention to your “prime time” – when your mental clarity and effectiveness are highest and then schedule accordingly.
Depression, anxiety, and fear can all keep us from using our mental and spiritual energies effectively. One way to cultivate positive emotional energy is to simply express gratitude for what is. Try shifting perspectives.
The most obvious component, of course relies on healthy eating. Even when you are short on time, you can mobilize physical energy by eating a healthy snack.
You can harness energy for the best results by combining energy management strategies in all of these areas, then paying close attention to your personal energy patterns. Once you begin actively managing your energy, you will feel happier and more engaged in the world. There is a clear connection between energy and feeling alive. By managing your energy, you can learn to be more productive and engaged in all areas of your life.
First of all, know what matters. Yes, we all balance work, family, and other priorities required in life. But if you don’t know which priorities are most important to you and why, you will have less success focusing on the goals that bring you the greatest satisfaction. Take time to analyze and clarify your life’s mission, vision, and values.
Secondly, get positive. A large segment of energy management is not allowing negative energy to bring you down. Use gratitude to counter frustration and fears. When you are out of control and feeling stressed, take time to write a list of things that make your life worth living. By training yourself to move quickly past negative energy, you free your resources to focus on the job at hand.
And finally, be quiet. Whether you meditate or just spend a little time zoning out to music, be sure to set aside a few minutes every day for some all-alone downtime. Regular relaxation helps balance our biochemistry and increases resilience when facing challenges. Think of it as a daily topping off of your energy reserves – a great way to guard against running out of the fuel that lets you get other important things done.
Hart, Joseph. “Energy Plan.” Experience Life Jan. 2009: 86-90. Web.