When it comes to productivity, time (and the lack thereof) is rarely the issue we think that it is. We seemingly have little difficulty in finding the time for the things that we truly 'want' to do, rather than those we feel that we need or must do. Just think about how up-to-date most people are with what's happening in their favourite television shows.
It is therefore less a question of what we have time for and more about what we have the energy for. When our energy is high we are far more likely to tackle the difficult tasks than we are when our energy is flagging. Therefore, the better we become at managing our energy, the better able we will be able to effectively manage our growing workload and produce the desired results.
The challenge we actually face then is that few of us are truly effective in managing our energy. We typically don't consciously know how to recharge our personal batteries and we do not go out of our way to build and schedule energy recovery and renewal systems. Most of us are therefore attempting to get critical work accomplished when our batteries are depleted. We can't possibly do our best work in these moments, yet we have somehow developed the belief that we need to push through these moments rather than taking a break and gifting ourselves with some recovery time.
Science tells us quite clearly that our brains and our bodies require breaks, short periods of recovery, in order to function optimally. Without these moments to recharge our batteries we are not capable of the same clarity of thought and productivity as when we are attacking a problem when fully charged.
In a recent Gallup poll, it was determined that only 13% of employees reported feeling engaged while at work and a further study of 10,000 people found that only 11% reported having a great deal of energy throughout the day. These are not unrelated findings. There is a strong correlation between our energy levels and our engagement. The more we learn to manage and control the former, the more we will find ourselves able to experience deeper and more sustained levels of the latter.
Just how can we begin managing our Energy more effectively? Consider any of the following tips to help you to become more adept in recharging your batteries and managing your energy...
Most tend to focus on the quantity of sleep required for renewal. Athletes tend to average 8.5 hours of sleep a night in order to ensure their performance, whereas most of us regular folk tend to be averaging roughly 6 hours. Hardly enough time to get those batteries fully charged. What is perhaps even more important to consider is the quality of sleep that we are engaging in, for however many hours we manage. Few of us are enjoying restful sleep periods. To help with this consider changing out your mattress (upgrades are needed periodically), a better pillow, fresh air, earplugs or noise cancelling devices. Getting more and better sleep is seen by most experts to be the number one most important thing that we could and should be doing to enhance our focus, maximize our energy and optimize our performance.
Engaging with others can also help us to recharge our batteries. Certainly avoid the energy vampires, but spending time with others can be a welcome distraction that can revitalize you.
Engaging in exercise can provide you with a positive mood boost. Research indicates that the mood boost can last upward of 12 hours following a period of exercise which is one reason why many recommend exercising first thing in the morning. In addition to the positive health and fitness benefits of exercise, it is also important for enhancing the overall functioning of our minds and bodies, allowing us more sustained productivity.
We get recharged when we engage in activities that utilize our unique talents and strengths. We can take advantage of this by deliberately scheduling activities we enjoy directly following those that we don't, in an effort to provide a boost to our flagging energy.
The top 10% of performers will typically work for an average of 52 minutes at a time and then take a break of about 15 minutes. This on/off rotation is key to ensuring your sustained energy and focus over the course of a full day. The timing of your on/off cycle may vary from this, but it is important to build in short periods of recovery throughout your day. You typically know what activities and people cost you energy, enabling you to plan your day around these events. You want to go into these situations as fully charged as possible and to allow time to recharge immediately following. Even quick five minute breaks can make a world of difference in your focus and energy levels.