In today’s fast-paced world, productivity has emerged as a critical aspect of our daily lives. The conventional approach to productivity involves time management, but recent research indicates that energy management is a more sustainable method for improving productivity and well-being. By utilising insights from various disciplines, such as organisational psychology, social psychology, nutrition, mental health, stress management, fitness, and focus, individuals can devise strategies to systematically expand their energy reserves and achieve more in their daily lives. This article will delve into the importance of managing energy levels and present real-life examples of individuals and organisations that have successfully adopted energy management strategies.
Energy Management and Organisational Psychology:
Organisational psychology has demonstrated that individuals who efficiently manage their energy levels are more productive and engaged in their work. Establishing clear goals, prioritising tasks, and incorporating short breaks throughout the day can help sustain motivation and energy levels. For instance, Google has implemented a program called “Jolly Good Fellow,” allowing employees to take time off to work on personal projects, subsequently increasing creativity and productivity in the workplace.
Social Psychology and Energy Optimisation:
Social interactions play a vital role in energy management. Positive social support from colleagues and supervisors can enhance work engagement, job satisfaction, and overall energy levels. For example, Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, encourages employees to partake in outdoor activities during work hours, resulting in increased productivity and employee satisfaction. Moreover, a study conducted by Halbesleben & Buckley (2004) found that employees who perceived high levels of social support at work experienced lower levels of fatigue and burnout.
Nutrition and Mental Health:
A balanced diet is crucial for maintaining energy levels throughout the day. Consuming regular, nutrient-dense meals with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins can fuel the body and brain. A study by the Harvard Business Review discovered that employees who ate healthier meals had a 25% higher job performance than those who did not. Additionally, addressing mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, or chronic stress can improve overall well-being and energy management. General Mills’ meditation program exemplifies this, as it reduced stress and increased employee productivity.
Stress Management and Fitness:
Regular physical activity is proven to boost energy levels and mood. Incorporating exercise into daily routines can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and increase overall energy. The law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe introduced a “wellness program” that includes exercise classes and meditation, leading to a 50% reduction in sick days among employees. Furthermore, practicing relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises can help control stress and maintain energy levels throughout the day.
Focus and Avoiding Distractions:
Distractions can rapidly drain energy reserves, making it challenging to maintain focus and productivity. Techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in focused intervals followed by short breaks, can help minimise distractions and optimise energy levels. This method is particularly useful for individuals who struggle with procrastination or find it difficult to concentrate for extended periods. Notably, the famous writer Ernest Hemingway used the Pomodoro Technique to help him write his books.
In conclusion, managing energy rather than time is a more sustainable approach to enhancing productivity and well-being. By incorporating strategies from various disciplines, individuals can systematically expand their energy reserves and achieve more in their daily lives. Real-life examples of individuals and organisations that have successfully implemented energy management strategies demonstrate the effectiveness of these techniques in improving productivity and well-being. Taking care of oneself, including eating well, practising stress management techniques, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding distractions, is essential for maintaining optimal energy levels throughout the day.
- Watanabe, N., Furukawa, T. A., Horikoshi, M., Katsuki, F., Narisawa, T., Kumachi, M., … & Cuijpers, P. (2018). A mindfulness-based stress management program and treatment as usual for university students with psychological distress: A randomised controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 48(14), 2327-2336.
- Loehr, J., & Schwartz, T. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. New York: Free Press.
- Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The Job Demands‐Resources model: state of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(3), 309-328.
- Chatterjee, S., & Yilmas, E. (2019). Nutrition and Well-being: A Systematic Review of the Impact of Food Choices on Mental Health. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 46(4), 674-690.
- Pronk, N. P., Katz, A. S., Lowry, M., & Payfer, J. R. (2012). Reducing occupational sitting time and improving worker health: the Take-a-Stand Project, 2011. Preventing Chronic Disease, 9, E154.
- Cirillo, F. (2018). The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work. Penguin.
2023 has arrived. The New Year brings with it a sense of renewal – a collective reset, often accompanied by grand ideas and promises we make to ourselves about what the next twelve months will entail. We’re going to run a marathon, lose ten kilos, get a promotion, find love, start our own business, become the world’s first trillionaire, and probably cure cancer as a side hustle. There’s something endearing in the lofty aspirations we wheel out each January, unkeepable promises that our poor future selves are made to feel slovenly for not fulfilling until we get the chance to do it all over again this time next year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are more reasonable targets we can set ourselves – and more practical ways we can go about achieving them – so that when the chiming bells usher us into 2024, we can look back at our year and say we really did something worthwhile with it.
Our promises in numbers
The figures vary but tell a similar story: as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions are given up on by February1. And only 8% of people are thought to stick with them the entire year. But don’t take that as a reason to discount resolutions entirely. One study2 found that people who set New Year’s resolutions – whether they achieve them or not – are ten times more likely to change their behaviour than people who don’t make any yearly goals. YouGov also found that people who make New Year’s resolutions were more optimistic about the future than those who don’t3.
So, where are the people who fail to achieve their goals potentially going wrong? Two big mistakes that one should look to avoid are setting targets that are plainly unachievable or trying to do too many things at once. For example, let’s say your goal is to start your own business. That’s great. But if your goal is to start your own business and end the year one million pounds in profit, you’re probably reaching for something unattainable. On a smaller scale, let’s say your goal is to learn French. With commitment, reaching a decent standard over the course of a year is certainly attainable. But if your goal is to learn French, Spanish, Cantonese, and Ancient Greek, chances are you’ve cast your net too wide and will end up not getting started on any of them. The goal can be challenging, but make sure it’s within reach. And if you really want to achieve it, you’re best off not hampering its progress by getting distracted with a litany of additional ambitions on the side. Better for your targets to be SMART4. As first noted in the Journal of Management Review in 1981, a SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. If you’ve set targets for the year ahead, it’s worth checking that they meet that criteria before you set yourself up for disappointment.
Practical advice: Writing down your goals
It may sound oversimplistic, but studies show that physically writing down your goals as opposed to holding them in your head as keepsakes makes you more likely to achieve them. A study5 in the Journal of Applied Psychology tested this theory with university students, with resounding success. Over a four-month period, students who wrote down their goals were found to display “significant improvements in academic performance” compared with those who did not. Similarly, Sheldon and Lyubormirsky (2006)6, writing in the Journal of Positive Psychology, found that writing down one’s life goals was likely to “improve self-regulation because it allows an opportunity to learn about oneself, to illuminate and restructure one’s priorities, and to gain better insight into one’s motives and emotions.” While a separate study7 showed that doing so also induces an immediate enhancement of positive mood.
Practical advice: Setting deadlines
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams famously said he loved deadlines because of “the whooshing noise they make as they go by”8. But utilising deadlines should not be underestimated as a tool for achieving whatever goal you’ve set yourself for the coming year. Parkinson’s law8 dictates that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, without a deadline looming, chances are you will put off whatever it is you’re trying to achieve until it seems more pressing. It’s a foible of the human race to which none of us are immune. To fight it, set yourself a deadline and be strict with it. Better still, write it down or make it public so you feel that you will be held accountable if you miss it.
Practical advice: Forming habits
Research suggests it takes between 18 and 66 days to change a habit or form a new one10. James Clear – author of Atomic Habits11, probably the definitive book on habit forming – notes that building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward12. The cue is essentially something we want (money, love, satisfaction, whatever it may be); the craving is the motivation (you do not want to turn on the TV; you want to be entertained); the response is the habit itself and usually comes in the form of a thought or an action; the response delivers the reward, that thing we are ultimately chasing.
Clear posits that just as we can (and often naturally do) form bad habits, so too can we form good ones. His suggestions for doing so involve making the cue for whatever you want to achieve obvious, making its craving attractive, making its response easy, and making its reward satisfying. For example, you could say that when you close your laptop for lunch (cue), in order to get fit (craving), you perform 10 push-ups (response), and then have your lunch break (reward). That’s specifically fitness related, but for pretty much all goals, if the habit you form is simply setting aside a certain amount of time to do it each day (ideally at a certain time, in a certain place each day, as this helps the habit stick) then you will make progress.
The only thing easier than making goals is breaking them. To not fall into the trap this year, focus on tangible steps you can take. Pay particular attention to the process rather than outcome. “I will work on this project for 20 minutes every day” will get you further than “I will finish this project by the end of the year”. The finish line will come when it comes; better to think instead about the step ahead of you.
Build a SMART system, write down your goals, set deadlines, and form the right habits. Do that and there’s every chance 2023 might just be your year yet.
6 Sheldon KM, Lyubomirsky S (2006) How to increase and sustain positive emotions: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. Journal of Positive Psychology 1: 73–82.
7 King LA (2001) The health benefits of writing about life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 27: 798–807.
The concept of mentorship traces back to the character of Mentor in Greek Mythology in Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, King of Ithica, asks his trusted companion, Mentor, to keep watch over his son, Telemachus, while he is away. Mentor acts as a guide to Telemachus, supporting him in his father’s absence. The term mentor then became used more widely for a trusted guide who imparts wisdom and shares their knowledge.
In the Middle Ages, mentorship became popular with apprenticeships in trade work. It wasn’t until the 1970s that mentorship made its way into the business world. Though the stakes may not be the same as they were in ancient Greek civilization, mentorship plays a key role in career growth and success.
What is the role of a mentor?
A mentor is someone with more experience than the mentee who passes along their knowledge and experience in the field the mentee aspires to work in. The role of the mentor is to guide the mentee throughout their career progression.
It’s also important to note that anyone at any stage in their career can—and should—have a mentor. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 84% of CEOs with formal mentor relationships were more likely to avoid costly mistakes and became efficient in their roles more quickly, and 71% of CEOs attribute their improved performance to their mentors.
How does mentorship work?
Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Boston University, Kathy E. Kram, in her research on mentorship in the corporate world, lists four phases of the mentoring process: initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. According to Kram, mentorship is an ongoing exchange that moves between these four phases.
The initiation phase is when the relationship is established, and trust is built between the mentee and mentor. Cultivation is when more frequent interactions and collaboration occur (this stage can last 2-5 years). Separation is when the mentee begins to operate more independently from the mentor, and the redefinition stage is when the relationship shifts from mentorship to peer.
The mentorship relationship should also have specific and measurable goals, frequent interaction, and actionable steps. There should be a clear desired outcome for both the mentee and the mentor.
What are the benefits of mentorship?
There are proven benefits to mentorship for both the mentee and the mentor. Mentorship increases retention and overall job satisfaction. In fact, 25% of employees who enrolled in a mentoring program saw a salary increase, and mentees are promoted five times more often than those not in mentoring programs.
Further, high-potential mentoring is a way to nurture top talent and develop them for potential future leadership roles. There is a reason that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. The statistics don’t lie.
Mentorship can also help with:
- Networking opportunities: Mentors will have been in the industry much longer than the mentee and have developed relationships with others in their field. They have a whole network of people to introduce to the mentee and can expose them to more career opportunities.
- Support system: Mentorship offers a built-in support system, which is essential in any career or industry. It positively impacts mental health and improves self-confidence and self-esteem. In the early days of entrepreneurship especially, mentorship can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Accountability: A mentor holds their mentee accountable to their goals. This may mean verbally checking in with how progress is going. It also means both parties hold one another accountable; if the mentor is not prioritizing the mentorship, it’s the mentee’s job to check in. Accountability is critical for success.
- Confidence: Mentorship provides confidence as the mentee begins to develop their skills and autonomy. It also helps build leadership skills for both the mentor and mentee and adds to their qualifications, increasing their eligibility for new positions.
It’s also important to remember that mentorship does not always work out. The initiation phase of mentorship is the time to assess whether the mentee and mentor are compatible and can offer something of value to one another. Mentorships can also end at any stage. Mentorship is a form of leadership. It is a way for those with more experience to give back to the company and leave behind a legacy from their own experiences. It also helps foster a sense of community and belonging within a corporation.
“Your legacy is every life you’ve touched. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped.”Maya Angelou