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.
There is a striking ‘work list’ that went viral a couple of years ago. Under the heading “10 Things That Require Zero Talent”, the creator wrote of actions we can all take to improve our work performance immediately and without any financial cost or training.
Nothing included on the list is revolutionary – Being on Time, Work Ethic, Effort, Body Language, Energy, Attitude, Passion, Being Coachable, Doing Extra, and Being Prepared. All very sensible, and all traits and characteristics that employers, managers, and executive recruiters love to recognise… and very often reward!
Talent or consistency
That list came to mind again when Justin Roethlingshoefer joined us for a brilliant episode of the 1% podcast in April 2022. A performance coach to elite athletes and executives, a bestselling author, and respected entrepreneur, Justin was a Performance Director at the National (Ice) Hockey League (NHL) in the US for over ten years – an experience that shaped his current areas of research and focus in ways that he didn’t quite expect.
Early on in the episode, Justin says the following: “Talent will get you noticed, consistency gets you paid.” Simple, and yet quite profound – especially in today’s world where talent seems, on the surface at least, to be what secures the high-end roles and accompanying salary and benefits package.
Justin explained that the comment was made to him as a young boy when he returned home after a performance that was not up to his usual standards in a hockey match. His father’s advice struck him deeply and led the aspiring athlete down a path of seeking to understand as much as possible about everything within his own control and what actually and practically impacted his capabilities on the ice each and every game.
Heart rate variability
Unfortunately for us all, there is no magic solution to consistent performance – be it on the sporting field, in the workplace, or elsewhere. Everyone’s capabilities are unique, but Justin has identified Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and how it changes as a person responds to stresses around them as an effective indicator of improvement potential.
Working with his research team, he has gone on to develop a framework of eight ‘controllables’ that help to positively affect a person’s HRV and, in turn, deliver more consistent performance. You can read more about Justin’s thinking and how HRV can be monitored here.
- Stress Management / Self Care
- Immune Function
No ‘controllable’ on this list will be brand new to regular readers of our 1% Extra articles. However, their effectiveness lies in the consistent implementation of small, yet sustainable changes under each of the headings. What’s the one thing you can do to improve your nutrition this week? It can be as easy as preparing your breakfast or lunch the night before when you’ve more time to consider what is suitable rather than what is convenient, and then making that part of your weekly habits.
Simple processes and being persistent in following them as part of an established and regular routine will benefit your performance in the longer term. And we already know some of this to be true in our own lives – we feel better when we eat well, a regular sleep routine is encouraged for adults as well as children, and we’ve often heard about the importance of drinking water as well as regular exercise and movement in our life.
Think of it within a work context. The processes and checks we put in place within project management methodologies are there to ensure that outcomes and quality standards are achieved regularly in work. Getting relevant structures in place, having robust review processes, and a mechanism to respond to blockers are several of the key components in any good project, and have a direct and telling impact on the final outputs and outcomes.
All eight “controllables” listed are considerations that we have the ability to change and improve at our own pace. And that’s the central argument of Justin and his team of researchers: attaining consistent performance and improving our individual capabilities generally is much more about focusing on ourselves and making incremental improvements rather than trying to influence broader factors outside of our sphere of control.
To make changes, awareness or a deep understanding of our strengths and capabilities is essential, but so, too, is not trying to transform your entire work life in one sweeping overhaul. People who are perceived as ‘greats’ – be it in sport, business, leadership – tend to have an innate awareness of their ability, a motivation to forge ahead into new territory, while also being curious and eternal students. These traits, though, are frequently matched by discipline, consistency, and adaptability.
None of our elite athletes or respected business leaders are slouches that fell into their career path by accident – they’ve found an effective balance between capacity and the capability to deliver time and again. As Justin remarks on the 1% podcast, “the world of average is full of talent”. What separates average performers from those recognised as amongst the “greats” though is consistency as well as the ability to “level up” or push themselves forwards to achieve even more. As employers and recruiters, it’s also our responsibility to ensure we reward those that deliver consistently!