The traditional concept of time management focuses on the practice of ardently planning and mastering conscious control over the time allocated to specific tasks. It sure sounds hard, described that way, doesn't it? In real life—especially business settings—time management requires tools, skills and processes all laced together by the ultimate goal of increasing efficiency and productivity. Frankly, time management takes a lot of time.
But what if increasing productivity was much simpler than that? What if instead of involving project management software, schedules, graphs and apps, the process required a decent pair of walking shoes and a fluffy pillow?
Master your energy
Based on the assertions of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their bestseller, "The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal," our most precious resource is energy, not time. Certainly making the best use of your time is critical to your success but, if your energy levels are depleted, your productivity takes a dive regardless of what the clock reads.
Of course, managing your energy in a world abuzz with communication gizmos is no easy task. Energy replenishment takes effort. Think about it: how many times during your workweek lunch breaks—an hour that should be devoted to refueling and recharging—have you allowed the chatter of texts and emails to further drain your energy?
Build your energy on 4 strong pillars
According to the ideas in "The Power of Full Engagement" as well as those on Tony Schwartz's blog, "The Energy Project," physical energy is the foundation to our overall efficiency. While emotional, mental and spiritual energy are also critical components of high performance, when our physical bucket is empty, all heck breaks loose. By incorporating these four key pillars of physical fulfillment into your typical day, you can elevate your energy levels and in turn, take a major step toward positive productivity.
1. Nutrition: Eat small, high-protein, low-carbohydrate meals throughout the day. You've likely heard this before but eating mini meals throughout the day is a simple way to sustain your energy. For busy professionals who spend long days at the office, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends keeping single-serve packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter, low-sodium soup or canned tuna in your desk. Tuck snacks in your travel bag for a quick refueling between meetings (I always have a couple of Kind bars stashed in my backpack). If remembering to eat at the right times is a challenge for you, download an app such as the Temple Hydration, Food, Fitness and More iPhone app (TheTempleApp.com), which comes with customizable reminders that kick in when it has been too long since you last ate.
2. Fitness: Make regular exercise a habit. According to the MayoClinic, regular exercise not only controls weight and helps you avoid a slew of health conditions and diseases, it improves your mood and boosts energy levels. If hitting the gym is not your style, buy a pedometer and record the number of steps you take every day. The Energy Project blog recommends shooting for 10,000 steps per day. (By the way: I love my pedometer — I have a new one that is fantastic and will be reviewing it next week)
3. Sleep: Get an average of 8 hours of sleep every night. To aid in developing a sleep-conducive cycle, the National Sleep Foundation suggests sticking to a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends. They also recommend creating an environment that is cool, quiet, comfortable and dark. If light is spoiling your sleep space, invest in room darkening or blackout cellular shades to block out the light. Finally, keep the gadgets out of the bedroom as much as possible. Computers, tablets and cell phones distract you from the task at hand: a good night's sleep.
4. Renewal: Plan regular vacations, social outings and personal time. Whether it's a massage, Frisbee golf with the guys or a week-long camping trip, detaching from the daily grind altogether for substantial pockets of time is key to replenishing your physical and mental energy. In the "The Power of Full Engagement," the authors redefine the old paradigm of "downtime is wasted time" to "downtime is productive time." Use your downtime wisely by doing something fun.
Bottom line, don't throw away your precious time management tools and apps just yet. But do make your physical well-being a top priority and start to take note of how your energy levels impact your focus and productivity. It's worth the time.
Got any tips that work for you? I'd love to hear them.