Steve Wanner is a highly respected 37-year-old partner at Ernst & Young, married with four young children.
When Wanner started working with “The Energy Project,” a consulting company focused on sustainable performance, he was working 12- to 14-hour days. Wanner was overweight, perpetually exhausted, and felt guilty about his family life. He was distracted, slept poorly, and made no time to exercise. Like many professionals, daily demands were pushing him to the limit.
Time is a limited resource, and often people recognize that better time management could make a huge difference. Many leaders think they can excel by working harder or being more organized, but simply working harder almost always leads to anxiety and a difficulty disconnecting at night.
A Better Way
Proponents of energy management say there is a better way.
Energy management is a science and an art. Most people understand the science: if you exercise, eat, and sleep well, you’re likely to create more energy. But energy management is also an art. What energizes one person may not energize another. Conversely, what sucks the life out of someone might be a motivator for another.
While time is unrenewable, energy is not. When we are more energized we are more creative, efficient, and powerful. That’s why it is imperative to practice strategic energy management.
How to Conduct an “Energy Audit”
As you conduct an “energy audit” on your life, here are two questions to consider:
- What drains me? (What am I “bad at” or miserable doing? What sucks large amounts of energy and leaves me feeling lifeless?)
- What sustains me? (What am I good at or fills me with pleasure, adrenaline, or a can-do spirit?)
With this perspective, evaluate your schedule in three ways:
1. Rate your daily tasks
As you list regular responsibilities and decisions, assign negative number values (-1 or -2) to things that drain you, and positive values (+1 or +2) to things that motivate you.
2. Delegate, automate, and designate
When possible, delegate or automate things that consume energy, and designate more time for things that give you energy.
Schedule your days so that energy-draining tasks are followed by mini “resets,” or by tasks that you enjoy. Pay attention to the times of the day or week that you have the least energy, and plan positive value tasks (+1 or +2) for those time periods.
3. Address energy-depleting habits in your professional and personal life
Whether it is a lack of sleep, eating at your desk, or not enough solitude, ask yourself where “joy suckers” could be changed into solutions.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, gives several examples of options for proactive energy management:
- Sitting down to eat breakfast
- Leaving your desk for 5-10 minutes every 90 minutes
- Checking e-mail only twice a day
- Prioritizing energy-draining tasks early in the day, or working on them in a different physical space than your normal office
- Taking deep abdominal breaths in stressful moments
- Recruiting a gifted team member for tasks you find mentally exhausting
- Requesting to do more of what you’re “good” at
- Writing gratitude notes to others once a week
- Disconnecting from work calls 15 minutes before reaching your driveway
- Putting a hobby that you love on your calendar
Unlock Potential and Create Lasting Change
After Steve Wanner took a hard look at his habits, he began drinking less, going to bed earlier, taking short afternoon walks, and leaving his desk frequently. Wanner lost 15 pounds and says he feels more relaxed and connected to his family.
By creating and managing your energy budget, you will be better equipped to create change, make a difference and get results. Give it a try!