Everything you do – every task you perform, every problem you solve, every interaction you have – takes energy. On any given day you have a finite amount of energy. In Part 1 we looked at how you can create more energy every day. Now that you have created all that essential energy, let’s look at how you can get the most from it. Here are 4 simple steps you can take to maximize your “Return on Energy”:
1) Start by Prioritizing
Reviewing your 3-page task list is not really helpful. Make sure that every morning you know what your top 3 priorities are for the day – the things that have to get done – and make sure that you schedule time to knock those off first. You’ll be amazed at how much more effective you’ll be if you do that before getting mired in the quicksand of your email or voice-mail inbox.
For even better results, identify those priorities the night to allow your creative subconscious to do a bit of advance work while you are getting your beauty rest.
(To create a quick prioritized list, try our new Priortizer tool!)
2) Work in Sprints, Not Marathons
Your body has a natural rhythm that governs your energy and focus. If you fight against it, you will waste a lot of your precious daily energy. On the other hand, if you learn to recognize it and flow with it, not only will you be more energized, focused, and productive, but you will also see a boost in your creativity, health, and overall wellbeing.
This “ultradian” (many times per day) rhythm runs in cycles of approximately 1.5-2 hours. It is the same natural rhythm that governs your REM sleep at night.
To ride this energy wave you want to work in focused sprints of 1.5-2 hours and then take a re-energizing break. This will activate your body’s pleasure response and motivate you to repeat the cycle. If you work past the 2-hour point, your energy and mental focus wear down. You will be much more susceptible to distractions, and you will see steadily diminishing returns – and steadily increasing mistakes.
During those 1.5-2 hour sprints, it is important that you focus on one thing at a time. I will go into this more next week, but it is the difference between being a lamp and a laser. A lamp spreads its relatively weak light in all directions, but when you focus that energy coherently in one direction, on one point (or task in this case), things start smoking!
4) Identify and Avoid Energy Drains
What robs you of energy? Think about the people, the tasks, the habits, and the negative thoughts that needlessly consume your energy. Look at how you can minimize those drains.
If some people exhaust you, minimize your contact if possible. If certain tasks are exceptionally taxing (preparing tax returns comes to mind for some reason), pay someone else to do them. If certain habits are dragging you down, get rid of them.
Your mind-body is an exquisite machine. As we learn more and more about how it works, we better understand how to use it more effectively and push our performance limits. Please let me know how these tips work for you and what others you have found to be effective!