It’s About Time AND Energy

(As I spend August in my writing cave with my next book, I asked FSG biz manager, Linda Cannilla, to pick some of her favorite posts from our blog archives.  This classic was originally published on FastCompany in November, 2007.  I agree with her that this is important info that can’t be repeated too often.  What do you think?)

My colleague’s been having a tough time. A number of relatives recently died, and she had a minor health scare. The other day she said,

“I’m getting a personal experience of how work and life is about time and energy. On paper, I still have the same number of hours I always did to get things done, but I just don’t have the energy. And I need to find a new “fit” that deals with all of these energy-draining circumstances, or I am going to hit the wall.”

Time and energy. Time management tools will only get you so far in finding a better “fit”or balance if you don’t include the critical component of energy. And yet we don’t hear anything about it. Adding energy to the equation is so important that when I wrote my book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You, five years ago I devoted an entire chapter to the concept. You’d think by now our culture would have caught on, but I’m beginning to see signs that might change.

Other work+life experts are incorporating energy ( into their process. Another sign of change is the bold front-and-center headline “Are You Heading for an Energy Crisis?” on the cover of last month’s Harvard Business Review (October, 2007), for Tony Schwartz’s “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” article.

What does it mean to manage your energy? In a competitive, 24/7, high tech, global work reality it isn’t enough to clock your hours. You need an intuitive understanding of the sources of energy in your life, and the uses of energy.

Just as the personal and professional demands on your time are going to change throughout your life, so are the demands on your energy. The good news is, however, unlike time which is a finite resource, energy is renewable. But you need to be aware of when energy is being depleted to order to implement strategies to maintain and increase it. If it’s not part of your awareness, you will be continually frustrated when your detailed work+life fit time analysis keeps coming up short.

Schwartz’s process and my book include many of the same energy strategies—meditation, exercise, eating well, taking planned breaks from work, being with friends and family, and pursuing avocations. But our time-focused culture hasn’t figured out that the time spent on these activities is not a net loss. Quite the contrary, when the energy gain is included in the calculation, the time and energy increase is an invaluable positive net return.

So challenge the conventional wisdom that time is the only factor in managing your fit. Experiment with investing some of that precious time in energy enhancing activities (which by the way don’t actually require that much time), and begin to benefit from the positive net time and energy return.

Do you have a time and energy management strategy you’d like to share?