Randy Dean's Timely Tips

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Timely Tips September 2009: Energy Management vs. Time Management

Your Energy vs. Your Time

Have you ever read something that the minute you read it, you knew it was going to change your life (and hopefully for the better)? I had that kind of "A Ha!" last month, when my good friend and former colleague at Procter & Gamble, Steve Whayne, forwarded this amazing article to me.

It is all about a new breed of senior executive consultants that basically cater to C-level execs in some of the biggest and most powerful organizations in the world. What do they consult? On how to maximize your productivity within your existing personal energy. So, rather than focusing on time management, they instead focus on energy management. Now, I'm not ending my belief in the merits of classic time management and the related use of technology -- it is OF COURSE a critical staple of a successful professional career (and equally often, a successful personal life.)

But there is also definitely something to energy management too. I see them as sort of a "yin" and "yang", and it reminds me of some of the topics we studied back in my Fetzer Institute days in my early 20's. In essence, these consultants are advising to become much more in tune with your natural daily and yearly energy cycles. They want you to identify when you do your best thinking, when you have your maximum physical energy, when you are most creative, when you are most "social". They also want you to identify your likely "ebb zones" -- periods during the day when you maybe aren't at 100% capacity in any or all of these same areas.

By being in tune with these natural rythyms, you can likely take better advantage of the times when you are naturally "on" and also be kinder to yourself when you are naturally "off". Now, when I read this, what did I do?

I did a classic MBA (Must Be Anal) exercise: I mapped my daily energy. And what did I find?

1. I'm pretty worthless in the early morning. That is a good time for brain dead activities (simple bookkeeping, travel planning, travel itself, picking up the house/office, getting organized/prioritized, following my e-mail "decision tree".)

2. By mid-morning, I'm in a VERY productive mental zone -- a good time to attack a big project/get something moving.

3. I like to take lunch later -- I don't really get hungry until 1:30 or so, so it behooves me to keep working through "traditional lunch" and take a later lunch if possible, and take advantage of my maximum thinking/doing capabilities.

4. I hit my maximum physical energy early in the afternoon. If I can possibly swing it, 2:30 is a GREAT time for a killer workout/hike/game (thus my propensity to take advantage of these times when I'm out on the road.)

5. I have another block of good mental energy late afternoon/before dinner. This is also a good time for social activities & networking (as well as hanging out with the kids) -- I'm really ready (and even wanting) interactions with people then.

6. I hit an energy "lull" right after dinner, that usually sticks around for an hour or two. Sometimes, I get so tired mentally & physically, I even crave a nap. This isn't good, because this also corresponds with our nighttime routine to get the kids ready for school the next day and to bed. Acknowledging this natural mental and physical "energy cliff" has helped me to realize I need to eat a light dinner -- low carb & fat, high protein, to help me not fall as far off that cliff. I also really need to avoid simple sugars and too much caffeine in the early afternoon, or it is worse.

7. I have a "second wind" after about 9 p.m. Some nights, I've got enough energy for a good workout. Other nights, this is a very productive time for creative efforts, and also social networking (real and online). The brain is always on, and the body is sometimes on. (Only problem -- I have to be careful to not let the "lights stay on" so late that I don't get to bed on time -- that causes big problems the following day. I'm now following a related nighttime "shut down" routine.)

How can I use this?

This should be pretty obvious. If I know when I have my best physical and mental energies, I can better take advantage of them. I can also avoid "beating myself up" by trying to force things in time slots that really should be avoided. I'm also fully acknowledging I'm NOT a morning person -- I can be functional, but I will not be optimal -- I'm "optimal" in the afternoon/early evening. So, I'm not going to beat myself up anymore for not getting up at 6:00 a.m. for my 2 hour workout before taking the kids to school -- it just isn't me!

My recommendation for you?

Do my "Must Be Anal" exercise -- watch your energy levels for the next few days in the "thinking, physical, creative, & social" arenas, and learn to better take advantage of your "on" zones, as well as mitigate/plan for your "off" zones. And if you can bridge this over to your projects/plans/time management efforts, I think you could possibly see a huge jump in your total overall productivity (and sanity!) Marry your time management with your energy management, and you might find some entirely new possibilities with your work and life!

PLEASE send me some comments on this Timely Tips -- I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I find this topic TRULY fascinating.

Off to the Races!

Watch for me in Pittsburgh, Toronto, Traverse City, Dearborn, Chicago, San Francisco, Mt. Pleasant, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Columbus, and Grand Rapids in coming weeks. Send me a note if you'd like to grab a coffee while I'm there. (I love this time of year!)

Until we talk again, Stay Timely!


Randy Dean


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