Managing Energy to Manage Time

Did you know that the higher your energy, the better your ability to manage your time? It’s true. Since there are no limits on our energy, we can use our energy within available time to produce more. The trick is in understanding our individual limitations on available energy. Let me explain.

Each of us reacts to both emotional and physical stimuli differently. Some things energize us, where other things de-energize. For example, my energy soars when I identify the cause of a problem that inhibits efficiency. Then I get really creative in identifying solutions. On the flip side, my energy depletes when I work on mundane and repetitive tasks. Others might find the opposite effect.

When your energy soars, it’s like your battery recharges—a sudden burst of energy makes you feel more alive, more capable, and certainly better able to cope with whatever is thrown your way. The interesting thing about this “recharged” feeling is that it enables you to do more in less time. And the way we can sustain this feeling is by taking care of ourselves to ensure that our energy levels are at their optimum.

Here’s how to recharge and sustain energy levels for maximum productivity.

  1. Exercise regularly. Every day, schedule time for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise. Go for a walk, run, lift weights, do whatever is necessary to wake up your body.
  2. Determine your personal energy cycle. For three days, keep a log of your energy levels. For every hour (from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed), rate your energy level from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Review your log at the end of three days and identify your peak energy levels.
  3. Use your peak energy levels to work on the most important, most challenging, and most focused work. When we do this, our productivity increases dramatically.
  4. Create your ideal day. Use your peak energy levels to work on long-range and interim goals, choosing tasks that will achieve your goals. Schedule and work on low-energy tasks during your non-peak energy times.
  5. Manage yourself every day to achieve both your career and personal goals. There is no magic and no quick solution for this. You will get out of your day what you put into your day.

In addition to the above, make time for fun activities that will boost your energy. How about lunch with your BFF? Or playing a game of Scrabble or Words with Friends? Or maybe a coffee with your boss to discuss your career strategy is the perfect energizer?

Whatever you do, use your energy wisely and boost it when you can. When you do, your mood will be lighter and you will get everything done more effectively and efficiently. In fact, it will feel as if you have more hours in your day. That’s the result of managing ourselves to boost our energy.

Motivating for Change

Conventional organizational change usually fails. That’s because you and your employees look at things differently.

In traditional organizations, employers expect employees to do what they are told (i.e., their jobs for which they are paid). Some leaders still believe that the way to motivate people to change is to tell them, or persuade them. This stems from an early age of having expectations imposed on us—first by our parents and teachers and later, by our employers.

But times have changed.

Organizations are now judged on how well they meet corporate responsibility, fair trade, sustainability, and triple bottom line (profit, people, and planet). And the judging is coming from all levels—customers, employees, and the public at large.

Because people have this new perspective on their world, imposing change on people will not work. Here’s why:

  • Individual needs are not the same as those of the organization.
  • Individuals lead busy lives (even outside of work), so they are not able or willing to assimilate change just because the organization says so.

Given these new paradigms, organizations that implement successful change are those that are able to align their aims with the total life needs of their employees—that’s why addressing WII-FM (“what’s in it for me?”) is so important. Leaders that know how to tap into each individual’s WII-FM will not only build an urgency and momentum for the change, but they will also make change stick.

To help you with your change initiative, consider these facts:

  1. People will never align with bad aims. Reassess and realign your organization’s vision and mission to ensure that it meets corporate responsibility, aims for sustainability of the environment, favours fair trade, and is opposed to exploitation and executive greed, to name a few.
  2. People cannot multi-task or learn new skills without some job realignment. Several things need to be considered, not the least of which are individual capacities for change (“absorptive capacity”). Consulting with employees to learn how they think change will impact their jobs helps to see change from both perspectives.
  3.  Ignoring the above facts is a sure guarantee of failed change initiatives.

Consider also that at least 75 percent of the organization’s leadership must buy-in to the change if it is to be successful. What this means for the organization’s change leader is that they must provide compelling evidence of the change to leaders first and staff second.

When at least 75 percent of the organization’s leadership supports the change, selling the change to staff becomes much easier. Then the potential for change to stick becomes a reality, rather than a hope…and as one of my friends astutely noted – “hope is never a strategy.”

Peak Performers: Not Always Good for Business

Are you a peak performer? According to organizational psychology, the five fundamental peak performance proficiencies are:

  • Awareness of self in all domains
  • Control of effort
  • Visualization
  • Cognitive skills
  • Self-programming

These proficiencies are common to all top achievers. However, a top achiever on a team when all other members are not top achievers may be counterproductive. Why? When one team member is working harder (or less hard) than other members, workflow is hindered. In their book, Learning to See, Mike Rother and John Shook illustrate this concept.

In this graphic, you can see that individual process steps, if not optimized to the system, can create an inefficient system. A system’s parts (or team members), if synchronized, enable the system to run smoothly. This means that no one piece of the system is running faster or slower than it should. What this means for service or manufacturing settings is that workflow needs to be balanced among all individuals if the organization is to function efficiently.

There is a prevalence of advice on managing underperforming employees, but an equivalent amount of literature is not available for managing over-performers. Perhaps this is because over-performance is not seen as a problem. But it can be a problem on teams, especially in a manufacturing setting, but it can also affect service.

I am not espousing that everyone should be an underperformer—far from it! But organizations can benefit if they ensure that their systems are free of waste (especially travel and motion waste), so that their employees can be as efficient as possible. By eliminating waste and creating flow, underperformers and over-performers can work together more productively, creating efficient workflow.

Performance psychology teaches us that workers want to succeed in an organization. By extension, these same workers want the organization to succeed. What is not clear is what motivates workers to want this success.

Regardless, organizations need to remember that their front-line workers are often the face (or voice) of the organization’s brand to the customer. Organizations that provide their workers with tools and systems that enable efficiency will help their workers want to continue to succeed. It’s that simple.

The Problem with Collaboration

Why would anyone think that collaboration is a problem? After all, aren’t we all supposed to be playing nice in the sandbox? Maybe; but what most people don’t realize is that overuse of collaboration (“over-consultation”) can lead to underperformance and low productivity.

Studies show that extraverts especially tend to over-consult because they draw their energy from others—unlike introverts who draw their energy from within. Extraverts want to talk through their thoughts with whoever will listen; whereas, introverts need some alone time to work on that next big innovation.

Jake Breeden, author of Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues, says that “extraverts can become workplace vampires who suck the productivity out of their coworkers.” Having a team comprised mostly of extraverts is a danger signal for low productivity. Now imagine having an extravert for a boss (or bosses).

While collaboration can be good in some instances where consensus on decisions truly is valuable, it can also lead to decisions taking much longer because of the need for everyone to “weigh in,” even if they have nothing to contribute. In fact, people who prefer to work in isolation see collaboration as totally non-productive—participating in a collaborative exercise can be physically uncomfortable and devalues their time.

According to author Susan Cain, this “New Groupthink” called collaboration is permeating organizations. She says that offices are now comprised of people who work in teams, there are no walls in offices, and managers prize people skills above all. She says that “Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.”

But the problem of collaboration, besides its contribution to lowered productivity, is its role in stifling creativity.

Those lone geniuses that are about to discover the newest innovation can be continuously shutdown by those that need to discuss everything.

How does one undertake collaboration productively? Breeden suggests the following:

  • Collaborate only with intention, clear boundaries, and expectations
  • Understand individual responsibilities
  • Leave plenty of time for unplugged, independent thought

Following the above guidelines, collaborators will inspire each other to be creative and, ultimately, more productive. And that is the desired effect.