Many managers and employees keep track of hours expended on the job as a guide to productivity and engagement. Hours expended rather than tasks done, or quality of tasks, become major metrics in business operations.
Many observers believe, however, that managing energy is a better alternative. There are several reasons for this.
First, clocking hours can become too much of a goal in and of itself. Hours expended do not necessary equate to productivity or quality.
Second, hours are finite. There are only 24 in every day. Energy, on the other hand, is elastic. It can be increased or decreased.
Third, clocking hours can burn people out. It’s a bit like running full throttle in a marathon, all the time. Marathon running needs to be paced. Energy can be the means of pacing a business.
Managing energy can be a leadership skill. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy note that a Wachovia Bank team became more productive when introduced to specific energy management techniques than a control group that had not been introduced to them.
The “energy management” group generated significantly more loan revenues and deposit revenues, key metrics for the bank.
Schwartz breaks down energy management into four components:
Energy management of the body primarily centers around making sure your body is getting enough of the right kinds of fuel: sleep, healthy food, and exercise.
Energy management of the emotions involves taking a positive approach. If you are telling are engaged in a narrative of defeat and failure, examine it to see what’s positive. Effort? Courage? Knowledge and experience? Appreciate your colleagues and engage with them.
Energy management of the mind centers honing your concentration. Often, reducing computer and smart-device generated distraction can help renew energy enormously. Many managers find it helpful not to spend time with e-mail or with digital work, but to step away from it to focus energy on sustained tasks. Answer e-mail just twice a day, at set intervals.
Energy management of the spirit means spending some time on the spirit. Many people find it helpful to turn off work entirely. Focus on meaningful personal activity, family, or out-of-work events.
On and Off
Many managers find it helpful to plan and schedule energy management, just as they would any other form of management.
If you haven’t been focusing on meaningful personal or family activities, for example, you might feel at a loss. They’ve been minimized in your life. It may take some time to maximize them. Brainstorm a list of important activities and prioritize them.
It’s also helpful to work with an on-and-off cycle in mind. Energy is not a continuous high wave. It occurs in peaks and valleys. Relaxation and replenishment are essential for returning to work with renewed energy. Build that idea into your life rather than aiming to override it.