I’m a big fan of classifying and organizing abstract ideas to try and simplify them. One category I’d like to look at in this article are resources. Resources in our personal development are things that we have a discrete amount of. Unlike skills and attributes such as courage, self-discipline or confidence, resources are depleted when used. Resources can be gathered, spent and invested and careful management over these resources will be a huge influence on our own growth.
There are three major resources that I think are critical to your life and your own personal development. They are money, energy and time. Generally any investment you make in personal development will require the expenditure of one of these three resources. If you invest these resources properly, you can develop assets that can help you bring in more. If you invest them poorly, you may end up with liabilities that drain your resources.
Money is, in my opinion, the easiest of the three to manage although, arguably, the hardest to obtain. While there is an upper limit where having more money will not increase your personal growth, if invested properly, more money tends to afford more opportunities for growth. Unlike the other two resources, money has no upper limit. Where energy and time can only be controlled to a certain limit, money has near infinite potential.
Accumulating wealth is very different than gaining more of the other resources. Because in order to gain money, it has to come from another person. Whether this is from your employer, a customer or the shared profit of an investment, money can only be received from another person. Because, in the strictest sense, money can only be gained from another person, some people have argued that money is evil or inherently bad. This is ridiculous.
Money, like time and energy, is a resource. It is neutral. Since most wealth has to be gained by trading it for value, I would argue that the accumulation of wealth and money is generally good. Although some people can profit from scams or the suffering of others, ultimately I think it is far easier and far more ethical to gain money by actually helping others.
“Money can’t buy happiness.”
A lot of people use this phrase, as if that were an excuse for not taking control of this resource. These are the same people who will spend most of their time working at a meaningless job to earn the very money they say can’t buy happiness. After they’ve done that, they will avoid taking any risks that could lead to their happiness in order to protect the lifestyle they’ve created due to their money. Right…
Money is a resource, nothing more. Money can’t buy happiness, but then again, nothing can. The only thing that can assure happiness is growth, and that is completely independent of all of the things we are pursuing anyways. My favorite quote about putting money in its proper place is:
“Money makes a fantastic servant but a brutal master.”
Energy is the amount of effort we can put into a task. It is a combination of our enthusiasm, physical alertness and stamina, as well as our creative and cognitive abilities. Energy levels fluctuate based on our own biological rhythms and mastering our control over this resource can sometimes feel like trying to tame a raging bull.
Energy is arguably the most difficult resource to measure out of the three, and it is one of the hardest to view objectively. This resource is completely internal and is therefore greatly influenced by our own perceptions and emotions. We can measure time and money objectively, but because energy is so intricately linked to our own thoughts, it is often much more difficult to be objective.
The most important factor in our level of energies is motivation, enthusiasm and drive. Our emotions will dictate our level of energy at any moment of time. If you feel like you need to sit through a boring meeting, you’re going to feel drained regardless of how many miles you ran or whole grains you ate the night before. The start of any energy management system has to include methods to help manage your emotions.
Emotional management is a tricky business and it takes a lot of practice to get better at it. I myself am constantly practicing my ability to control my own emotions and I am far from perfect. Techniques for improving your emotional mastery can be learned from a variety of fields including NLP. I outlined one procedure I use which involves pretending to change emotions here.
Physical health plays a huge role in your level of energies. My thoughts on the formula for physical energy would be: Current Emotional State * Physical Health = Personal Energy. An athlete that is depressed won’t have much energy and even incredible enthusiasm won’t compensate for the fact you are horribly out of shape.
Exercising consistently can give you big boosts in your overall levels of energy (not to mention your general self-confidence). I recommend exercising every day so that it becomes a constant habit. While some people can manage exercising with rest periods in between, I find it easier to break the habit when I am not reinforcing it constantly. Pursuing a combination of aerobic, anaerobic (e.g. weight lifting) and flexibility training can go a long way to improving your own energy levels.
Eating right and having an appropriate diet is another great way to harness energy. Debating the minutia of what to eat or not to eat is worthless if you aren’t generally healthy. Worrying about whether you are getting enough of mineral xyz while you are eating fast food is not your biggest concern.
Your body is a temple. It is the vessel of your consciousness and you need to treat it as such. Whenever you are about to ingest something, ask yourself, “Would I put this in a temple?” People already know what is healthy and what they should be eating. Eating junk is showing disrespect to yourself and it is not doing you any good in terms of your overall energy levels and health.
I have personally adopted a strict vegetarian diet which means I don’t eat any animal products. While most people who pursue this out of an ethical ideal, health was the motivating force for myself. When I read the extensive research showing the effects that eating the amount of protein and fat in a typical American diet was doing to our bodies, I gave it up entirely. I suggest you research and experiment with your own diets. Understanding which foods give you the most stable levels of consistent energy, can go a long way into improving it.
Sleep is another huge factor in energy levels. Many over stressed and busy people start cutting into their sleeping time in order to get more things done. This can be incredibly dangerous if we aren’t careful. Being well rested and having tons of energy is more important then getting an extra two hours in the day. I’d rather have my 16 hours of energized and productive waking time than a sluggish 18-20.
Although some personal development masters like Steve Pavlina have been able to pull off bizarre sleeping rituals such as polyphasic sleeping in order to increase their waking hours, this is both highly unusual and forms an exception to the rule. If you can condition your body to have the same amount of energy with one of these bizarre sleeping patterns, go ahead, but for 99.99% of the population, cutting sleep simply cuts energy. Period.
Energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. Since digestion uses so much energy in the body, after dinner and lunch are usually not the best times to be expecting peak energy levels. Finding your own patterns of energy and exploiting that to get the maximum productivity is also important. Sensitize yourself to your own rhythms of energy.
If you know that you have optimal energies at 11:00 AM, then schedule your most taxing work then. Scheduling to your own natural rhythms can be an easy way to increase your productivity.
We only perceive time to be a resource, as it is actually a constant. We each get twenty four hours in each day. We can’t get more or less. Time is a resource that we can only spend effectively, never increase. I wrote about this here.
I think time management, or productivity, really breaks down into three major ideas: determining what is important, doing it now and organizing. Most time management books focus on one of these three things.
Determining What is Important
This is the first step of effectively using time. In order to do things properly we need to focus our attention on what will provide the most value or importance at any given time. Figuring out what really matters ultimately saves more time, energy and money than anything else. I wrote extensively about this in this article.
Do It Now!
Once you’ve decided on what is important then you need to do it now. This brainless step is critical in time management. If you’ve got twenty things on your to do list, surfing the internet is not effectively managing your time. Unfortunately this is the step most people neglect. It is relatively easy to decide what is important compared to actually doing that and doing it now.
Dave Allen’s famous Getting Things Done, is really all about this step. Organizing all of the things you need to spend time on allows you to be far more efficient in doing them. Using lists, calendars, planners, and general systems to store everything means less wasted time. Automating your routine actions so that they happen in the most efficient way possible avoids wasting time.
This is really the last step in time management, however. Organization is only useful once you’ve already decided what is important and will do it now. This process only optimizes what you already have. It won’t matter how fast you are doing the wrong thing. Careful organization can sometimes free up more time to devote to the first steps, but I think this ultimately a very backwards approach to time management.
Measurement is a critical aspect in all of these resources. Measuring and planning your usage of money, energy and time is critical that they get spent correctly. Keep records of these three resources on file so you can track changes and help improvement. The old adage that says whatever is measured, improves, is very true here.
Money, energy and time are actually very similar in how they are managed, improved and controlled. Many of the tips I gave for managing one could apply equally to the other two. Keeping careful and precise control over these three elements is going to make a huge difference in your own personal development. Neglecting any one of these three elements will also cause major problems.
I challenge you to think about how you could improve any of these three resources today. If you are still new to the process of personal development, chances are there are many obvious opportunities for you to improve. If you aren’t sure where to start, go to your library and read some books on these subjects to see how you can improve them.
Manage your resources and get the most out of your life!