Previously I had written an entry about the topic of energy management. Apparently this subject isn’t just a personal interest, because the post turned into one of my most popular entries. With all the time-management/GTD hype circulating around it is interesting to see a completely different strategy for peak effectiveness. I believe energy management trancends simple productivity and performance but impacts the very quality of our life. The amount of enthusiasm, happiness and joy we experience is often in direct proportion to our ability to effectively manage our energy.
To help you get more information about energy management I did an interview with Emily Schwartz. Daughter of Tony Schwartz, author of the best-selling book The Power of Full Engagement, Emily now works at The Energy Project, a company Tony founded to help organizations unleash their peak potential through energy management. Here is that interview:
Scott: Tell us a little about yourself and your background in energy
management and your work with The Energy Project.
Emily: I have been exposed to the area of personal growth and development since I was old enough to talk. I remember hearing about making waves when I was six years old and my dad was writing an article about Irv Dardik, a physician who promoted the idea that we need to make waves of energy expenditure and energy recovery. My dad and I used to do sprints around the house after my softball practices. At eight, I asked my parents why we talked so much about feelings in our family. I never heard mention of the unconscious and the shadow when I went over to my friends’ houses for dinner. Still, I was always proud of my knowledge in this area and the feeling that I really knew myself well, and in turn was able to understand others. Only recently, however, have I been really convinced that the idea of effective energy management is truly life changing.
Scott: You have mentioned previously that you believe energy management is the most fundamental aspect of personal growth. Could you explain why you believe this to be true?
Emily: I believe effective energy management to be the cornerstone of any attempt at personal growth. In physics, energy is merely the capacity to do work. Without the proper quantity, quality, and focus of our energy, not only are we unsuccessful in our lives, but also any attempt at personal development would be ineffective. Nothing is more fundamental to human life than effectively spending and recovering energy.
Scott: Energy management clearly has implications beyond our working lives. How do you feel successful energy management can influence our personal lives and quality of life?
In truth, people all have ways that to manage their energy, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to get through the day. For many of us it is multiple cups of coffee, maybe a chocolate bar in the middle of the day to give us a little boost. We conserve our energy without even realizing it, so that we have enough to get us through our days. However, this means that we often don’t have enough energy left to fully engage at home after a hard day at work. By managing our energy more efficiently, we not only feel more productive at work, but we have energy remaining when we come home at the end of the day to connect with our family and friends. This has implications for our relationships, our personal happiness, and our long-term health.
Scott: In “The Power of Full Engagement” a lot of emphasis is given to creating ‘positive rituals’ in order to successfully increase and improve our management of energy. For someone who is new to energy management, what types of habits or rituals would you suggest for him or her to create?
Rituals are highly personal, and must target what we feel are the major barriers to effectively managing our own energy. For example, if overeating is reducing your energy, eat five to six small meals day, three at 150 calories or less. If you feel like you are not getting enough recovery throughout the day, schedule a time when you will take a break and decide what activity would give you the most renewal. This could be taking a walk, listening to music, or just sitting quietly and taking a few deep breaths. If lack of exercise is reducing your energy, establish a workout routine at least three days a week at a very specific time. These are examples of rituals in the physical dimension, which is the foundation for all other forms of energy—emotional, mental, and the human spirit. Without the right quantity of energy, all of the other dimensions are affected.
Scott: Are there any myths or incorrect assumptions prevalent in our society that go against the principles of effective energy management?
The underlying mantra in our society is work, work, work. We are praised for working long hours without breaks, for staying connected to the office at all times, and for being able to do three things at one time. In truth, this only undermines our effectiveness. Working straight through without a break means that our capacity and efficiency begin to diminish. Staying connected to work at all times means that we are not fully engaged at home or with friends. Even at the office, checking email constantly means that we are never able to fully focus on our work. By splitting our attention between many things at once, no one activity ever gets all of our energy. If, instead, we spent a certain amount of time each day fully engaged in each activity – and build in periods of recovery in between — we would be able to get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality.
Scott: Energy management has been described as being multi-dimensional, could you give us your thoughts on this?
Energy is multi-dimensional in that it has four key components, the physical, the emotional, the mental, and the human spirit. I have focused so far mostly on the physical, since that is the foundation of the four sources of energy. However, it is impossible to be fully engaged and to perform at our best without cultivating all four dimensions. The emotional dimension focuses on the quality of our energy. Negative energy is draining and ineffective, in addition to having a negative impact on everyone around us. As a result, managing our emotions becomes an integral part in energy management. The mental dimension deals with the focus of our energy. This refers to direct our energy where it needs to go and to be fully absorbed in the tasks at hand. Finally, the energy of the human spirit refers to the significance of our energy, or the values that drive us in our lives. The human spirit is the reservoir from which we derive our passion, drive, and motivation, and without it, everything we do is meaningless. As a result, we cannot achieve any long-term personal change without connecting to our most deeply held values.
Scott: Particularly in North America, obesity and health issues have become an increasing problem for many people. How do you feel the impact of the typical Westerner’s lifestyle has on our energy levels and our ability to operate effectively? Furthermore, what are your thoughts on how we, as individuals, can work against many of the influences of our culture and use our energy levels to the fullest?
For adults and children alike, it seems that weight gain and health problems are becoming increasingly serious issues around the country, as a result of larger portion sizes and less physical activity. We cannot change the portion sizes in restaurants, but we can change the amount that we eat. When we eat too much, our bodies become sluggish and our energy decreases. One of the most important aspects of effective energy management is eating the right amount for your body. You should try never to feel hungry and never to feel stuffed, but to always feel satiated. Exercise is another fundamental facet of maintaining proper energy levels. Exercise not only increases energy in the short term, it also promotes long-term health, helps to regulate sleep patterns, and reduces stress.
Scott: Energy management is a very interesting subject, even though it has received fairly little publicity. Where can we learn more about this subject to help integrate energy management principles into our lives?
Definitely read my Dad’s book – “The Power of Full Engagement!”
Thanks for conducting this interview, I’m sure that the readers here have benefitted from your thoughts on energy management, Emily.
For those interested you can see Tony and Emily’s work at www.TheEnergyProject.com and you can purchase Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr’s book The Power of Full Engagement here.