There are literally countless books covering the topic of time management. How can we get more out of each day; be more productive, achieve life balance, maintain health, etc.
However, I personally believe the answer is not an organizational or even philosophical shift in how you attack each day. I believe it all starts with energy management. None of the other requirements of life are truly possible without the proper energy needed to complete them.
I was originally introduced to this approach several years ago in the excellent book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz entitled The Power of Full Engagement. One of the core concepts in the book is that each day we are tasked with demands. These demands can be broken down into emotional, mental, spiritual and physical.
Not too surprisingly, physical energy is the foundation needed to properly fuel all the others. Without physical energy, we are compromised from the start.
Without getting too deep into the physiology and thermodynamics of how human create energy, few of us will argue that young people, say the twenty-somethings, as a general rule, have more energy than someone in their fifties and sixties. There are actual reasons for this on the cellular level. Our ability to create energy from the fuel we take in daily decreases as we age.
However, each of us can create a massive impact on this trend through our lifestyle and nutrition.
In my view as a trainer and ‘fitness guy’, I see people who tend to compartmentalize certain aspects of their lives. They fail to make the connection between physical activity, nutrition, sleep, mood and emotions, mental focus and general outlook. The mind and body are one. How you treat your body has a direct impact or consequence upon all these other traits.
Here are two examples, one more obvious than the other:
Let’s say I have a Sunday birthday celebration. Perhaps my own 50th birthday. Friends are present; it’s a great party that lasts well into the evening. Normally, I go to sleep on Sunday evening at 9:30 or so to make sure I am well rested for the week. However, on this day, I do not get to sleep until 11:30 or midnight and had a bit too much alcohol. Monday morning comes along anyway. I still have meetings planned and projects to complete. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see that I may not be at my peak of performance during these tasks, because I disrupted my normal physical energy which subsequently impacted my focus, patience and mood for the following day. All because I failed to fuel the fire properly.
Using another example, I can create the same negative impact on my day by a combination of the following: I missed my regular Sunday workout so, ate birthday cake when I normally avoid sweets. The late night sugary meal interrupts my sleep. I experience a drop in blood sugar in the middle of the night as a result of the cake which wakes me up in the middle of the night. I need to go to the bathroom and maybe grab a glass of water. I try to go back to sleep, but I find myself thinking about tomorrow’s big meeting and the related deadline. This drifts into random money or other stress-related thoughts. The more I lay awake, the more stressed I become about not sleeping. Counterintuitively, not using energy diminishes its availability just as much as using improper fuel. The result the next day is the same, moodiness, lack of focus and poor performance.
All of us want to function in that zone. The one where everything goes right; those days when you always seem to have the right answer; your creativity is flowing and you are just ‘on’.
Those days do not happen by accident. If you are carefully managing your energy, you can experience many more of those days. Here is a great summary of how we can see our days through the concept of energy levels. Each of us can identify with these states.
How can you create more energy on a day-to-day basis?
1) Change your sleep patterns to be more consistent. The goal needs to be a minimum of 7 hours.
2) Minimize processed carbs throughout the day, especially at night and get off the insulin roller coaster.
3) Exercise every day. Aerobic activity provides greater improvement than strength training for energy levels, but building muscle mass through strength training moderates sugar swings and improves health as we age. Exercising in the morning is preferred. The dangers of excessive periods of sitting are now coming to light. We are designed to move!
4) Your body craves patterns and try to make them regular. Relaxation time, exercise time, sleep time and eating time. One powerful example is the inclusion of time to meditate or pray (if you are so inclined). At least 5 minutes per day provides a positive attitude and health adjustment.
5) Eliminate toxins: alcohol, cigarettes, sugar – yes, sugar is a tasty toxin
When you have more physical energy, you are better able to deal with both positive and negative situations which arrive in life. Imagine a major life change occurring while experiencing each of the above quadrants and how that would impact your response to that challenge.
In summary, it is possible to create a more positive, productive, caring – engaged you by modifying some of the daily patterns. Your ability to have positive mental, spiritual and emotional energy is under much greater control than each of us realize. When you are “off” and when you are “on”, it happens for a reason. And it all starts with the physical.