If someone asks you, how to increase performance, what would you say? Maybe time management? But Tony Schwartz says that this is an absolutely wrong strategy. In his book called The Power of Full Engagement, he says that to perform to our best, instead of time management, we should focus on energy management. This is the key not only to top performers, but also to health, happiness, and life balance. In this summary, I'll share with you three key lessons that I learned from this book.
Lesson #1: Energy, not time is our most precious resource
We live in a digital time. Our pace is rushed and every day we face crumbling workloads. So we try to put as much as possible into our day. But we are melting down. Time management doesn't work anymore because the number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not. Without energy, you can have as much as time you want, but it will be no good. Instead, by focusing on managing our energy, rather than trying to cram 48 hours into a single day, we can reach peak performance. But how can we efficiently manage the energy? This brings us to the second lesson.
Lesson #2: To fully engage, you should strategically disengage often
Energy diminishes with overuse and underuse. By investigating tennis players, Tony Schwartz found that despite the average player whose heart rate stays the same during the game, top players can lower their heart rate between points by up to 20 beats per minute. In other words, top players, by oscillating and resting between points, recover some of their energy throughout the game. Our energy resources are not unlimited and we tend to expend more energy per day than we recover. And this eventually results in burnout. But to sustain high levels of energy, we need recovery. This can be done by disengaging more often, like taking a relaxing break for every hour of work or so. Time should be spent either being productive or consciously resting, otherwise, it’s time wasted. We can train our energetic muscles just the same way we train our physical muscles, simply by pushing just a little bit beyond our comfort zone and then allocating time for recovery. Balancing activity and recovery is necessary for peak performance. But what should we exactly do to recover our energy? And this brings us to the third lesson.
Lesson #3: Use energy rituals to refill your energy tank
There are specific energy management habits that are the key to full engagement. We usually have limited willpower and we can't rely on self-discipline for efficient disengagement. The beauty of rituals is that when they become a habit, they happen automatically and they don't use willpower. So daily rituals are very powerful and they can help you keep your energy high. Our fuel tank consists of four sources of energy.
The first is physical energy. This is what most people think of when they hear energy. If you are tired often, then you are lacking in physical energy. Rituals to optimize physical energy can be going on a daily walk, running, good sleep, or eating healthy.
The second is emotional energy. Here we want to increase positive emotions which fuel performance. Rituals to optimize emotional energy can be hanging out with friends and family, reading a good book, or spending more time in nature.
The third is mental energy. This is mainly your ability to focus and it is very important to replenish mental energy. Again, you can do meditation, yoga, exercise more often, and have a good sleep, or eat healthily.
And finally, spiritual energy. This is the energy that motivates us to act. It’s about he who has a why to live. We could have all the energy in the world, but without “a reason why,” we won't know what to do with it. This is basically a set of values and a purpose beyond our interest. Here, you can read or listen to inspirational books or teachers and reconnect with your purpose and values.
So to summarize, high performance comes from skillful management of energy, not time. We perform at our best when we move between expanding energy and regularly renewing energy. In other words, we should either fully engage or strategically disengage and we can get the maximum out of recovery times by using energy rituals. To manage your energy efficiency and effortlessly, think about what kind of daily rituals you can install in your life. How about daily exercise or maybe daily meditation or daily walk in the park or having weekly dinner with friends? Just decide you want to do one of these rituals and commit to doing it and see for yourself how your performance changes over time.