Managing your energy is more important than managing your time if you want to accomplish more at school or on the job, several authors say.
Amid striving for academic achievement at university and working to acquire the labour-market necessary skills, many Arab students need to simultaneously perform various tasks. This is especially true if we add to study and skills learning the need to engage in sports and other recreational social activities.
But multi-tasking may not be the best solution. Research published in the journal “PLOS One” explores the reasons why some people like to multi-task, even though their overall productivity is likely to suffer as a result.
Other authors make the case that managing your energy is a more efficient way of getting more done.
In the book “The Power of Full Engagement”, published in 2003, Jim Loehr, a performance psychologist, and Tony Schwartz, a journalist, write that the “ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have.”
In this article, Al-Fanar Media presents some of the recommendations from these and other experts.
Who Likes to Multi-Task?
The “PLOS One” article, “Who Multi-Tasks and Why? Multi-Tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-Tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking”, was published in 2013 by four psychologists at the University of Utah.
They write that impulsive individuals who have difficulty focusing on a single task make up the largest proportion of those who tend to multi-task, as well as those who seek the highest rewards for the least effort.
Relaxing for at least 30 seconds, after every 90 minutes of work, greatly improves heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tone. It helps, for example, to close your eyes and breathe slowly.
They caution, however, that engaging in multiple attention-demanding tasks simultaneously “may be cognitively and physically taxing. Moreover, performance on individual tasks may suffer such that errors are made and overall productivity is diminished.”
Four Forms of Energy
In “The Power of Full Engagement”, Loehr and Schwartz write that personal energy determines how well you can complete a task, or several tasks, through effort. This energy, they say, has four forms: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
When you perform a daily activity, you consume one or more of your personal energies. Playing football obviously consumes your physical energy, while studying depends mostly on your mental energy. Discussing an issue with someone can drain your emotional energy.
Spiritual energy is about keeping in touch with your core values to help you make the right decisions. An example of this would be rejecting a well-paid job at an unethical company.
Based on these definitions, the authors discuss how managing your personal energy can help you complete important tasks more efficiently.
Throughout their book, Loehr and Schwartz offer tips to improve the yield resulting from the effort we make in our daily lives. Some of their most important suggestions follow.
Set Your Own Boundaries
Success in managing your personal energy begins with setting limits on what you can do. You are the only one who can set these limits by deciding a minimum and a maximum of what you can do during the next day or week.
For example, if you want to finish studying your 20-chapter curriculum, the authors advise against setting aside fixed, large blocks of time each day. You would do better to limit your study time to shorter increments of one to three hours at most.
Keep a list of all the tasks you are supposed to do. Once you finish a task, remove it from the list. This saves you wasting energy on remembering what was done and what you still need to do.
This method reduces the fatigue that accompanies adherence to fixed times. It also gives you more room to adapt, depending on how much energy you have at any time of the day, because you know you have tomorrow to do what you did not achieve today.
You can also move your limits however you want in the future.
Take Time to Recharge
In a blog post that quotes from the same book, Shonna Waters, an executive with the BetterUp professional coaching platform, writes that taking time to recover your lost energy is invaluable and should be included in any schedule you set for yourself, even if it comes at the expense of finishing a task.
Remember that your energy management system prioritises raising your energy levels above anything else.
Monitor Your Energy Levels
Loehr and Schwartz also advise you to keep a journal of what energises you and what drains you. Write down all the factors that affect your energy level: mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual. This can include how long you have slept, your diet, the frequency of your breaks, physical activity (or the lack of it), whom you spend your time with, and the type of tasks you have done.
They suggest that you should focus more on activities that keep your personal energy high, redistribute tasks that require more energy to times of day when you have that energy level, and whenever possible to delegate some of the work you want to get done to others, especially work that drains you.
If these tips help you manage your energy better and get more done, how can you replenish that energy? Following are several suggestions.
Sleep and Relaxation
In “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time”, a 2007 article published in “Harvard Business Review”, Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy write that getting enough sleep should come first in your list of steps to replenish your personal energy. Sleeping less than required greatly reduces your ability to focus and think analytically and creatively. To achieve this, they recommend setting a fixed bedtime, and not engaging in any mentally stimulating activity for at least half an hour before going to bed.
Relaxing for at least 30 seconds, after every 90 minutes of work, greatly improves heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tone. It helps for example to close your eyes and breathe slowly, to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. With regular practice of such exercises, your body and mind will be in a better condition, the article’s authors say.
Keep a To-Do List and Exercise
In their book, Loehr and Schwartz recommend keeping a list of all the tasks you are supposed to do. Once you finish a task, remove it from the list. This saves you wasting energy on remembering what was done, and what you still need to do.
Regular physical exercise is important, too. This advice may sound repetitive and traditional, but exercise is still one of the most important steps to help you recharge. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, walk every day for a quarter to half an hour, or go up and down the stairs at home or work several times.
The authors say it is hard to imagine how much difference regular exercise will make to your energy level.
Appreciate What You Do
There may be nothing worse than failing to appreciate what you have done. Celebrating victories, no matter how small, creates positive feelings about your study or work, and recharges your energy. On the other hand, feeling underappreciated for the tasks you have accomplished drains your energy to a dangerous degree.
Try stopping for a few moments on your way home from college or work and focusing on how you intend to enjoy the rest of the day, now that your work is finished. Loehr and Schwartz recommend making this practice a part of your day. It will help you separate your working hours from your recharging hours, they say.
- Your Guide to a Productive Academic Year: A Digest of Advice
- Planning to Study Art? A Guide to Art Majors and Job Opportunities