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There are two problems with time. The first one is that after a certain number of hours fatigue inevitably sets. After that, you make more mistakes, you get into more conflict with coworkers, you’re less creative and you’re less efficient. The second problem with time is that it’s finite, and most of us don’t have any of it left to invest. Our dance cards are full. For example, in an effort to get more done, one of the first things we’re willing to sacrifice is sleep.
But consider this disturbing fact: sleeping even a single hour less than our bodies require reduces our cognitive capacity dramatically. Much as we try, we can’t fool our bodies. Consider this statistic: even a single hour less sleep than you need to feel fully rested takes a significant toll on your capacity to think clearly and logically when you’re awake. Sacrificing sleep is self-defeating.
So what’s the solution? It’s not to manage your time better. It’s to manage your energy.
In contrast to time, energy is something we can systematically renew. In physics, energy is defined simply as the capacity to work. Therefore the more energy you have – or the more energy you renew – the more fuel you have in your tank, and the capacity you have to get things done. Unlike cars, human beings have four distinct energy needs: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The better and more regularly we meet each of these needs, the healthier, happier, more focused and more effective we become.
My goal is to teach you simple, highly effective ways to meet and regularly renew each of your four core needs, so you’re fueled to bring your best to whatever you do. A habit is something you fall into, but doesn’t necessarily serve you well, such as smoking, or eating the wrong foods, or checking your email constantly.
The technique I’m going to teach you is how to build what I call “rituals” – highly specific behaviors that you do at very specific times, on specific days, until they become automatic and you no longer have to think about them. A ritual is a behavior you choose intentionally and practice knowing that it has the potential to add value in your life, or in someone else’s.
We'll be following up soon with a way to assess your own energy levels in each of the four dimensions. I’m also going to help you define the rituals you need to help build a life you deserve to have.
Are you in a personal energy crisis? Share your comments below.
Tony Schwartz is the author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working and president and CEO of The Energy Project. Learn more at www.theenergyproject.com.