Does it seem like you've got too much to do and too little time to do it? Are you running harder than ever but still feeling like you're always trying to catch up? Are you anxious at work—or anxious about not working? Do you find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time?
When’s the last time you felt genuine passion in your life? Are you exhausted when you go to sleep at night and still tired when you wake up?
Energy expert Tony Schwartz, author of the book, The Way We're Working Isn't Working, shares how running on empty can lead to a constant game of catchup.
We’re in a new kind of energy crisis and this one’s not about the planet, it’s about you.
Demand is exceeding our capacity. A lot of us are running on fumes. My book is about this crisis, and it’s called The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. That’s true, I’ve found, whether you work in an office, or you run your own business, or you’re at home raising your kids and running your family.
We all know instinctively that the way we’re working isn’t working, but where have we gone wrong, and what can we do about it? I’m hoping to provide you with some answers. I want to introduce you to a new way of working and a better way of life.
The ideas and strategies I’ll be sharing are grounded in scientific research across multiple disciplines, but they’re also common sense universal principles that we've lost touch with as we race from one task to the next. We don’t stop long enough to ask whether the lives we’re living are worth the costs we’re paying to live them.
The first mistake most of us make is that we try to operate as if we’re computers -- at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time. In fact, human beings are meant to pulse – to move between spending and renewing energy. Our most basic survival need is to spend and renew our energy – to inhale and to exhale. We’re hardwired to make waves – to be alert during the day and to sleep at night, and to work at the highest intensity only for limited periods of time.
Nearly every system in our body – brain, heart, blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels -- pulses when it’s healthy. Instead, we push harder and faster for more and more hours, in the mistaken belief that investing more time, more continuously is the only way to get more done.
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.
Printed from Oprah.com on Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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