Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 3: Mindful Energy

Over the past two weeks, I wrote about managing your physical energy and emotional energy.  The key to managing your physical energy was sleeping, eating a nutritious breakfast, working out regularly, and not skipping lunch or breaks at work.  For mastering your emotional energy comes to deciding to respond vs. react to a situation.  This week I will be writing about maximizing your productivity through mindful energy.  

Mindfulness is not all woo-woo as you might think.  Think about walking into the office where all of the bosses are at a meeting for the day and then a couple of your co-workers are out of the office too.  Overall, the office is very quiet.  Rather than starting your morning at the water cooler chatting, you start with a hard project first.  Two hours later, you realize that not only did you finish that hard project in less time than you expected but also you got it done without any interruptions.  How do you feel?  You probably feel like a total badass and go grab a coffee to celebrate.

Now picture walking into the office with everyone in the office, the phone rings every 22 minutes, emails keep popping up every 3 minutes, and that one weird person that loves to reheat fish from another department wants to show you their pet rock collection.  How long do you think that hard project is going to take you today?  Maybe it is going to take more than a day to complete.  How do you feel?  Worn out, tired?

All of those distractions cost your company at least a day or two of your salary.  Distractions are expensive.  As I have previously written, you are more efficient and productive if you designate time to single-tasking by working one project at a time. 

How do you fix this problem?  First, you need to create personal rituals.  Second, you need to communicate your personal rituals.  Lastly, you need to stick with your personal rituals and adjust if they do not work. 

Personal Rituals:

  1. Practice meditation.  If you think you do not need meditation or that it is nuts, you need it more.  Remember that Steve Jobs practiced meditation and he still had time to develop amazing technology. 
  2. Relocate.  Consider going to an empty conference room for an hour or two to complete a project.  Do not take email and phone distractions with you.
  3. Be present.  If you accepted a meeting, be at your meeting.  Being on your phone during a meeting is wasting everyone else’s time.
  4. Schedule e-mail.  Turn off the email pop-ups, dings, and buzzes and schedule periodic time to check emails.  Consider checking email after you complete each project or complete a meeting.  
  5. Tackle hard projects first.  Before you check your voicemail or open your email as soon as you walk into the office, decide to tackle hard projects first.  The night before you should leave yourself a note on what needs to be completed so that you can start immediately. 
  6. Do Not Disturb.  We are more connected than ever these days by phone, email, voicemail, text, internal messaging systems, etc.  Schedule time spots in your schedule to be completely unavailable.

Communicate Rituals.  Listen going off the grid might sound awesome to you.  Your team will be questioning a whole lot of things.  Instead, communicate your rituals.  Explain how long your team should expect you to be unavailable.  Offer an alternative means of communication.  For example, you will not be checking emails between 1-2 pm each afternoon so that you can work on a report that is due by the end of each day, communicate just that.  Offer your team an alternative means of communication for urgent matters via phone.  How many emergencies do you think really occur?  Not many as you think.

If I were to ask you the following four questions, how would you respond?

  1. Do you have difficulty focusing on one task at a time? Are you easily distracted?
  2. Do you feel that you spend more time reacting to fires rather that value added, long term projects?
  3. Do you take time to reflect, plan, and think?
  4. Do you take work home with you on the weekend, nights, and/or vacations?

If you said yes to any of these questions, please consider adding a mindful ritual to your day to improve you personal productivity.

mindfulness printed paper near window

Check back next week when I wrap up this four part series on managing your energy to maximize your productivity, where I discuss how to increase your spiritual energy so that you could be more productive.

Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 2: Emotional Energy

Last week I discussed how to maximize your productivity when you manage your physical energy.   The key to managing your physical energy was sleeping , eating a nutritious breakfast, working out on a regular basis, and not skipping lunch or breaks at work.  This week I will outline what impacts emotional energy and steps you can take immediately to improve your emotional energy.  Personally, I believe that physical energy is the foundation for emotional energy. 

We have all been in situations when things appear to be a complete disaster and we have a choice to react or respond to the disaster. 

Unsplash

How to Response vs. React by Lee Colan on Inc.

  • When you simply react, your emotional instinct is in control, with little thought of the long-range consequences.
  • When you respond, your brain is fully engaged, and your self-awareness is high.  You have the long-term consequences in mind.

It is completely appropriate to react by pulling someone to safety if they are about to be hit by a bus.  It is rarely acceptable react by lashing out and yelling during a meeting or at others.

Usually our goal is to respond to a disaster rather than react.  We can typically respond when we feel positive emotional energy.  Identify the trigger.  First, identify triggers to negative emotional energy.  Did you not sleep well last night? Did a news article make you feel anxious or irritable?  Consider personal impact.  Ask yourself does this truly impact my life?  Will the outcome impact my life in 6 months?  Here are some steps to build and maintain positive emotional energy. 

  1. Breathe.  Breathe in for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6-8.  Repeat several times. 
  2. Show appreciation.  Express appreciation towards others.  Send an email, handwritten note, or publicly acknowledge your appreciation for a co-worker or friend.
  3. Story re-write.  Did that stranger really see the coffee mug in your hand and purposely slam on their breaks so that you would spill your coffee all over your new pants?  Or is it possible they slammed on their breaks to avoid hitting a pothole? 

Re-writing the story might be the most important step to building and maintaining positive emotional energy when you start with asking your self “What are the facts?”

Check back next week when I discuss how to be more mindful to be more productive.

Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 1: Physical Energy

Show of hands, how many of you feel exhausted?  Feel guilty by not balancing work and life?  Wished you didn’t miss that spin class last week because you worked late?   Can’t remember the last time you slept a full eight hours?  If you said yes to any of these questions, you are not alone.   There appears to be this sense that we must continue to work longer and longer hours at work.  Some bosses may judge performance based purely on the number of hours you were at your desk in order to determine promotions and raises and rarely consider the actual work that you accomplished.  Others are in an industry with shrinking returns and a constant threat of job eliminations. 

What happens when you work longer and longer hours without replenishing your energy?  Engagement declines.  You are easily distracted.  Productivity decreases.  Companies see high turnover rates.  And medical costs, those increase.  Just think about the need for sleep aids, high blood pressure, and anxiety medicine.  Your personal relationships may suffer.  You might just look like an extra in The Walking Dead.  Well maybe a Walking Dead extra but with better style, but still the Walking Dead.  Even though we don’t know each other personally, I feel that it is safe to assume you want more from your life.  You want to enjoy your job, work hard at your job, feel healthy, and have strong personal connections outside of work. 

During this four-part series we will explore how to increase your energy physically, emotionally, mindfully, and spiritually so that you can be the most productive versions of yourself.  The Energy Project case study at Wachovia Bank in 2006 proved how invaluable sleep, healthy food, and strong relationships are to our overall well-being.  The case study focused on executives and high-level management in different industries.   While technology has changed over the past 14 years our need for sleep, healthy food, and strong relationships has not changed.

Based upon the case study by The Energy Project at Wachovia Bank, there are four sources of energy.  Our four sources of energy are the body, our emotions, our mind and our spirit.  The body represents our physical energy.  Spend a little time at your office coffee bar or water cooler and you will notice some patterns.  At least one person will comment that they didn’t get enough sleep last night, forgot breakfast this morning, feel overwhelmed by their to-do list, and cannot focus on one task at a time, or wish they had more time for *insert a fun personal hobby here*. 

I remember a few years ago, I slept less than 8 hours a night on a regular basis, I had no idea which state I was in at times because I traveled often, rarely worked out, gained a bit too much weight, and constantly felt hangry with eating less than desirable food choices.   Maybe you need to change jobs.  Maybe you just need to establish routines.  If you find yourself envious of someone with boundaries that support their physical energy, maybe it’s time to look inward. It took me a little bit of time to establish a routine that worked for me.  Your routine should include sleep, taking breaks throughout the day, eating well, and exercising. 

Are you still skeptical about the benefits of caring for yourself?  Unsure if all of this stuff really stands up to the hype?

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, sleeps 8 hours a week.  His net worth is $120.9B in 2020.  Bezos is quoted in the Business Insider as saying the following:

  • “I prioritize it,” Bezos said of sleep. “I think better. I have more energy. My mood is better.”
  • “As a senior executive, you get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions,” he said. “Your job is not to make thousands of decisions every day. Is that really worth it if the quality of those decisions might be lower because you’re tired or grouchy?”
  • “If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion. When you’re talking about decisions and interactions, quality is usually more important than quantity.”

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, collapsed from sleep deprivation exhaustion and broke her cheekbone, wrote the Sleep Revolution after she personally realized the benefits of sleep.  Huffington is quoted as saying:

  • “We take now better care of our smartphones — we know exactly how much battery remains in our phones. If you had asked me the morning I collapsed, ‘Arianna, how are you?’ I would have said, ‘Fine.’ Because being perpetually tired has become the new normal.”

Do you want to hear why Bezos finally agreed to come out and talk about sleep? Arianna Huffington explains in her weekly Thrive Global Podcast.

If high net worth business leaders find value in getting sleep, why not prioritize sleep for yourself today?  Once you prioritize sleep, other healthy habits will appear.  You will become more productive.  Be able to make better decisions without being fatigued.  Respond rather than react.  Here is an overview of what I do to prioritize sleep and increase my physical energy.  I am one of those American’s who does not run on Dunkin’ yet start the morning with a smile. 

  • Before Work: Wake up at 5am, drink a full glass of water, practice yoga for 30 minutes, and make a homemade breakfast. 
  • During Work:  Have my phone send me three reminders each day to stand up and stretch.  I have lunch with some awesome co-workers and bring a health homemade lunch daily. 
  • After work: Meet with a personal training two days a week and run two additional days after work, no phone after 7pm, and go to bed at 9pm

If you are still not convinced, review these questions.  If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider establishing or adjusting your routine to support your physical energy. 

  • Do you sleep less than 8 hours and wake up tired?
  • Do you skip breakfast or eat something less than nutritious for breakfast?
  • Do you skip workouts (cardio 3 times a week and strength 1 time a week)?
  • Do you skip lunch, eat at your desk, and/or skip breaks throughout the day?

Check back next week when I discuss how to improve your emotional energy to be more productive.

Triple Dog Dare You to Put Down Your Phone

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, presents, and get togethers of all kinds.  I am here today to talk about being present.  Literally putting down your phone in meetings, at dinners, and around others.  Give others your time and attention. 

In case this concept is foreign or seems a little too woo-woo, let’s quickly define it with some examples. 

“Being fully present means having your focus, your attention, your thoughts and feelings all fixed on the task at hand. If you are speaking to somebody, then your attention and energy is focused on him or her and what he or she is saying. If you are doing a task, then your entire being is focused on the task.”

Personal Resilience Builder

Before we get further into the details, lets reminisce on the best holiday movie of all time, The Christmas Story.  And don’t disagree with me you filthy animal!  Yes, I am serious Clark!  Ok maybe there is a three-way tie for best holiday movie of all time. 

Flick: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to that stupid pole? That’s dumb!

Schwartz: That’s ’cause you know it’ll stick!

Flick: You’re full of it!

Schwartz: Oh yeah?

Flick: Yeah!

Schwartz: Well I double-DOG-dare ya!

Ralphie as an Adult: [narrating]  NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare you”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.

Schwartz: I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!

Ralphie as an Adult: [narrating]  Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

We are all adults that know that our tongues will stick to that stupid flag pole, so we just don’t do it.  What if I were to modernize this dialogue and talk about your cell phone?

You:  Are you kidding?  Leave my phone at my desk during a meeting?  That’s dumb!

Me:  That’s ‘cause you know you can’t do it!

You:  You are nuts!

Me:  Oh yeah?

You:  Yeah!

Me:  I triple dog dare you to leave your phone behind!

I bring this up because often in meetings there is a delay in responding, a retelling of the issue because someone was looking at their phone rather than paying attention.  Eyes roll.  Frustrations build.  And another wasted, drawn out meeting continues.  All in the name of scrolling through Facebook and checking emails.  Yes, I have witnessed meeting attendees looking through Facebook during a meeting that they scheduled. 

Look I get it.  In the wise words of Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, “we didn’t sign up for this.” We didn’t sign up to be tethered to our phones.  We didn’t sign up to jump at every beep, ding, or buzz.  We didn’t sign up to be constantly in contact with the world.  We weren’t supposed to be like the dogs in Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiment with the bell. 

Yet here we are.  Jumping at every beep, ding, and buzz.  Wondering how many likes we got on a picture or post, worrying if we are missing an important email, or even worse worrying if we are taking too long to respond to a text message.   The fear of missing out is a real thing, until you change your relationship with your cell phone.  It takes time.  It is hard.  Very hard.  But start small for the holidays. 

  • Can you find one meeting a week to leave your phone behind?
  • Can you go for a walk without your phone?
  • How about a meal without your phone?

I am going to leave you today with a triple dog dare challenge.  I triple dog dare you to see how long you can go without looking at your phone.  Comment below with your results. 

“Yeah hey, they say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine”

Prince

1999 Cell Phone:

Looking for more resources?  Check out the following books:

  • Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
  • Brooke McAlery – Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World
  • Marie Kondo – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Looking for articles?

You Got 99 Projects but a Plan Isn’t One: Personal Productivity

Welcome back to Monday morning! You woke up bright and early, did yoga, got ready, out the door on time because you laid your clothes out, and packed your lunch and gym bag all last night! Or you slept past your alarm, forgot your lunch at home, and just need another cup of coffee before that happy yogi person speaks to you and truthfully you are just hoping to survive today. No judgement on either story because guess what, now you both face a list of projects, reports, and other stuff you need to get done before you leave today. 

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Where do you begin? First, get your cup of coffee, green tea, or bottle of water ready and read this article to help you develop a plan.  My 15/45 plan below has been tested and proven to work for years.     

15/45 Plan

How to Implement:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  2. After 15 minutes is up, set a timer for 45 minutes. 
  3. Continue working past 45 minutes or repeat steps 1 and 2 again. 

Easy to implement. Right? In those first 15 minutes, you are going to work on tiny little tasks like going through emails to see what needs your attention later vs. what you can move out of your inbox now. Another easy task might be to complete a short report that takes less than 15 minutes. 

Pro Tip: If an email needs your attention later, schedule it. Block your calendar to get it done. You own your calendar! 

The goal in these first 15 minutes is to get yourself some easy wins and check off those tiny little tasks off your list.  Who does not like to win? Winning builds momentum. Momentum will get you ready for your next step.  

When you get to the 45-minute step, this is where you will work a one single more complex or longer task. You will work for 45 minutes uninterrupted. No answering the phone. No checking emails. No looking at Facebook, Instagram, MySpace (no judgement), Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, or looking up funny gym fail videos. No cell phone. No talking. Literally NO DISTRACTIONS except if the fire alarm goes off. Then you should stop working and run out the door.

After 45 minutes is up, you have two choices. You can continue working on either your complex or longer task or you go back to step 1 to work for 15 minutes on tiny little tasks. 

Some days I need to complete one round of the 15/45 just to ground and focus myself at home or at work. Working on a single task is actually more peaceful and calming than running around faking that you can multitask. 

“Scientists have discovered that when we multitask, our productivity actually decreases by as much as 40 percent.”

– Tonya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out.

Efficient versus Effective:

Before you freak out because you have 99 projects to work on and I just suggested that you should only work on one project at a time because if you do not, your productivity drops by 40% and you do not have time for that to happen. Let me make another suggestion. Similar to Marie Kondo’s theory of keeping only what sparks joy in your closet, go through your project list. Ask yourself, “Does anyone look at this report or project after I complete it each month?” If not, either simply stop doing it and see if anyone notices OR ask the recipients if they still find value in this report or project. 

Why? Do you want to be efficient or effective? First, we need to define each from Dictionary.com so that we use the terms correctly. 

Efficientnoun, ih-fishuhnt

  • performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill, and industry; competent; capable: a reliable, efficient assistant.
  • satisfactory and economical to use: Our new air conditioner is more efficient than our old one.
  • producing an effect, as a cause; causative.
  • utilizing a particular commodity or product with the least waste of resources or effort (usually used in combination): a fuel-efficient engine.

Effectiveadjective ih-fek-tiv

  • adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result: effective teaching methods; effective steps toward peace.
  • actually in operation or in force; functioning: The law becomes effective at midnight.
  • producing a deep or vivid impression; striking: an effective photograph.

I want to be effective. I want a majority of my work to add value and have meaning. Sure, some tasks just need to be done no matter what because they either support the month end close process or are required by law. In those instances, I want to be efficient with almost robotic like precision. 

Pro Tip: If you are doing something for a federal, state, or local regulation, do not stop doing it. 

Do you attend a regular meeting that you are never asked a single question, you learn nothing, and you wonder why you are even there? If so, talk with the organizer to see if you can skip the meetings all together. 

Now that you are done with your cup of coffee, green tea, or bottle of water, get your alarm set for 15 minutes and start #MakingMondayAwesome.

Resources:

Here is an example email on questioning the value of a report or project:

Good morning,

Periodically I review reports to determine the value. Please let me know if you find value in the attached or if I could discontinue from preparing it. If you find value in this report, are there any changes I could make to add more value? 

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Book Suggestions:

The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Lessby Tonya Dalton

Psychology Today points out many advantages of focusing on The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) versus the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). 

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi wrote an article summarizing her book on the Harvard Business Review.

Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Your Image: Under Promise and Over Deliver

Look.  We have all been there.  You want to impress your boss.  You want to impress your teammates.  You want to impress your clients.  You say YES to everything.  You say YES that 20-hour project will be completed by end of day today even though you just received the assignment this morning.  You say YES to fifteen requests that are all due at the same time.  You set yourself up for failure and disappointment. 

FailureDisappointment.  It is hard to accept that you failed and disappointed others.  The failure that I am talking about here is not the failure from trying, from stretching and growing your skills, or from learning new skills.  The failure that I am talking today about comes from OVER promising and UNDER delivering.  Here is a simplified version of an over promised and under delivered failure that comes from a friend of a friend.

In my friend of a friend’s story, a very large online retailer promises to deliver a book the day after they paid for the book.  In order to receive the book they ordered the next day, they needed to have a “special membership” to the quick shipping club.  They had to pay extra for this “special membership.”  The next day comes and the book does not arrive.  It actually takes an extra four days for your friend to receive the book.  This very large online retailer over promised and under delivered.  You get the point.  The very large online retailer failed. 

This could happen to you or one of your friends.  Maybe you are new to working or new to a job and trying to impress others.  Before you wreck your image, you need to check the difference between your reality and your fantasy self so that you can start UNDER PROMISING and OVER DELIVERING.  Your fantasy self can handle 15 projects at the same time without making a single mistake.  The reality is that you can take on 15 projects that have staggered due dates and time requirements.  To help you manage your reality, check out my five tips to under promising and over delivering. 

Five Tips to Under Promising and Over Delivering

  1. Talk about expectations.  Identify who needs what done by when.  Identify if you are working solo or part of a team.  Identify your plans to meet the expectations. 
  2. Be transparent on timelines.  Do not say an hour project will take two days on a regular basis.  You will lose trust very quickly.  However, consider adding a little bit of wiggle room to that hour project if you are relying on computer systems that could be slow at time for example.    
  3. Communicate.  Communicate.  Communicate.  If something unexpected occurs, that cannot be fixed nearly immediately and it looks like your project is going to be delayed, communicate that with the requestor.  Explain what happened.  Be prepared to explain how it happened and what steps you took to correct the issue.
  4. Discuss current projects.  Explain other projects that you have one your plate and determine if the new project should replace a current project.
  5. Look for a Barrier Breaker.  There will be a time that you run into a barrier.  Be able to identify who can help you break down that barrier.

In the wise words of Gretchen Rubin’s father, “If you’re willing to take the blame when you deserve it, people will give you the responsibility.”

Do you have any other tips to ensure that you under promise and over deliver? 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash