Time is the great equalizer. No matter how wealthy you are, or whether The Man is keeping you down – each one of us is granted the same amount of time in a day as Edison, Einstein, Sun Tzu or Martin Luther King, Jr.
The urge to stretch that time, and get more out of it, is the basis of a billion dollar industry. I’m simply amazed at the number of time management systems and strategies there are out there. Many are great – the FranklinCovey system & Getting Things Done by David Allen are perennial favorites – and all offer the promise of “pack more into your busy day.”
An often overlooked component, though, is the concept of personal and mental energy. A great, though dated, book on this is The Corporate Athlete. By being “in training,” the author reasons, you can keep your body in peak condition to handle the day to day stresses of the workplace.
But – how can these two concepts come together? Being a quantitatively driven guy, I always remember the equation:
Productivity = time + energy
Every day – whether at work, school or home – is an opportunity to “get things done.” Defining what needs to be done is another story…so let’s unpack the time and energy components.
Time. Though many complain “there simply isn’t enough” – there is. Remember the Edison observation, above? Focus on the important, and the urgent, and delegate everything else. One trick I use to keep myself on track is my calendar. If it is on my to-do list, I schedule time on the calendar to tackle it. Simple, and it reinforces itself…I’ve found that when I don’t, that important project becomes an urgent fire, simply because I didn’t handle it earlier in the week.
Energy. There is a body of work around being active and mobile to keep the body engaged and the mind refreshed. Whether it is as simple as the “standing” 10 minute meeting that Lencioni writes about, simply taking a walk every day in the morning or after dinner, or scheduling (and completing) workouts 3-5 times a week in the gym – move. Additionally, watch what you eat, and when. I’m not a dietician, and I don’t “play one on TV,” but I can definitely tell the performance difference when I’ve eaten a good breakfast. With the rise of Fitbit and other biometric monitors, it’s easy to keep track of your activity level. Make this a focus, and invest in yourself.
How does this show up for me? With few exceptions, I start my day at 5 AM with a workout of some sort (even if it is just a walk) while listening to a podcast or a “book on tape,” eat a good breakfast and then begin the commute. I do the hardest things of the day first – before 11 AM – when my calendar and my energy levels are at their best. I wrap up the day with the commute home, while doing conference calls with friends and colleagues in other time zones. In bed between 9 and 10 PM. Every chance I get, I walk around the office – keeps me connected to my colleagues, enables me to get some activity in, and opens up my brain.
Even though I travel frequently, if I don’t keep some kind of physical activity and watch what I eat & when, combined with leveraging my calendar to get tasks done – I can feel it in the workplace.
What about you? Do you have a life hack like this that enables you to get more done, and feel good about it? If not – try this for a couple weeks and see if it works for you. You have nothing to lose.