Be More Productive.
Do More with Less.
Everywhere I look I find these messages bombarding us. And, everyday, I find exhausted people trying to cope with the daily grind of life.
I was one of these people, sucked in by these messages, barely managing to keep up with all the demands of life. Many days, I would end up in bed at night feeling like I had not accomplished anything. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to find a different way to cope with life. Chemo had robbed me of strength and memory. The treatments were taking a toll on me, and even the smallest bit of work felt like a weighty albatross.
I had a moment of realization: I discovered that what worked for me was to manage my energy, instead of chasing time.
Let me explain. Time is outside of our control - it is finite; the number of hours are fixed at 24. It is not possible to do more of everything as sooner or later we run out of time. Energy, on the other hand, is within us and so we have direct access to it. And when we learn how to balance and renew our energy, we can manage – and even thrive – in the frantic pace of our world today.
This concept is explained in The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. They have done extensive work with top athletes and have found that athletes who learn how to manage their energy can endure high performance and lead happy, healthy and balanced lives. Their premise is that it is not about the quantity of time you put into something, but rather, it is the quality of energy you bring to the table.
So, how does one manage one’s energy? According to the authors, it is about balancing and renewing four key sources of energy — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
- Physical energy is about good quality and quantity of sleep. It is about good nutrition with balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day so we can be productive and perform well. It is also about eating nourishing food such as grains, proteins, vegetables and fruit, and taking time to exercise.
- Emotional energy is about enjoying life, so we can perform at our best. It is about accessing positive and uplifting emotions, by living in a place of gratitude, by volunteering and appreciating and recognizing others. When you focus on positive emotions, you build your emotional muscle, which in turn, can make you happier and fuel your individual performance.
- Mental energy is about learning, expanding our thinking and feeding our brain. We know that learning can enhance our understanding of Allah’s creation. What research also tells us is that the brain gets sharper the more it is used.
- Spiritual energy is to connect and align with our spiritual being. It shows up differently for different people. At its core, it is about recognizing that there is something bigger than ourselves, and that the physical life is temporary and limited. Spiritual practice can take the form of prayer or service. According to the authors, when we are aligned with our spiritual energy, it directly flows and replenishes our mental, physical and emotional energy sources.
The authors' research also suggests that for us to be at our best, we need to have a period of activity, followed by a period of rest. This means focusing and working hard for a period of time and then taking time to disengage and rest. Resting allows us to refuel our energy.
I have taken this message to heart and have learnt to balance these four energies. For physical energy, I try and work out for an hour every day. I also try to sleep at a reasonable hour each night, so I can wake up refreshed and re-energized. Emotional energy for me is about connecting with people I enjoy being around, over breakfast or making time for one delicious phone conversation a day. Mental energy for me involves learning something new every day through reading, podcasts and courses; as well as keeping current in my profession. Spiritual energy for me involves waking up every morning at 4 am to meditate.
When I engage in each of these practices, even for 10 minutes, it gives me the boost of energy to get up and go. I have also learnt to prioritize the one or two things I must accomplish that day; no more than that. And when I complete that priority, I make time to disengage and celebrate.
The result of managing energy versus chasing time? More energy, better productivity and a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.
About the author: Munira Premji resides with her family in Toronto, where she continues to live her life fully and fearlessly.
Edits & Research Review: Afshan Khoja | Sanja Petrovic, RD, CDE, MSc | Shahzadi Devje RD, CDE, MSc
1.Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement, The Free Press, New York, 2005.