Last week, I wrote on the lifestyle and consequences of being an "always on" employee — prompted by an article that I read in CIO magazine called, "The Extreme CIO." I also came across an article from the October issue of Harvard Business Review entitled, "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time." The author, Tony Schwartz, takes a different tack in regards to the "extreme" lifestyle. The premise of the article is that time is a finite resource, yet energy/stamina is not; therefore one should work on managing his energy through a healthy lifestyle, rather than through better time management.
It is not lost on the author of the article that "extreme" workers tend to work poorly if they have to do it over an extended period of time. In fact, a study by Circadian Technologies in 2003 showed that white collar workers that put in over 60 hours a week over a long period suffered productivity decreases of up to 25 percent.
If people respond to increased work demand by attempting to work even harder/longer, and if they do so over a long period of time, they end up not performing at peak capacity, and depending on the individual, as low as 75 percent of capacity.
When you look at it this way, it kind of makes you go "wow!" I'm working harder, yet I feel like I get less accomplished - duh! Tony Schwartz and his colleagues at the Energy Project believe there is a better approach to work demands than another course in better use of your Day-Timer.
Specifically, Schwartz and his group believe that our capacity for work springs from four places: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. "In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals — behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic."
Furthermore, he and his group believe that organizations need to shift their emphasis from using up people to investing in people so they are motivated to bring more of themselves to work on a day to day basis.
Whether or not organizations can be convinced that people are worth investing in rather than just churning through, (and the article shows that there are some), the crux of the article is that there are things you can do as an individual in each of the energy "springs" to improve your capacity to perform work and thus get more accomplished in less time and not destroy yourself in the process.
I do not have the space in this blog to detail the four springs of energy and the rituals that can be created to help in each area (it is a long and detailed article); my purpose in pointing it out is twofold: (1) to illustrate the point that there are multiple approaches to meeting your workplace demands, including the unique concept of personal energy management and (2) to direct you to the article itself where you can find what the authors define as an "energy audit."
The energy audit is a short questionnaire which can help you gauge your overall energy level, how good your personal energy management skills are, and which areas you need work in. The questionnaire is worth taking just for the information it provides to help you do a quick self assessment of your current state of mind and body; armed with the assessment, the article can give you a starting point for helping to manage your "always on" life.
You can find the article at www.hbr.org Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and determine if you are an "always on" individual and what you can do about it.