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How to Energize Your Workday

By Jessica Wishart

    Tue, Aug 27, 2013 @ 08:23 AM Strategies for Growth, Accountable Leaders & Teams

    Here at Rhythm Systems, one of our core values is "Keep Smart."  Because we try to practice what we Tony-Schwartzpreach and live our core values, our team looks for learning opportunities, and we even track how many learning opportunities (webinars, articles, etc.) we take advantage of every week as KPIs on our Rhythm dashboards.

    This week, I had the opportunity to view a webinar produced by Gazelles Growth Institute.  In this webinar titled "Energizing Excellence," Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, discusses his research on maximizing our performance not by spending more time at work but by managing our energy more effectively.  If this sounds familiar to those of you who joined us in Orlando for the Fortune Leadership Summit, that is because Schwartz conducted his research with Jim Loehr who spoke at the Summit.  Both experts emphasize the importance of nourishing, caring about, and challenging people in your organizations to perform at their best.  Following these tips to enhance your team's performance is good for growing your company and it is good for increasing the quality of your employees' work and of their lives.

    In this age of constant communication, demands on our time and attention are ever increasing, but our capacity to respond diminishes over time.  Time is a finite resource, but energy (defined as "the capacity to do work") is renewable.  Schwartz points out that we are not made like computers; we are not meant to run multiple programs simultaneously at all times but rather to pulse between energy expenditure and intermittent renewal.  We work best when doing things sequentially, not simultaneously; in spite of our best efforts, we cannot do two things at the same time with skill and efficiency.  While this concept is not new to me, I have to admit during the hour-long webinar, I was checking and answering emails, and periodically pausing to take phone calls from clients.  If I'm honest about my workday, I spend a substantial portion of it trying to do two or three things simultaneously.  Yikes!  So what can I do to manage my performance and energy more effectively?

    Schwartz suggested that we can get more quality work done in less time in a more sustainable way if we build what he calls a Performance Pulse.  He cited research that supports the idea that the natural rhythm in our bodies allows us to operate optimally in 90 minute intervals before fatigue sets in and our attention begins to wander.  Many of us push through this natural fatigue with caffeine or sugar or sheer will power, but Schwartz suggests that we'd be better off taking a break.  He suggests being very intentional about scheduling our day in a way that allows us to work in 90 minute intervals with breaks in between so that we can maximize our energy and therefore our performance at work.  Note that taking a break doesn't have to mean an hour long nap!  A break could be as simple as taking 5 minutes for deep breathing at your desk or actually taking your lunch break instead of plugging along with your head down at your desk.  Schwartz recommends getting a full night's sleep (8 hours!) and starting the morning with the most important thing you have to do that day so that you start your day off with the priority that requires the most energy and attention.

    Schwartz suggested some other practical tips for ways to renew our energy during the work day.  There are two types of renewal: active and passive.  Active renewal activities could include taking a walk, going outside, practicing yoga, getting in some exercise, eating a healthy snack or lunch, or taking time to chat with coworkers or call someone you love.  Passive renewal activities could be enjoying a few minutes of quiet time, listening to music, napping, or taking some deep breaths.  The important thing is to try different types of renewal activities to see what makes you feel the most energetic and positive; it isn't about the time spent in renewal but about the quality of that time to energize you!

    What can you do to structure your day differently to work in a way that pulses between expending energy and renewing it?  How can you create a work culture that emphasizes balance and fosters quality performance?

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