Personal Energy and Career Success

Today is July 29 my younger sister, Betty’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Betty.  I hope you have a great day and an even better year.

Tony Schwartz had an interesting piece of career advice in last Sunday’s New York Times.  He suggested that time management is not as important as energy management.  Check it out…

“Demand has finally begun to exceed our capacity.  We’re facing an energy crisis, and this one is personal.  As demand has increased in recent years, fueled by advances in technology, we’ve relied on an external resource to get more done: time.  When there’s more to do, we put in more hours.

“Time, however, is finite, and most of us don’t have any more hours left to invest.  The solution is staring us in the face.  We need to learn to manage our energy rather than our time…

“Human beings aren’t meant to operate like computers – at high speeds, continuously, for long periods.  Instead, we’re physiologically designed to pulse, to move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy….

“Put in too many hours, too continuously, and collateral damage eventually ensues, in the form of disengagement, broken relationships, sickness and a lower quality of work….

“During the day, we oscillate every 90 minutes from higher to lower alertness.  In effect, our bodies are asking us for a break every 90 minutes.  But we override the signals with coffee, sugar and our stress hormones.”

Tony concluded the article by suggesting that we should work with higher focus for shorter periods and then to rest and renew.  He says this will help us get more done in less time with more personal sustainability.

I think he makes a good point.  I’m not sure if 90 minutes is the best interval, but I believe we all need breaks to keeps us focused and producing at a high level.  The other day, I remarked to my wife that President Obama’s appearance suggests that he has really aged in the years since he’s taken office.  His hair has greyed noticeably.  I noticed this about Presidents Bush and Clinton as well.  The Oval Office is not conducive to 90 minute intervals of work and relaxation.

Tweet 92 in my career advice book Success Tweets echoes Tony Schwartz’s ideas.  “Determine your peak energy times.  Schedule high brain tasks when your energy is high and low brain tasks when it is low.”

A long time ago I learned that my energy is high at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day.  My energy is lowest mid day.  I schedule myself accordingly.

I reserve the morning for my important and urgent tasks – like writing and posting this blog.  I use late afternoons and early evenings to work on my important but not urgent tasks – like writing my books and other thought pieces.  Mid-day, I exercise, catch up on correspondence, return phone calls and run errands.

This works for me.  I think best and most clearly in the morning and have a bit of a sinker mid-day.  My energy and mental acuity picks up again late in the day.  This is really helpful, as I get a lot done late in the day when many people are biding their time getting ready to go home.

This schedule works for me.  It may or may not work for you.  You have to determine your peak energy times and schedule yourself accordingly.

However, no matter how well you plan your day, surprises and interruptions will come along.  A couple of years ago, I saw a great article on by David Allen called, “It’s Not About Time.”  Mr. Allen suggests that too often we focus on managing our time when we should, in fact, be focused on managing ourselves a variation on the same theme that Tony Schwartz presents.

“The savvy know that self management is really an issue of what we do with ourselves during the time we have.  Self-management needs to encompass managing our thoughts and emotions, and dealing effectively with our work, family and community relationships.  It’s about gaining dynamic balance of control and perspective to achieve more successful outcomes and feel more relaxed along the way.

“Self-management is about knowing what to do at any given moment.  It’s dealing effectively with the things we have to do to achieve our goals and fulfill our purpose.  It’s also about deciding the importance of the varied and constant information coming at us.”

What do you think about David Allen’s ideas on self management and Tiny Schwartz’s ideas on personal energy management?  I like them.  Even though I try to schedule my high brain tasks at the beginning and end of the day, I sometimes end up doing them mid-day when my energy is lowest.  I have found that, no matter my preference, sometimes I have to deviate from my preferred schedule to handle matters that are out of my control.

As David Allen says, “self-management is about knowing what to do at any given moment.”  This means that you cannot become a slave to your to-do list or your personal preferences.  No matter how well you plan, you will be faced with new problems and opportunities every day.  Sometimes, what I want to do is different from what I need to do.  I bet you find this to be true too.  My best career advice is to do what you need to, not what you want to, as you go through your day.

Do your best to schedule yourself so that you can deal with high brain tasks when your energy is highest.  But when circumstances create different demands, suck it up and do the best you can with every moment you have.  The problems and opportunities on which you focus at any given moment in time will have a big impact on the level of your performance and, ultimately, your career success.  Don’t be so focused on managing your time that you miss opportunities because they fall outside of your plan for the day.

Last week KEEN, a footwork manufacturer located in Portland OR, brought its Recess Revolution Tour to Denver.  They set up a pop up park in downtown Denver and encouraged office workers to get out and play for a little bit during the work day.  I didn’t get a chance to drop in – but I think this is a great idea.

KEEN says. “At a time when Americans are leading increasingly digital and sedentary lifestyles coupled with growing obesity rates, KEEN wants to re-energize adults at work and make recess as common as casual Friday. KEEN’s Recess Revolution Tour is part of a nation-wide movement to live healthier and happier lives by including the fun factor of outdoor “recess” breaks every day of the week. The Recess Revolution Tour will continue throughout the summer with stops in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.

KEEN believes that committing to just 10 minutes a day of outdoor recreation can re-energize people and have real physical and mental health benefits. Recent studies in the workplace conducted by Dr. Toni Yancey, author of Instant Recess and Professor of Health Services at UCLA, show that taking short activity breaks during the workday, the time KEEN refers to as recess, is great for your health, well-being, overall productivity and career success.

KEEN’s Recess Revolution Tour makes a lot of common sense – especially in light of what Tony Schwartz has to say about managing your energy, what David Allen has to say about self-management and my common sense advice in Success Tweet 92

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  If you want to create the life and career success you want and deserve, you need to become an outstanding performer.  To become an outstanding performer, you need to learn to manage yourself and your energy.  The career advice in Tweet 92 in Success Tweets, “Determine your peak energy times.  Schedule high brain tasks when your energy is high and low brain tasks when it is low” can help you manage yourself and your energy.  Events like the KEEN Recess Revolution Tour highlight the importance of getting away from your desk, your computer, your smartphone – all of your electronic gadgets – and spending some time recharging yourself.  I always return from my bike rides with a renewed sense of energy and focus.

That’s my career advice on managing your energy.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career success book Success Tweets Explained.  It’s a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.