For best results, properly manage time AND energy
I had to make a decision the other morning. To those of you working, this will sound frivolous, but it applies to you as much as to me. I had to decide whether I was going to plant the new gooseberry plants I had received or begin tearing out some overgrown shrubs in front of the house. At 74 with Parkinson's disease, allocation of energy becomes critical. I have unlimited time but very limited energy. In the pursuit of getting things done, too much emphasis is placed on time allocation and not enough on energy allocation.
I have come to the realization the time you put into a project is not as important as the energy you put into it. There are dozens of books out there about organizing your day in time frames. There are dozens of books out there on the management of your emotions. The management of both in combination is the trick to getting the maximum amount of results from your time.
The management of your energy is more difficult than your time management. As a CPA, I hated time sheets. Most people who bill by time chafe against the requirement to keep track of their time in quarter-hour segments. It is boring, intrusive and if you get behind, it taxes your memory to complete them. The reality is a good hour when your energy is high is far more valuable to your client than an hour at the end of the day when you are drained of energy. All hours are not equal.
It is relatively easy to recognize the time thieves. More important to recognize is the energy thieves. There are a number of things that suck the power from your mind to function efficiently. During a physical, a doctor told me that I was not a Type A personality. I was a Triple A, so I had energy in abundance. At a time that I was attempting to increase the effectiveness of our office through a management consultant, I was faced with one of the most difficult personalities I have ever had to cope with. After an office meeting, I walked out and the receptionist asked if I was OK and suggested I go visit my doctor in the building next door. I did. My blood pressure was 215/180. Do you think I lost a little oomph for a couple days? Rarely do you see such a direct connection between emotion and its physical affects.
So, that leads to my first energy killer: negative people. Avoid them at all cost. Energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Have you ever heard the term “That took the wind out of their sails?” That's what negative people do. As a business owner, you can literally find yourself in a struggle with a chronic malcontent over whose attitude is going to permeate the business. You can use your energy in a daily struggle with an adversary in your organization, or you can jump out of bed in the morning excited about the prospect of having a great day. It's your choice. If you can't get rid of the person because he or she is for whatever reason untouchable, practice a little meditation. You can neutralize that person by not letting him or her get under your skin. You must become the master of your own emotions.
Personal relationships can have a major impact on your energy. Problems with spouses, kids, in-laws, neighbor's, etc. can negatively impact your power setting. I have found one of the hardest things to do is put the monkey on the back of the person who owns it. People who take on other people’s emotional baggage are like Atlas carrying the world on their back. If someone in your life is unhappy and they do not have a legitimate claim that you are the source of their misery, walk away from it.
Lack of sleep is an obvious energy killer. Often, sleep problems are caused by anxiety. You can do two things. You can resolve the problem that is causing your anxiety, or you can analyze the anxiety source and decide whether it is real or just a fantasy. If it is real and something you can't change, resolve to deal with the issue with dignity and courage. Remember, somebody else has to deal with a situation worse than yours. Parkinson's disease is a difficult and inconvenient ailment. My brother Phil had his stomach removed this winter due to cancer. He spends 12 hours per day attached to a feeding machine. When I see him this morning, he most likely will make a joke about not having the stomach for it. He is having a lot of fun with that.
How much energy is lost in lack of focus? After having spent 40 years owning a business, I can tell you I don't believe in multitasking. That merely creates a situation where you do two or more mediocre or worse projects than you would have had in the same period had you focused on one project at a time. I asked a Vietnam vet what it felt like to be in a battle. His answer was that for the duration of the fight, you are focused. Of course. Your life depends on it. The success of your business also depends on it.
Health issues can rob you of both physical and emotional energy. Not taking care of your health issues can lead to energy deficits you cannot overcome. Physical and mental health are intricately associated. After my blood pressure event, I ratcheted up my exercise, diet and mental health maintenance. I have to depend on other people to judge the success of my mental health maintenance, but the exercise and diet change definitely worked. Your physical well-being affects your mental well-being and vice versa. You cannot perform for your client or customer effectively unless you have the energy to address their work. Again, the hours you put in are irrelevant. What is important to your customer or client is what you accomplish in that period.
I am sure you have been anxiously waiting to know which project I completed. Did I plant the gooseberry bushes to make sure the roots were not damaged by drying out, or did I remove the damaged shrubs from the front of the house? Neither. A light rain started, so I went back to bed. It's good to be retired.
Paul Hense is the retired president of local accounting firm Hense & Associates and past chairman of the Small Business Association of Michigan.