I was asked the other day to be the keynote speaker for a Women’s Professional Conference in late June, not unusual as I speak at Women’s Conferences all the time. However, the meeting planner said the client requested me, because the topic was work-life balance, and the client  said of all the speakers her committee reviewed I seem to be the most authentic, the one most walking my talk.

Now I have to admit, this sort of made me laugh. While I am glad I present that image that I have a life that reflects both my professional success as well as my personal success, it may be a far stretch to say I have found “balance.”

I am not sure I believe in work-life balance or even if that is or should be a goal. I believe and share with my clients the importance of loving and being passionate about what you do, whether work or play. In other words, mastering the art of enjoying your life. One of my favorite quotes is “A master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play.” While I believe it is a Zen Master Buddhist quote there is still debate as to who gets the credit, and at the end of the day it truly does not matter. What does is that we find the balance that works  for us; so that we end each day with more peace and happiness than we started it.

So how do we do that? Well many of the gurus in the field tell us that time management is the answer. The better job we do of managing our time, the more we will get done in less time. And as a society we have so heavily bought into this that there is an entire industry devoted to better time management. Now I have tried the different techniques of creating “to do” lists, time blocking and creative scheduling, but, for me, at the end of the day, those techniques leave me frustrated and with just one more thing to put on my to-do list.

The answer to the question, of how to get more done in less time, ( or as I prefer, how to really start enjoying your life) is to learn to master your energy not your time.  Now I live in Asheville North Carolina, just voted the coolest city in the country, and it is also home to the land of energetic mountains and healing waters, so you may now be wondering what kind of woo-woo stuff is this woman spouting? Well it may sound “woo-woo” (technical term)  but it is not; the idea of managing energy vs time  is actually backed up by scientific research and was brought to the forefront by a man named Tony Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of The Energy Project.

You see energy, unlike time,  is something over which you have control. The more energy you have the more capacity you have to meet the demands of your life. Again, energy, unlike time,  actually can be managed  Think about it, anyway you cut it, there are only 24 hours in every day, that is all the time you get. Then add to that you need to try to use at least six or seven of it to sleep, so actually only have about 18 hours per day to get it all done.  No matter what you do you, how much you want to, you cannot put more hours in a day.

But energy that is different! You actually have control over how much you have, how much you build and how much you lose.  The more  energy you have the more ability you have to focus on and accomplish more of what you want to in life; by managing your energy you can effectively do more with less.. The idea of energy management  really is simple, the better you feel physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally  the more energy you  will have to focus on the people you love, the job you want to do, and yourselves. Yes, I said focus on yourself! The better you manage your energy – the more capacity you have to get things done!

So how do you manage your energy?  Well here are three ideas to get you started!

  1. First Things First – put first things first! Do you know what is important to you; of course you do. But do you make times for the things that are important to you, now that is a different question. Right now, make a list of what is important to you, what you value, and what you want to ensure you make time for. Make a list for the office, and more importantly one for home. Chances are that your schedule over the last month has few to little of those things on it. We lose energy when we do not make time for what is important to use and what we value. So start there, each and every week proactively mark your calendar with those things that matter like;  when you will pick your child up from school, meet with your best clients, make the time to exercise, or work on the project that will get you  a raise. Put those things first and watch your energy spike!
  1. Energy People – do you know who yours are? Those people in your life, again both professionally and personally that infuse energy into you vs those that suck it out. You need to truly question who and what in your life gives you energy and what does not. Then, while we cannot stop doing everything that sucks the energy out of us, we can question if we need to do it all. Many of us have tasks we can delegate, clients we don’t need, and friends that do not really have our best interest at heart.  If we “removed” those people from our lives, removed those tasks, we would have more room to add more people and tasks that put energy in. This is one of these places you are not seeking balance; learn to manage your energy by making sure you have far more energy givers in your life than takers.
  1. More In vs Out – it is a myth the more you work the more you get done – how great is that!  Those people who get to the office at six and stay till ten, truth is they get less done than those of us who leave at six to eat dinner with our spouse and put our kids to bed. Research tells us that we  have the capacity to work and focus no longer than two hours – max. So every 90 minutes to two hours we need to take an energy break. We need to stop, get up and go do something we want to do, something that infuses energy back into us. Listen to some music, laugh with a co-worker, call your child, or just go for a mini walk. The research shows that if you take a break you will actually have more energy to get more done in less time!

The myth of time management has been around for years, and both in our personal and professional lives we have struggled to get it all done, with little to no success! So take a break, and stop worrying about getting it all done, choose what is important to you, what matters, put that first, and then take an energy break – you deserve it!

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