One of the most important lessons I have learned about productivity is this: It’s less about managing time and more about managing energy.
Why? Because time is fixed, but our energy can flex. Most people get this exactly backward. They cram their day with tasks, thinking they can get it all done. Instead, they end up working more and more hours, less and less efficiently, because they wear themselves out.
Bonkers Bankers’ Hours
Maybe you can identify. According to Gallup, the average workweek is closer to 50 hours than 40, and for some of us, it’s a lot more.
Alexandra Michel is a former banker who teaches at University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She conducted a twelve-year study of investment bankers who regularly worked between—get this—100 and 120 hours a week. There are only 168 hours in a week, so these financial workers were shorting sleep, relationships, self-care, and more.
The banks offered round-the-clock administrative help, along with meal and laundry services and other domestic assistance. Michel found that these bankers were amazingly productive for the first few years, given their solitary focus, but it didn’t last.
“Starting in year four, bankers started to experience sometimes debilitating physical and psychological breakdowns,” Michel writes. Their long list of problems included “chronic exhaustion, insomnia, back and body pain, autoimmune diseases, heart arrhythmias, addictions, and compulsions, such as eating disorders.”
And these problems bred other problems for their employers, in the form of plummeting productivity, “diminished judgment,” and lowered “ethical sensitivity.” In the banking industry, that can be a recipe for financial ruin.
Rejuvenate to Great
What the bankers—and all people who suffer from overwork—really need to get their energy back up is rejuvenation.
We are not machines. We can’t just keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny. When we work too long, we badly need to recharge or we lose energy and focus.
The good news is that energy is a renewable resource, but only if it’s managed correctly. There are at least 5 strategies for rejuvenation that I discuss in my Free to Focus™ course. One of those strategies is to get enough rest. Here are 3 ways to go about doing that.
1. Make Sleep a Priority
First of all, you’ve got to take an inventory. Do long work hours leave you fatigued? Does your body crave more sleep than you’re getting? If so, then it’s trying to tell you something which is glaringly obvious: You need more, and better, rest. You can get that rest but you’re going to have to be purposeful about it. Resolve to rest and then do what it takes to make that possible.
2. Get a Better Night’s Sleep
The easiest and best way to do that is to get a good night’s sleep. That may be difficult with work pressures and children. But you can work toward it and, in the meantime, maximize the sleep that you are getting. There are many ways to do this, including:
- Turn devices off and put them away from your body.
- Establish a nighttime ritual and put your mind in the right place to fall asleep quicker.
- Limit late-night eating to cut down on internal disturbances.
- Drink more water throughout the day so that you don’t have to make up the deficit before bed, and make several trips to the bathroom.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Naps
If it gets into the afternoon and you feel yourself dragging, don’t be afraid to take a nap. I had a boss who figured out a way to take short naps in his chair every afternoon. He would fall asleep clutching his keys in his hands. When the keys fell, that would wake him up and signal it was time to start working again.
Talk About It
I was going to issue a warning about naps, saying that you may need to give your boss a heads up. It could be helpful to let her know that you’re not slacking, but rather recharging so that you can finish the day strong.
But it might need to be part of a larger conversation you should have about your workload. If you keep piling task on top of task and flexing to get it all in, your productivity will suffer in the long term. And your slump will help drag your organization down.
For many, the better choice may be to go ahead and have that conversation now—to get your energy and your focus back on track.