MANY of us who are pressured at work often focus on time management rather than personal energy management. However, some experts believe that managing your personal energy rather than your time is what determines career success and achievement.

According to Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, authors of “Manage your energy, not your time”, an article published in Harvard Business Review, personal energy is renewable and key to good performance on the job.

In their article, they describe a pilot energy management programme involving the staff of an American bank. Their findings reveal that the participants outperformed the control group on a series of financial metrics, such as the value of loans they generated. These employees also reported substantial improvements in their customer relationships, their engagement with work and their personal satisfaction.

Here are some ways you can renew or rejuvenate your personal energy, which comprises four components — physical, emotional, mental and human spirit energies:


Physical energy

This can be replenished by making sure you have adequate sleep. A recent survey found that Singaporeans are among the most sleep-deprived people on the planet. So if you are not as engaged at work as you would like to be, try getting more shut-eye.

Other factors also influence your energy levels, such as drinking too much alcohol, over-eating and over-indulging in rich, calorie-laden food.

To feel more energised and reduce stress, engage in regular cardiovascular activity and eat smaller, healthier meals regularly. Be alert to signs that your energy level is dropping, for example, yawning, listlessness, restlessness and difficulty in concentrating. These send a clear signal to you to take a break — a few minutes of “power napping” at your desk, or a longer nap of 30 minutes to two hours, if you are working at home.


Emotional energy

This is related to managing your emotions effectively. Negative emotions — irritability, impatience, anxiety and annoyance — need to be defused. It is therefore important to stimulate positive emotions constantly. This can be achieved by striving for a cheerful and happy disposition.

Learning to express appreciation to others is another way to stimulate positive emotions. Developing social and emotional intelligence can contribute tremendously to raising emotional energy. Becoming more collaborative at work and in your professional networks can help increase emotional energy, too.


Mental energy

Many executives and managers view multi-tasking as a necessity to cope with all the demands they juggle, but it actually undermines productivity. Distractions are also costly. A temporary shift in attention from one task to another, like stopping to answer an e-mail or take a phone call, for instance, increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25 per cent, a phenomenon known as “switching time”.

Remaining highly focused on tasks and avoiding distractions can contribute to the effective management of mental energy. You need to be disciplined: Respond to e-mails and phone calls at specific designated times during the day. And if someone drops by for a chat, tell him nicely that you would love to talk but you need to work on something for the next two hours and will meet him for a coffee the minute you are done. That way, you don’t upset your colleague and you get your work done.


Human spirit energy

This is simply the energy relating to the purpose and meaning of your work. You generally tap into the energy of your human spirit when your everyday work and activities are consistent with what you value most and with what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.

If the work you are doing really matters to you and is congruent with your personal values you will typically feel more positive energy, focus better and demonstrate greater perseverance. Therefore, it is important to identify your personal and work values. Make sure they are congruent and consistent.

Your values drive your attitude and behaviour. If anything about your work is not consistent with your values, it will inevitably trigger negativity and, consequently, result in a drain in your energy.


The bottom line

Managing their personal energy is a tool many people do not use fully to grow their career or to pursue their career goals. Stress at work occurs when workplace demands exceed professional, personal and social resources.

When pressured by work, many of us, like the proverbial ostrich, bury our heads in the sand in search of time or to hide from the boss. We think little about what we really lack.

To manage your personal energy, add intrinsic motivation and drive, and factors for personal success like diligence and dedication, and you may well have the elixir of career success.


Article by Kamal Kant, a part-time lecturer in Careers, Employment Relations and Management at Nanyang Technological University and SIM Global Education. He conducts career workshops and career coaches in his spare time.