If you’ve been following us for a while, you already know much we like the The Power of Full Engagement. It’s a book we recommend to any new Asian Efficiency reader that will change your outlook on what productivity really is and how you should go about it.
As I was doing my annual review of this book, I thought I would share the top 10 takeaways from the book with simple action steps to incorporate them into your life.
- Energy is the main currency, not time.
- Add more breaks into your life.
- Forget about discipline, focus on building rituals.
- The most productive life is a life with purpose.
1. Focus on your energy, not time.
It’s very difficult to get things done when you don’t have the energy to do so. When we are fatigued, any activity we do is comprised. That’s why it’s more important to focus more on managing your energy levels than managing your time.
What’s the point of being really good at managing your time when you’re tired all day long? The quantity and quality of our energy levels directly affects the value we create. Not the amount of time.
Action step: Pay attention to your energy levels throughout the day. Before you go to sleep tonight, rate on a scale of 1–10 how your energy level is. Then ask yourself “how can I be more energized tomorrow?” (Hint: see the other tips below.)
2. Don’t sacrifice on sleep.
Sleep is a fundamental source of energy. When you don’t get enough sleep, your chances of being productive are slim to none. As we mentioned in the 3 brain facts you need to know to double your productivity, studies have shown that mental performance rapidly declines as sleep debt increases.
Action step: Get our Better Sleep audio program, listen to it and find your optimal sleep time and duration.
3. Eat clean, train dirty.
To elaborate further on managing your energy levels, in The Power of Full Engagement, the authors discuss that sleep, nutrition and exercise form the foundation of your energy levels. It’s difficult to be fully engaged at your work when you’re hungry or eating junk food. Likewise, it’s challenging to be productive for long periods of time when you don’t exercise on a regular basis.
Anyone who has cleaned up their diet and started exercising can tell you how much better they feel. From our own observations, these people tend to be much productive too. So eat clean, train dirty.
Action step: Starting today, look for opportunities to walk more and add vegetables to your meals.
4. Breaks. Breaks. Breaks.
One of the biggest takeaways from the book is that taking aside time for breaks is vitally important. It sounds counterintuitive but in order to consistently stay productive and perform at a high level, we need to add more breaks into our lives.
Everything in life is a cycle – there are upswings, and there are downswings. There will always be certain times during the day when you’re bright and alert, and others when you’re completely unproductive and really need to just zone out for a rest period.
Action step: Whenever you have a break at work, go for a walk and disengage from all the things you’ve been working on.
5. Forget running a marathon. Start sprinting.
You want to be fully engaged and present when you’re getting things done, and completely disengaged when you’re not working. And repeat this as you go through life.
They give the analogy of a marathon runner versus a sprinter. A marathon runner just goes at a steady pace, stays flat-lined, and never takes any breaks. On the other hand, the sprinter will burst into high gear, push their limits and take breaks.
You want to be like a sprinter because that’s how our bodies function. When you arrive at work, you want to be engaged and get in the zone. By the time you come home you just want to relax and totally forget about work. Repeat this cycle so you recover faster and so you can produce your best work when you are switched on.
Action step: Think: action, renewal, action, renewal. Repeat.
6. Take naps.
Speaking of renewal, the fastest way to recoup is to take a nap. We are hardwired to take naps in the afternoon. Studies have shown that napping for 20–25 minutes boosts your mental performance and after taken countless of naps myself, I can testify that it’s absolutely true.
Action step: This afternoon, set a timer for 20 minutes, lean back in your chair and doze off.
7. Make your own rituals.
In a world where discipline is a lost skill, the authors argue that you shouldn’t worry about discipline as much. Focus on making rituals – step-by-step actions you can do over and over again so it becomes automatic.
When you try to rely on willpower and discipline to get stuff done, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There will always be times when you let things slide. On the other hand, when you make it habitual you don’t have to use any brain power or willpower to get things done. Once it’s automatic and ingrained, you just do it.
An example is setting up your morning ritual. Once you “ritualize” it as part of your life, you don’t use any willpower or discipline to get yourself in the best state of mind possible. It’s just what you do just like you brush your teeth every morning. You don’t think about it, you just do it.
Action step: Set up your morning ritual for tomorrow and make a checklist. Check it off tomorrow.
8. Go with the flow.
Every 24 hours our bodies go through a cycle of ups and downs. Throughout the day there are times when we are very focused and at other times we have a hard time focusing. This is completely normal and it’s part of being human.
The Asian Efficient person accepts this, recognizes this and builds his/her ideal schedule around this idea. If you’re a morning person, your schedule should very different than a night owl’s.
Don’t try to fight the current. Instead, go with the flow. Listen to your body and try to ride the waves when you’re most focused and energized.
We call this Hero Mode. If you know you struggle focusing around 2pm, why would you even consider doing your most creative work at that time? Schedule it for another time when you are most energized and creative.
Action step: Figure out what times of the day you’re the most focused and energized, and build your ideal schedule around that. Before you leave work, have this schedule in your calendar set for tomorrow.
9. Get rid of negative emotions.
To be truly engaged, you need to be in a certain state of mind. You can’t have negative emotions such as fear, insecurity or worries throw you off your game.
When was the last time you were “in the zone” and you were experiencing fear of failure?
Action step: Make a list of 3 negative emotions you regularly experience. Then on the right side, write a quick one-liner how you’re going to address this.
10. Live with purpose.
The best way to be productive for the rest of your life is to live a life with purpose. A life without a purpose is like driving a car without a destination. How is that productive?
On the other hand, a life with purpose is driving a car with a clear destination in mind and a roadmap to get there.
When you know what your purpose is, all your actions, thoughts and habits will be aligned that will shoot your productivity into overdrive.
Action step: Follow these 5 simple steps to find your purpose.
There you have it. The top ten insights from The Power of Full Engagement with tips to get you started. If you haven’t read it yet, we recommend you do it to instill these insights (and many more). You can grab it here.
You should also watch this video where he talks about all these concepts in this 30m video.