Brooks and Mike discuss why energy management is the real key to high achievement. They walk through different types of energy that need to be managed, and what you can do to maximize each one. Do you find that you often can’t muster up the energy to focus on an important task? This episode is for you.
Episode originally published 08 May 2017.
Mike Schmitz: [00:00:06] Welcome to The Productivity Show, the Asian Efficiency podcast dedicated to helping you make the most of your time, attention, energy, and focus. In this episode, Brooks and I talk about why energy management, not time management, is the real key to high achievement. And we give you practical tips to increase your energy. We talk about the different types of energy that need to be managed and what you can do to maximize each one. If you’ve ever felt completely drained, knowing you need to work on a task or project but giving into procrastination anyway because you just can’t muster up the energy to take action on it; Number one- we’ve all been there. And number two- this episode is for you. You can find links to everything that we share in the show notes by going to theproductivityshow.com/142. And now, on with the show.
Mike Schmitz: [00:01:00] So this is the first podcast Brooks that we have recorded after I met you in person for the first time, a couple of weeks ago when we were in Austin for our quarterly planning.
Brooks Duncan: [00:01:11] That’s right. We shared an Airbnb, and we saw Austin a little bit and it was definitely definitely interesting meeting face to face, somebody who I’ve known through Twitter a long time and now through Asian Efficiency as well so it was great to meet in person.
Mike Schmitz: [00:01:26] It was a lot of fun. We ate a lot of good food, drank a lot of good coffee. You ended up buying a couple of things on the trip, or after the trip I should say.
Brooks Duncan: [00:01:35] Yep you guys introduced me to the cult of Carcassonne. And I bought expensive for me- I’ve always bought cheap luggage- but I bought a nicer luggage. I’m starting to live Thanh’s minimal, minimalist luxury lifestyle. And so yeah it was great. Now also introduced to the cult of the breakfast taco after being in Austin as well.
Mike Schmitz: [00:01:58] Somebody once told me that Austin runs on breakfast tacos. We’ll put a link to the bag that you bought in the show notes because I’m sure people are probably pretty curious. And this was actually my fault because I brought mine and it was the first time I traveled with this bag. It’s the Away Carry-On and it’s got a power brick in the top. It’s got a lot of other really great features including a compression system that’s pretty unique and works really well but the power brick has a couple of USB ports on it so that you can charge your phone and your devices without having to plug into the wall. You can charge an iPhone up to five times they say. And it definitely came in handy in fact I posted on Twitter about how I was a travel hero for this family who was walking up and down the terminal looking for an outlet so that the guy could charge his phone. The daughter had one percent left on her iPhone, she was freaking out. So I saved the day for this family on the way to Austin, on the way back from Austin had a little bit of travel trouble. My flight got canceled and so I ended up having to stay in Austin an extra day had to get up at 4 a.m. to catch the first flight out of the airport I think, which was not a fun experience and basically ruined me for the entire next day. Which leads perfectly into the topic for this episode which is energy management. So this is a little bit more advanced version of time management. Time management is kind of the entry level in terms of how you’re going to get things done. Energy Management is the next level. And this is really the tipping point for for being very very productive. There’s an analogy that Thanh used in one of the articles which we’ll link to in the show notes that I use for putting together this outline, of a sports car where you can have the sports car which can go 0 to 60 in four seconds but without gas the car is not going to move so you have all the potential all the ability to do these things but without the energy source you’re not going to get anything done. You can master GTD, you can have stellar systems you can have all the techniques down pat. But if you don’t have any energy you’re not going to follow through with any of those plans that you’ve made. So this is more important than time management.
Brooks Duncan: [00:04:08] I would definitely agree it is more important than time management and this is actually a great day to be recording this podcast because my wife was up at 3:45 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight so I guess I was up in sympathy with her. So I definitely need an energy management episode today. But I’ve had days in the past. I don’t I’m not sure if you have where you know I have my day planned perfectly well. I’ve got all my most important tasks ready to go. I’ve done my morning ritual. But then at some point throughout the day I just have energy issues and it throws the whole thing off so you can have the best time management planning in the world. But if you don’t have the energy to go along with it it’s not going to work.
Mike Schmitz: [00:04:48] Definitely. I’ve been there where I’ve got this three hour block where I’m going to work on this task and I just don’t have the energy to follow through and actually do it. It’s always kind of frustrating when you’re in that situation because most of the time you’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it in. And that kind of the threat of those deadlines looming usually is enough to inspire people to take action on things. But that’s kind of living in that emergency scan modality that David Allen talks about. It’s a lot better if you can be intentional or just say I’m going to work on this at this time and it can be really discouraging when that time comes. You’ve got everything set up you’re ready to go. And you just don’t have the energy to follow through with it. So yeah you can manage your time well you can create the space on your calendar that’s great but that’s not the end to itself. Time management actually serves the higher goal of effective energy management so I kind of think of time management as Level 1 energy management as Level 2 and there’s a quote here from The Power of Full Engagement. I’ll put the link to this book in the show notes, this is a great book, have you read this book Brooks?
Brooks Duncan: [00:05:53] I’ve listened to the audio book and I didn’t realize until after I listened to it that it was actually an abridged version so I actually want to go back and read it again the full version. I was thinking man this seems kind of short but it turns out that’s why.
Mike Schmitz: [00:06:10] Yeah. This is a great book and there’s a lot of really powerful visuals in this book too. I mean there’s – actually I shouldn’t say there’s that there’s a lot of them but there’s a couple simple concepts that they teach in the book which we’re going to get into in this episode. But having the visual there really solidified it for me. But the quote from the book is “energy not time is the fundamental currency of high performers” and there’s actually I mentioned there’s a post that we’ll link to in the show notes which is kind of inspired by this book. There’s actually a whole series of posts on this topic and the different types of energy that you need to manage which is taught in the book as the energy pyramid. So let’s maybe break down the four different pieces of the energy pyramid, you want to take the first one Brooks?
Brooks Duncan: [00:06:56] Yeah the number one component of the energy pyramid is physical. So this is this is just stuff relating to your body. So some key components are sleep. We have a link to a study that says the average American gets 6.7 hours of sleep but needs seven to nine. Now different people have different requirements. But I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s unfair to say that to a certain extent the more sleep you get within that 7-9 range, the better performer you’re going to be.
Mike Schmitz: [00:07:31] Yeah definitely. And sleep is something that is very near to my heart. I guess I’ve I think I’ve shared this on the podcast before but I’ve actually been diagnosed with epilepsy. It’s genetic. I got it from my grandma. And one of the things that can trigger a seizure is a lack of sleep so I need to be very careful that I do everything that I can to make sure that I don’t have seizures especially when I’m driving or something like that. No I haven’t had a seizure action about 10 years and it’s completely under control. I also take medication for it though that makes me more drowsy so I need to really make sure that I am not only getting enough sleep but I am getting good sleep which kind of led me to one of Asian efficiency’s first products which was better sleep, where Thanh and Aaron just kind of did their own personal study on on sleep and they cited a lot of different sources. But one of the key concepts that I got from that product is this whole idea of sleep debt which is why you look at that statistic and you can say the average American gets six point seven hours of sleep well maybe they only need seven. Doesn’t matter because if you’re not getting enough sleep that adds up over time. And if you haven’t been getting enough sleep for weeks months years you can’t just sleep in one weekend and expect that to go away.
Brooks Duncan: [00:08:51] Yeah I actually went through this when we were in Austin just the way my schedule had been up to that point. I had trip after trip after trip booked back to back and wasn’t getting a lot of sleep on any of them. And so by the time you know I had had that early morning flight to Austin I was I was pretty I think that sleep debt was starting to be accumulated up, and that one night when Mike we and I we were staying in the Airbnb and one of the nights there was some bros outside right outside our door having heart to heart talks at 3 a.m. being really loud. I just had to stumble outside and yell at them and say “Guys can you just do this anywhere else except outside my door” just because that sleep debt has just accumulated I needed to get back to sleep.
Mike Schmitz: [00:09:40] And you say you yelled at them but you yelled at in the most polite Canadian way possible.
Brooks Duncan: [00:09:45] I think I even did say please. I have to admit. Yes.
Mike Schmitz: [00:09:52] Yeah so sleep debt is definitely a very real thing. And what’s scary about sleep debt is that most people are just so accustomed to a lack of sleep and just functioning the way that they have been. That they don’t realize they don’t even realize that they’re suffering from this. I just started reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington I believe, and at the beginning of the book she tells a story about how she was launching a business. I believe it’s Huffington Post now so it’s a major publication. She was taking her daughter to college visits and she was just burning the candle at both ends and she thought that no big deal I’ll just drink more coffee. But at one point when she was in her office in between visits she just blacked out, hit her face on the desk, woke up she said in her own words in a pool of blood and she was just like what happened. And her body just physically was like no more and just completely shut down. And I don’t think that that is unique. I think that there’s a lot of people who are at danger of that sort of thing because your body is great for, is great at accommodating different things. But there is a breaking point and you have to recognize that you can’t just keep taxing it over and over and over again this adds up. And so you need to be careful when accumulating the sleep debt. Going back to the whole concept of sleep though and how it actually works. Another key thing that I got from that product was the whole idea of sleep cycles, so a sleep cycle essentially is when you first fall asleep and then you go down between these different levels I believe is five different levels at the bottom level is the rapid eye movement or R.E.M. sleep that is really restorative and regenerative to your body. And so a sleep cycle is where you go from light sleep all the way down to this deep sleep, have this REM cycle, and then come back up to a light sleep and the the average person needs five of these sleep cycles to get enough rest for their body to be fully recuperated from a good night’s sleep and these sleep cycles are generally about 90 minutes long. And so if you are if you take that 90 minutes times five sleep cycles that’s about seven and a half hours of sleep which is kind of right in the middle of that range and so obviously that’s going to fluctuate a little bit. But if you are able to track those sleep cycles and there are different technologies that allow you to do that one of the ones that I’ve used in the past is this Sleep Cycle app where it will actually activate your microphone and it will track when you’re in your light sleep when you’re in your deep sleep based on I guess like how you’re breathing. And then what it will do is you set a range for when you want to wake up and the app will kind of determine when you’re coming up out of your sleep cycle and we’ll try to wake you up when you’re in the lightest sleep possible. So if you’ve ever been like really deep in a deep sleep and then your alarm goes off and you wake up and you’re just completely groggy and you have no idea which end is up. You were probably in that R.E.M. sleep or close to it. And sometimes that can kind of just throw off your entire day. That’s kind of what happened to me when I was traveling the alarm went off at [4:00] in the morning and I was like what where am I. But if you wake up at the top of your sleep cycle when you’re in that light sleep it’s a lot easier to get going. And so using something like a sleep sleep cycle app or the Philips wake up light is another one that I’ve used in the past where it will over a period of 30 minutes kind of simulate a sunrise because that sunrise will naturally bring you up out of that deep sleep too, you can kind of hit the ground running if you manage the sleep cycles effectively.
Brooks Duncan: [00:13:37] You know these apps are fascinating. I’ve never used one. I’m luckily a pretty good sleeper so it’s generally a pretty good waker upper I guess I would say. So I’ve never really felt the need to have one of these but I’ve always found the concept fascinating. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll try it out just to see just to see what it’s like and it’s pretty amazing the way they work.
Mike Schmitz: [00:13:58] It is pretty amazing. And there’s there’s obviously other options available to Fitbit, Jawbone. A lot of these like wearable technologies have this sort of thing built in. And even if you don’t have trouble sleeping it’s really interesting. I’ve gotten into the whole concept of like a quantified self you know you want to track how many how many calories you eat, how much sleep is obviously a big big category there. You can track how many cups of coffee you drink all that kind of stuff that adds up and so when you can have the record of all of these things you can go back and you can look at it and can say oh yeah that’s why I was really high functioning that day or that’s why I was completely drained and I ended up procrastinating on that project and came back and bit me like that can be really valuable information. And you can you can do that. Obviously a bunch of different ways. But I would kind of recommend that everybody do this at least in some sense. I’ve written and we’ve talked about on the podcast the fact that I have an Apple Watch and that was one of the things that got me to get the Apple Watch was the fitness tracking. And even though it’s not the most powerful fitness tracker on the market it does track the number of calories that you burn. It tells you to stand up once an hour if you’re sitting. And that’s easy for me to do especially when I’m cranking on some videos or things I’ll be sitting in my chair and then all of a sudden three hours have gone by you know. So those little things. I think that’s the best use of technology. You know there’s a lot of negative use of technology the notifications, the dings that can interrupt your focus and your flow. And we we’ve talked about that and in other episodes. But there’s a lot of good uses for it as well where it can help facilitate and help support a healthy lifestyle especially in the area of energy management.
Brooks Duncan: [00:15:41] Definitely.
Mike Schmitz: [00:15:42] Another thing that we should talk about. Just quickly regarding sleep is this whole concept the blue light. It amazes me how many tech podcasts don’t think that this is a real thing because I’ve seen it for myself. I’ve been using Flux for years. Again you know this is important to me. I do a lot of work online at my computer all day. I want to make sure that when I disconnected I’m going to bed that I am able to go to sleep because sleep is very very important to me. So the whole concept behind an app like Flux or more recently an Apple rolled out nightshift in their iOS and now I believe it’s even on the Mac as well. Is that it takes the blue tint out of your screens as the sun goes down because that blue light that actually gets your body to not produce the melatonin the chemical that actually helps you fall asleep. If you were to just go outside not expose yourself to any artificial light your body would naturally prepare itself for sleep as soon as the sun went down. But in today’s society where everything is lit up all the time especially when we’re staring at our phones until [9:00] [10:00] [11:00] o’clock at night what will happen is that we’ll be using these devices right up until it’s time to go to bed and then that blue light has convinced our body that it’s not really as late as it is and then we try to go to bed and we can’t fall asleep. So this is something that we really need to be aware of.
Brooks Duncan: [00:17:12] Yeah I think night shift particularly on iOS and I think on Android I think you need a third party app to do it. I think there’s a few there’s actually one called night shift and there’s one called Twilight and I’m sure there’s some other good ones but it’s built into iOS and I think this is one of the biggest improvements that Apple has made in iOS in a long time and it’s kind of under the radar feature. But even just to reduce the strain on your eyes when you’re using your device at night it’s it’s night and literally night and day. I wasn’t even going for that one. The difference between using it, Night Shift is just huge and Flux again on the Mac. It is a big one as well. Even ignoring the sleep benefits which are huge which you know we’re talking about just reducing the strain on the eyes is really really helpful.
Mike Schmitz: [00:18:03] Yeah definitely. And if you want to know more about the science behind the blue light I believe the Web site is justgetflux.com. They have a ton of research on their site. This is something that they’ve been pretty passionate about for a long time. So it’s kind of disappointing to see in my opinion them get Sherlocked by something like nightshift but they were never really going to get access on on iOS devices anyways in fact that at one point there was a beta version of Flux where you kind of install via X code but that quickly got got shut down and then I think it was like a month or two later nightshift was released. And I think it’s great that nightshift exists because it’s built into the operating system and it helps people who normally wouldn’t even consider turning this down like that they’re getting the benefits of this sort of thing. But in my opinion Flux does a much better job and it’s more effective. Flux will make your screen very very orange if you are using your computer late at night. And some people just absolutely hate that. Whereas Apple’s night shift isn’t going to take and it’s not going to make your colors look that that extreme. But it’s also not going to be as effective in my opinion either. Yeah. All right. So the second one here under the physical energy is exercise. This is something that we all know we need to do but this is also something that often gets put to the backburner, going back to the Eisenhower matrix. I just did a presentation yesterday on deep work and we talked about how most people tend to live their lives on the left side of that matrix where you have the things that are important and urgent but also a lot of things that are not important. But other people say are urgent things like e-mail where one study said that the average U.S. worker spends 6.3 hours a day in e-mail. So that’s a lot of time doing things that really aren’t that important. Most of the time if we’re honest with ourselves. But when we look at it it does appear to be urgent. There’s a fire that needs to be put out there. So the things that get neglected often are the things that are not urgent but are important things like family time weekly planning and exercise definitely falls in here because you can go to the gym once and you don’t feel any immense immediate benefits. But if you do it over and over and over again then that compound effect kicks in and you start to see the results and it usually doesn’t take nearly as long as you think it does. So some of the benefits of exercise in terms of energy management number one it’s going to increase your energy so you’ll actually have more energy if you exercise regularly and it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to do strength training interval training you don’t run a marathon you just have to be active every single day. I would say. And then it’s also going to decrease the amount of sleep that you actually need which maybe seems a little bit counterintuitive but I think the third one here is kind of related to that. And that’s because it increases the quality of your sleep. If you are active during the day if you are burning more calories it’s easier for you to fall asleep it’s easier. Easier for you to get into those sleep cycles. And so if you can just enter into that quicker than you’re not going to need as much sleep. It’s also going to boost your immune system and decrease fatigue. But regardless like I said all these different benefits it’s not any one type of exercise it’s going to trigger these. The real key here is just to be consistent whatever you’re going to do whether you’re going to run a couple of miles every morning or you’re just going to go for a walk in the afternoon. Just make sure that you’re regular with this.
Brooks Duncan: [00:21:25] Yeah. And you raise an important point that it doesn’t. A lot of times people think exercising means you have to go to the gym you have to have a gym membership. And some people just you know aren’t comfortable with that or they think it means you have to do this high intensity training or whatever but going for a walk is just I mean I don’t know if I’d say it’s just as good but is infinitely better than doing nothing. And usually I find when I am having energy issues and I start looking into why that is it’s because maybe like you said any exercise has gotten to the backburner and I haven’t been as consistent as I should have been with it. And that usually is what sends me down the path to low energy.
Mike Schmitz: [00:22:07] Now I know that you are a big walker because when we were in Austin occasionally you’d be like I’m just going to go for a walk. I’m curious do you have any tips for people on how they can implement this because like specifically when we were in Austin we’re downtown. You maybe don’t know the area what what are what are some things that you do to make sure that you’re able to stick with this routine that you’ve developed on the road.
Brooks Duncan: [00:22:31] Yeah. Well I do tend to always go for especially even if I were on vacation or something like that so I was just in Mexico for two weeks and every morning I went for a walk and I just happened to like walking but even if you are not a walking fan I find combining it with something else is really helpful. So for example I like walking listening to podcasts or listening to audio books. So especially now that I work from home and don’t have a commute to work my commute is going down two floors. I find walking is when I do a lot of my podcast listening and that sort of thing. So if you can combine it with something else that’s really helpful. Also if you’re going to another city it’s just interesting to see the different the different things around the area where you’re staying. So I just like to kind of explore the neighborhood see what’s going on and that sort of thing. I tend to walk in the mornings usually but whatever time works works for you.
Mike Schmitz: [00:23:33] Nice. I’m glad that you brought up the idea of of doing other things while you’re walking because in general multitasking is a very bad idea. But I would say that this is one of those areas where yeah if you wanted to listen to an audio book or a podcast this is the perfect time to do it another way that you could do this though because I tend to listen to podcasts and audio books whenever I am traveling in Wisconsin things are kind of spread out but there’s not a ton of traffic so I end up driving quite a bit and I’m usually listening to podcasts in the car that sort of thing. So the tendency for me is to if I’m going to go for a walk I would put in my headphones and I would listen to a podcast or an audio book. But one of the things that I started doing last year based off of an idea I got from the book Deep Work by Cal Newport is this whole idea of productive meditation. And same concept where I would be doing some work and I’d be working on a problem building a video or whatever and I would encounter a point where I would I was somewhat stuck like I could overcome this thing. But really what I did what would be the best thing here is that I just give this some space. And so at that point that was my trigger that I’m going to take my dog for a walk and instead of listening to a podcast or an audio book what I would do is I would just think about the problem or where I was stuck or what I was working on because I wasn’t physically at my computer I couldn’t actually do anything about it but just creating the time if I’m going to go for a walk and it’s gonna take me 15 20 minutes. Then that’s 15 to 20 minutes where all I can do is think about this problem and just giving myself the space to think about the problem often resulted in more creative and better solutions.
Brooks Duncan: [00:25:21] Yeah I read the same thing in Deep Work and I thought yeah I should do that too but I haven’t actually do it. I still still listen to my podcasts but it is when I will admit if I am ever walking without my headphones. That stuff does actually happen so it is not a bad idea.
Mike Schmitz: [00:25:38] Now I bring it up not as a suggestion that hey when you walk you shouldn’t listen to anything, but just something that you could deploy tactically. You know if you are really stuck on something then you need some space. You can get the emotional and mental recharge that you’re looking for by going out for a walk. But also you can have some additional benefits in helping you see the the problem from a different angle.
Brooks Duncan: [00:26:02] Yep definitely.
Mike Schmitz: [00:26:04] Alright so the third one here under physical is nutrition. This is the last one and maybe we don’t need to spend a ton of time on this one because I don’t feel comfortable giving people advice on what they should or shouldn’t eat. But I will just say be careful about what you put into your body. Principle is garbage in garbage out. You know you are what you eat. So if you’re going to eat foods that are going to give you a lot of energy and you’re going to eat healthy you’re going to eat clean. That is going to be evident but if you’re going to eat fast food in a lot of heavy food you’re obviously not going to have as much energy. So don’t wonder why you don’t have much energy if you had a hamburger fries and a milkshake for lunch. It’s pretty natural.
Brooks Duncan: [00:26:51] Yeah. And I’m noticing this podcast is basically me being the cautionary tale of all the things you shouldn’t do. And this is another good example just to share a quick story. Like I try to eat eat healthy in general but a while ago I had a perfect storm where I had a really busy day but I also had an appointment downtown. So I was trying to maximize my time so I thought OK well when I’m driving home from downtown which was around lunchtime. I’ll hit the drive through eat lunch in the car as I’m driving home. And then once I get home I can just get right to work. I don’t have to waste time. You know organizing lunch. And so I did that and the time savings was great. But the problem is the afternoon my energy took a nosedive. And so I actually would have been better off spending the tiny bit of time you know just eating lunch once I got home and eating something more clean. And then I would have had the energy to keep going through the afternoon.
Mike Schmitz: [00:27:48] So yeah this is actually I’m glad you brought this up because this is a perfect example of where a time management and energy management can intersect. Because one of the things that I have started doing is I have started planning out my entire week my own my wife and I we’ve mentioned before in the podcast we have a family meeting every Sunday night where we compare calendars and we look at the entire week. And when you know what your schedule is going to be then you can prepare ahead of time and for example I’ve got a lunch that is packed in a lunch box that’s got a packet so you can put in ice packs so it’ll stay. It’ll keep everything cool. And by planning ahead I am able to control not only the quality of the food like you mentioned of what I am putting in my body added benefit means I don’t eat out as much because it’s not all it’s lunchtime I got to find something to eat. So save a lot of money that way as well. All right. So that’s the first area of the energy pyramid physical which as we talked about includes sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Now let’s talk about the second one which is emotional, and this is one that is really fascinating to me from this book The Power of Full Engagement, because they talk about the difference between positive and negative emotions. Now there is a link which I’ve put in the show notes here which is this energy quadrant from the book but the quadrant is essentially at the top you’ve got high energy and at the bottom you’ve got low energy. And then on the right you’ve got positive energy. And on the left you’ve got negative energy. And I noticed myself in books you can maybe talk about your own experience but naturally for me I am a fairly emotional person and if I’m not if I’m if I’m not careful about how I am managing my emotions what will end up happening is that my energy will be high but I’ll be bouncing back and forth between positive and negative. That’s kind of the default for me. And what this book is saying is that what you want to do is you want to shift that to instead of bouncing back between positive and negative because that’s not really helping you Plus you’re always high energy you’re not really giving your body a chance to recover you want to stay positive but shift between high energy and low energy terms they use for a high high energy high positive energy is fully engaged and low positive energy they call strategically disengaged which means that you don’t have to be going a hundred miles an hour for everything that you are involved in or everything that you’re dealing with. But you you want to pick and choose the things that you are going to devote your your entire mental capacity towards. You’ve got limited amount willpower you get a limited amount of energy. And so you want to concentrate that towards the things that are most important. And then be fully engaged. There are the things that aren’t so important. You want to lower your energy and be strategically disengaged.
Brooks Duncan: [00:30:55] Yeah that’s a that’s an interesting way to approach it and it’s definitely true that emotions can really impact energy and what you’re able to get done. I’m kind of the opposite. I am not an emotional person. In fact I’ve been called a robot before. But but but I have found and I definitely hear this from talking to people as well especially when people are going through challenges. You know maybe family situations or whatever it just it just gnaws at you and you just don’t have you know you know all of the things you need to do. But these negative emotions have have built up inside you and you just end up you know lying on the sofa because you just can’t you just can’t get the energy to actually take action and do things. So focusing on like you said what you’re allowing your emotions to to basically attach onto kind of a real real benefit for energy management.
Mike Schmitz: [00:31:56] Yeah and the reason that you have to shift between the high energy and the low energy in an ideal scenario is that your personality aside is is that life is not a sprint. We’re a talk about this more a little bit. But essentially what you are doing is you are engaging in a series of sprints. So this is kind of scrum for your brain if you want to think of it that way I guess where you’re focusing all your energy everything that you have all of your resources on something that is really important for a short period of time. And then you’re taking a step back so that you can recharge and then you can charge again. And I guess my big takeaway when I read this book was that I wasn’t paying attention to those cycles. I was hitting the ground running and I tried to keep my energy up the entire day. I found that that is pretty much impossible and leads to at the end of the day you just feeling completely drained and exhausted. So much better way to do this is to recognize as you go about your day. This is something that’s really important I should devote more of my resources towards this thing. This thing isn’t that important. We’re going to conserve some of that energy for later in the day when I do have that thing that’s super important and all this stuff is related obviously. I mean a lot of people they try to overcome that lack of energy that they have to just go a hundred miles an hour all day long they try to supplement that with caffeine or coffee or whatever like. Insert your own drug of choice. But and I drink coffee but I don’t drink it specifically for the caffeine I am a bit of a coffee snob as I’ve mentioned in the past where I kind of exclusively drink the pour over coffee so it’s like Starbucks. I try to stay away from that. But yeah it’s it’s not it’s not a thing where like I absolutely need this caffeine and in fact every year in January for the first 21 days of the year I show my body that I’m not addicted and I actually go on a caffeine fast and I just don’t drink coffee. But yeah. So I bring that up just because I think that that is something that the typical person maybe is using to cope with a lack of energy to achieve this ideal which maybe isn’t something that they should be pursuing anyway. So just to get people recognizing you know maybe you’re trying something you’re trying to overcome this through artificial means and really that’s not the ideal way to do this.
Brooks Duncan: [00:34:20] Yeah. And there’s other ways to do this and allowing yourself to kind of give your brain a break and strategically engage So going back to what we’re talking about about physical and walking. I happen to live right beside a forest and sometimes in the afternoon when it’s not the 11 months a year that it’s raining in Vancouver sometimes sometimes if my energies flagging what I’ll do is I’ll just go for a quick walk through the forest get away from my computer or just just get getting to nature for a little bit and then I come back and it’s like I’ve I’ve had you know caffeine or something like that even better because it’s you don’t have the down effects but just giving that quick break really really helps.
Mike Schmitz: [00:35:01] Yeah definitely and that’s something that Cal Newport calls out in the book as well as get into nature because there’s something about it that just recharges your batteries. This kind of leads us into the third area of energy here. So let’s make this talk about this one now which is mental. And really the idea here is kind of like we’re talking about with the walking example and getting away from your computer is give your brain a break.
Brooks Duncan: [00:35:25] Yeah absolutely. So you know like I said and I know that now that we’ve talked about it maybe it would be even more more impactful if I actually literally gave my brain a break and wasn’t listening to podcasts and audio books but I actually just was just watching the coyotes and seeing watching them and making sure they’re not going to eat me as I’m walking through this particular forest. But yeah it’s underestimated how impactful that can be to just step away from things. It can just be a really short period of time.
Mike Schmitz: [00:35:56] Yep. And I would interject here, this isn’t in the show notes. But watching TV is not giving your brain a mental break. Yeah. A lot of people will do that. I read somewhere that the average American watches 35 hours of TV a week. So I don’t know about you Canadians maybe you’re better than we are when it comes to how much time you waste but that’s almost a full time job in the cause of that is poor energy management because you go to work usually you’ve got you wake up when the alarm goes off. You’re you haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before you’re not waking up at the top of your sleep cycle. You’re drinking a ton of caffeine just to make it through the day you’re working a very demanding job sometimes you come home you’re completely exhausted. You sit down, you veg out in front of the TV, and you think that because you’re not physically going anymore that that’s restorative but it’s really not all of the visual stimuli all of the blue light all that’s doing is compounding the problem because you’re going to have trouble falling asleep you’re going to be stressed. Going to be worried about having to do the same thing again tomorrow. And so being able to just disconnect is a great a great thing. A big a big way that you could do this to provide a lot of benefit is meditation which is something that I’ve kind of dabbled with in the past. I’m not very good at it but that’s the thing about meditation is you don’t have to be very good at it. You don’t have to sit there cross-legged on the floor for an hour at a time. You can just go through the motions of meditation and a lot of these guided meditation will tell you exactly what to do when you notice your brain wandering you try to bring it back. Doesn’t matter if that happens every ten minutes or every 10 seconds though. Just the fact that you are trying to meditate has a lot of benefit.
Brooks Duncan: [00:37:43] You mean you don’t levitate off the floor a few feet when you’re meditating? You’re definitely doing it wrong sorry.
Mike Schmitz: [00:37:49] I’ve not experienced that so no.
Brooks Duncan: [00:37:52] No you’re right. I also am I would say a poor meditator but I don’t worry about that. I just you know you do what you can do. That’s all. That’s all I can say.
Mike Schmitz: [00:38:02] Right. And so the same concept applies here. From when managing your mental energy is it as it did when you are managing your emotional energy is you want to go back and forth between fully engaged and strategically un-engaged you can’t just constantly be trying to solve very difficult problems. But there’s a lot of research that shows that the very act of doing that actually makes your brain bigger faster stronger. Again a great resource for this Deep Work by Cal Newport, he’s a university researcher. He’s a lot smarter than I am and he he knows all the stuff and presents it in a very approachable way. But yeah you do need to make sure that you focus focus in his words you know you do your deep work and then you disconnect for a while and you give yourself a chance to recover. The fourth one here is spiritual so we’ve got four different areas on the energy pyramid physical which is the bottom part of this. And then we’ve got emotional and then mental and then spiritual. So spiritual does not necessarily mean that you have a certain spiritual belief system. This is really the “why” behind all everything that you do. So if physical is the bottom of the pyramid in terms of the motivation and the reason why you’re doing things you’re working down in this pyramid so you’re spiritual is going to drive what you believe how you manage your mental energy how you feel about what you believe your emotional energy and then what you do with what you believe your physical energy.
Brooks Duncan: [00:39:35] Yeah. Just as an example how it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything any particular belief or anything like that. I’m currently doing this really large project here at Asian Efficiency and it’s it’s pretty busy. And yesterday I worked quite a bit at it and you know my energy was starting to flag a little bit but it just so happens I really believe in the importance of this particular project that I’m working on. And just thinking about oh yeah. You know this is this is why I really think it’s important. It just helped me help me push through. So it’s just going back to that why is really important.
Mike Schmitz: [00:40:12] Yeah absolutely. And so this kind of comes back to the whole idea of core values and purpose. But really why are you here like what are you. What is your mission what is your life goal what is the value that you are trying to bring to the world what is your life going to be about. And there’s episodes on core values so if you wanted to dive deep into that topic and how do you establish core values things like that. That’s not really the purpose of this specific episode but really just understanding in the terms of energy management that those are going to drive everything that you do so at Asian Efficiency for example we’ve got the core values and probably the two strongest ones that get invoked the most. Like every single day everything that we do, is the first one glow green become the best version of ourselves. And then number two, pull others up. We will talk about this in a little bit. But you can only take people to where you’ve gone and so you need to make sure that you have enough energy so that you can help other people. Classic airline example they tell you put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. You know if you’re passed out you’re not going to do your kid any good when there’s a drop in cabin pressure.
Brooks Duncan: [00:41:28] Definitely.
Mike Schmitz: [00:41:29] All right. So four areas. Just to recap we’ve got physical. We’ve got emotional, mental and spiritual. We’ve talked a little bit about this but it’s worth pointing out here that you need to make sure that you give yourself the time and the space to recover in all of these areas. So you can’t just constantly push yourself physically you will burn out. Now you want to push yourself to the point where you do need to stop but then you want to stop and give yourself a chance to recover. Same with emotionally and mentally you want to make sure that you are fully engaged and then you are strategically disengaged. If you don’t give yourself time to recover you don’t give your body time to heal then your gains are going to be minimized and eventually you’re going to burn out.
Brooks Duncan: [00:42:19] Yeah I thought going back to the example we talked about at the top of the show when you had that that travel disruption a couple or last week or the week before and you know it was just you’re in that sleep debt situation. I thought it was smart that you recognize this and you said hey I’m going to need this little bit of extra time to recover. And you recognized that you took action at it you just didn’t keep driving yourself further and further into the ground so I thought that was really really smart of you.
Mike Schmitz: [00:42:50] Thank you. Yeah. And not everybody probably has the luxury of an employer who recognizes the importance of that unfortunately.
Brooks Duncan: [00:42:58] Yeah.
Mike Schmitz: [00:42:59] But yeah what I did is I had already planned to take Good Friday off the I think that was the week after as we were as we record this I was a week after we were we were traveling and so the week before I had not had great travel and had to work and finish some things before the end of the sprint. And so the next week I could just kind of tell I could see the writing on the wall. You know if I really push through for those four days before Good Friday then I’m probably going to get sick because you know I know my body well enough and I know my natural tendency is to just push through those things. But I said you know I need a little bit more of a cushion here. I’m going to take a personal recovery day on Thursday if that’s OK everybody is like yep that sounds awesome. Go ahead. And so yeah very very important to you give yourself the time to do that whenever you can. All right. So let’s talk about six tips for increasing energy. Now some of these we’ve kind of covered a little bit already but this is kind of a summary of the six main takeaways if you are going to focus on what can I do right now to increase my energy. These are the six things that provide the biggest bang for your buck so to speak. Return on Investment. Number one is get enough sleep and I put this one here so I don’t know if you agree with this Brooks but like I said sleep is very important to me. You cannot get things done when you’re tired.
Brooks Duncan: [00:44:28] Yes definitely. And you know we talked about the Asian Efficiency core value of glowing green. And one of the ways you can do that is make sure you’re getting enough sleep for your body and your situation.
Mike Schmitz: [00:44:39] Yep absolutely. And then the second one here is Eat clean. So again we’re going to tell you exactly what you should be eating. There’s a lot of other people who have very conflicting opinions about that. Seems like every week I hear about a new diet that’s guaranteed to produce results. But essentially what you want to do is you want to eat foods that are going to bring you energy.
Brooks Duncan: [00:45:03] Yes. And this is also controversial but it’s a lot of people take certain supplements to help with energy as well. I’m not personally a big supplement guy but you know just living in such a gray place I do take vitamin D and I feel like that’s helped. I don’t know if it does but I feel like it does and sometimes that’s the most important. We did a really early show. This was back when I was a productivity show listener before I kind of talked my way onto the podcast. TPS Episode 6 was a big issue or a big episode on supplements that I found really interesting at the time.
Mike Schmitz: [00:45:38] I think that might have been the episode before you were on.
Brooks Duncan: [00:45:41] That’s right. Yes exactly.
Mike Schmitz: [00:45:44] So that was a very long time ago.
Brooks Duncan: [00:45:46] Yes.
Mike Schmitz: [00:45:46] Yeah a lot of the principles, that’s a very evergreen episode, a lot of the principles that are in that episode still apply. So yeah if you’re interested in how you can use supplements to supplement your energy then I got that episode. Third tip for increasing energy take breaks and I would say take breaks strategically. So it’s important to take the breaks but just making sure that it’s on your calendar necessarily doesn’t really work for me because I can say I want to take a break between [9:30] and 10 and sometimes like that’s what will happen is that the only time I’ve got I’ll make sure that I do take a break during those time periods. But it’s more effective if you can just like your sleep cycles you can’t control necessarily when and how these happen. If you can manage your energy flow during your workday and get to a point where OK this is a natural place to take a break it’s going to be more effective. Basic principle though. Again life is not a marathon it is a series of sprints. So you want to sprint and then recover and then sprint and then recover over and over and over again you’ll get much further that way.
Brooks Duncan: [00:46:54] Yep. And the number for tip is to establish rituals we talk about rituals a lot of Asian Efficiency and I can say for myself one of the biggest things I’ve done with my productivity is establishing a morning ritual so having the set things I do every single morning really really helps in getting me started in the day and it helps with my energy as well because a lot of those things include things like exercise and eating right and water and stuff like that. And so that can be a really big benefit. An evening ritual can help you get stuff out of your head and allow you to sleep better as well.
Mike Schmitz: [00:47:34] Yeah absolutely. And there’s a lot to unpack in the topic of rituals so if you are interested in more information on those there’s other episodes on this. But essentially what a ritual is is number one it provides especially like a morning ritual. It provides a way to make sure that you are devoting time and energy towards the things that you know you need to do that are going to provide a big return on your investment. But can you sometimes get neglected are the things that are important but are not urgent. So if you build those into your morning routine if you build into your morning routine the you know reading and meditation and exercise what you’ll find is that you can check a whole bunch of those personal development boxes in a short period of time. It really doesn’t take that long for a morning ritual to be really really effective and all you have to do is do those things over and over and over again. And they produce results automatically. The morning ritual also kind of functions as your body’s efficiency mechanism so if you have this ritual the same thing that you do day in day out your body can kind of anticipate that stuff and it will conserve energy naturally for these things because it gets easier and easier for it to do it the more that you crease this into your brain and the more consistently you do it. So rituals are very very important. Number five. Know your “why”. OK. And this comes back to though the spiritual area of energy, core values things like that. And we talk about this in TPS 139 and a lot of other different episodes. But really you need to understand your purpose what it is that you want to accomplish. And this is not necessarily following your passion. I’ve been on the topic of deep work lately and one of the stories from that book is about Steve Martin and he says that skills trump passion, following your passion is bad advice. And he says that he that people ask him all the time like what’s your advice on how to get an agent. You know what’s the one thing that I should do. And he says that people never listen to him because he always says get so good they can’t ignore you. So essentially what you want to do is you want to find the things that you are good at the things that really bring you life the things that you would naturally do even if you weren’t getting paid for it. Not necessarily the things that are fun but the things that you do. It hurts you. It hurts to have the idea that this thing is not going to get done you feel like you just have to follow through on this thing. That’s really the why and the purpose behind behind everything that you do and there’s some different questions that you can use to identify this. So for example if you could do anything with your life without limitation or constraint or consequence what would it be. What has been the recurring motif or theme of your life up to this point what unique value do you feel you can contribute to the world and humanity as a whole. And these are just a couple examples I mean there’s a lot of different resources for finding your way. Episode 139 that I mentioned, Thanh and I go through the whole wheel of life exercising and creating the vision for your ideal future. So there’s a downloadable resource with that as well so if you wanted to go through that exercise definitely check out that episode. The 6th one here is give to others. And this one is kind of interesting. I pulled this from the book and I’m interested to get your take on this Brooks. But essentially the idea here is that we have a higher quality of life when we think about other people besides ourselves, Arthur Ashe said “from what we get in life we make a living, from what we give, we make a life.” And in the book they talk about how self-absorption ultimately drains your energy and impedes performance and I can tell you that my own experience I’ve noticed this to be true.
Brooks Duncan: [00:51:33] Yeah it’s it’s interesting I hadn’t thought of it until I read that as well. And I was like oh that’s just such an interesting take. And you know when we say give to others it doesn’t necessarily mean giving money. It could be giving time or it doesn’t even have to be a lot of time. It could even be just you know answering somebody’s question. Sometimes if I sometimes if I am you know working on something and I I just need a little mental break or I need a you know energy hit aside from going for a walk sometimes what I’ll do is I’ll just flip into the Dojo Slack team or I’ll go onto the Dojo forum and just answer a few questions and even just that little bit of helping somebody out just gives me more energy just from that.
Mike Schmitz: [00:52:20] Yeah absolutely. And this is again in line with the Asian Efficiency core values and one of the things that I really like about working with Asian Efficiency. Number one we mentioned our first core value is glowing green. But number two pull others up. It’s all about helping other people make the most of their time their attention their energy and their focus, and on the topic of focus. I mean that’s a big area that can be impacted by a lack of energy. We’ve actually been hard at work on a product which we’re going to announce fairly shortly. I don’t think we’re ready to make an official announcement yet but we’re working on something which is going to walk you through not only how to focus but also giving you that the tactics the small things that we know work. And then also the support so that you can have your day planned out. You can have your energy managed but then something happens there’s a fire that pops up. How do you adapt and overcome that particular situation because sometimes you can’t control that stuff but you can control how you how you manage your energy. And so the six tips real quickly again here. Number one get enough sleep. Number two eat clean. Number three take breaks. Number four establish rituals. Number five, know your “why”. Number six give to others. If you were to encapsulate all of this in one or two takeaways what would you say Brooks?
Brooks Duncan: [00:53:43] Oh I think I think it’s just looking at how you sleep look into what you’re eating and look at your rituals. Those will be three things that I would say can really really help with your energy.
Mike Schmitz: [00:53:58] Yeah definitely. And I would add to that choose to be either fully engaged or strategically disengaged. Don’t just throw everything that you’ve got at every single problem that comes that you recognize that some of these are more important than others and then doing that will naturally help you focus and do more effective work and do more deep work which is something that seems like a lot of our audience wants to do. But sometimes their environment just is very conducive to that. So energy management can definitely help you with that. And if you want some additional ideas and tips on how to manage your energy. This is a pretty popular topic in the Dojo which is our online productivity community. The Dojo is the place to connect with like minded achievers and share the latest productivity tips and techniques while encouraging and holding each other accountable to reaching our goals. The Dojo is currently closed to the public. But if you go to theproductivityshow.com/dojo you can not only get access to the community but also the private video training library with new video modules released every month and a private Slack team where you get direct access to me, Brooks, and the rest of the Asian Efficiency team. The best part is that you get all of this for just one dollar for your first month and then after that is just $29 a month and you can cancel at any time. With membership to the Dojo, you also get exclusive software discounts on some of our favorite productivity apps like BusyCal, Hazel, and now even TextExpander. So if you want to join a community that can help you achieve your goals. Check out the Dojo today by going to theproductivityshow.com/dojo. And again that URL is theproductivityshow.com/dojo. And you can find links to everything that Brooks and I discussed today in the show notes by going to theproductivityshow.com/142. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next productive Monday.
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