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The Power of Full Engagement

If there is one book we would recommend for any intermediate and advanced Asian Efficiency nerds, it would be The Power of Full Engagement (audiobook). Written by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr, the authors have studied many professional athletes over the years to figure out what caused some of them to excel at the highest level. What they have found is that the top athletes perform at their best when certain controllable factors in their body and life are in the right place (I will touch on those below). Interestingly enough, they also found that many of their findings also apply to people who want to do well in life and be more productive. Below are some of the core ideas explained that you can use.

Paradigm shift: Energy is the New Currency

The key to personal productivity is not about how you manage your time but how you manage your energy. The book introduces many new paradigms that make you view time management in a very different, but positive, way. Everyone has 1440 minutes each day but the energy you use and put out each day is variable – that is exactly where you can optimize your life to improve your effectiveness and personal productivity.

Essentially it comes back to the idea of self-management. The better you take care of yourself, the more productive you will be. Most of us know this on a very basic level but the author goes in depth how you can excel (or achieve peak performance) when you have all the right components running at full speed in your life and in your body which can only happen when you are fully engaged at what you do. The title of the book alludes to the idea that full engagement is when you are focused, performing at your best and you have a strong boundaries between uptime and downtime. The latter is a very important part of the book because there is a very strong emphasis on the idea of renewal: taking time to recover. Most people view the idea of renewal as a waste of time but the authors make several good arguments why you should focus on renewal a lot more than you think.

Why would you take nap if you could work? Why aren’t you working 80 hours a week if you could? Vacations are overrated – real productive people don’t take any. All these questions, ideas and statements are addressed by teaching you how renewal works on the body. If you have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you already know how that renewal is one of the key habits (sharpening the saw), but this book goes in more detail in the whys and hows of renewal. There is a lot of science to back up the claims so it’s not a bunch of wish wash.

Energy Pyramid

A really great concept that is introduced in the book is the Energy Pyramid. We’ve touched on this briefly in our sleep post but it is greatly covered in the book. Below is the a simplified energy pyramid as how the book teaches it.

The Energy Pyramid of The Power of Full Engagement
The Energy Pyramid of The Power of Full Engagement.

As you can see it’s divided in different layers: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The basic idea behind the energy pyramid is that we have different levels of energy that we use to fuel. At the bottom of the pyramid is the physical energy we need to survive, such as food, sleep and exercise. It forms the foundation for the rest of the pyramid. The emotional part is about how you feel when you perform at your best. There are certain emotions you feel and go through when you are “in the zone”, and the book deconstructs what those are and how you obtain them. The mental layer is all about concentration and focus – the better the quality of those components, the more effective you will be. And the last layer is about spirituality. Not in a religious sense of some sorts but the it’s about the main idea behind your motivation to do work – it’s the connection of your core values and your purpose.

It’s important to understand that each layer is supported by the layer underneath it. When you miss one component, it weakens support for the rest of the pyramid. For example, if you are angry (emotional), it’s difficult to focus (mental). If you are tired (physical), it’s impossible to have a sense of enjoyment (emotional) and to concentrate (mental). Do you see how each layer supports each other and is interlinked?

The rest of the pyramid is covered greatly in depth and we will use a lot of these ideas (and have been) throughout the whole website, but read the whole book to get a better idea of how you can improve your own quality of life.


If you are sick and tired of reading books on time management that all discuss the same things, you want to read this book. The authors have a very different approach to time management and personal productivity that anyone who wants to kick ass at life will really enjoy reading. As you read you will keep nodding your head and ask yourself why no one else has been writing about these paradigm shifts, ideas and techniques for improving your personal productivity. Grab a copy here on Amazon.com (audiobook).

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. Just after I saw the Tony Schwartz interview you guys posted I bought the book.

    I only read the physical chapter and I can say that the nutrition tips are worth the book alone. I feel that I have so much more energy now that I care about the GI of the foods I eat.

    I would enjoy if you guys did a post on nutrition. There’s got be some great asian effeciency knowledge about it :)

    1. Hey Marcos thank you for the kind words! We are actually planning to write about nutrition and productivity in the near future. It’s a topic that is very close to me and that I’ve been closely studying for about a year now. I love food and from a lot of experimentation I’ve learned a lot about how nutrition affects your personal productivity.

      I will make sure to cover that in depth in the near future. The Power of Full Engagement covers a lot of it too but if you want something more in depth, I can highly recommend Thrive by Brendan Brazier. Even if you are not a vegan or vegetarian, you will get a lot of value out of the book. It’s written for people who want to understand how the body works and how it processes food. The author links all these concepts to peak performance and productivity which I think AE readers will really enjoy. This book will also be covered soon but in the meantime definitely grab a copy of the book if you want you want to study this topic more closely.

      1. Thank you for the recommendation Thanh. The Power of Full Engagement is a little shallow on what foods to eat etc..

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