Proven Principles for Managing Your Energy

When people talk about productivity, one term that often shows up in their conversations is time management. There are countless books that talk about time management. But there is one less-popular term that may actually be more important when it comes to productivity. That term is energy management.

The importance of energy management is discussed thoroughly in The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The book argues that managing your energy, not time, is the key to high performance.

Looking at my own experiences, I agree with them. If you want to be productive, managing your energy is more important than managing your time. To see if it’s true, just look at your experiences. Have you ever been so productive that you can accomplish a lot in little time? On the other hand, have you ever felt like you can’t accomplish anything despite having a lot of time?

These experiences show that the quantity of time you have isn’t necessarily related to your productivity. What makes the difference is your energy level. In the first situation, your energy level is high and that’s why you can accomplish a lot in little time. In the second situation, your energy level is low and because of that you can’t accomplish much.

So how should we manage our energy? Here are four proven principles discussed in The Power of Full Engagement:

1. Maintain your four sources of energy

There are four sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. You need to maintain all of them so that you can draw energy from them. Miss one of them and your performance will suffer.

Here are several things you can do to maintain your four sources of energy:

  • Physical
    • Have breakfast.
    • Have between seven to eight hours of sleep every day.
    • Do regular workouts.
  • Emotional
    • Spend time with your loved ones.
    • Allocate time for your hobbies.
  • Mental
    • Have positive self-talk.
    • Learn new skills.
  • Spiritual
    • Define and follow your purpose in life.
    • Pray or meditate.

2. Increase your energy capacity

Rather than just maintaining your energy sources, you need to build your energy capacity. This way you can improve your performance over time.

To build your capacity, you need to expose yourself to more stress while giving yourself adequate recovery. For example, you may learn new skills in unfamiliar fields to expand your mental capacity. Or you may increase your workout duration to expand your physical capacity. In short, you need to move beyond your comfort zone.

Just don’t forget to give yourself enough recovery periods. Otherwise you may experience burnout.

3. Build positive rituals

Negative habits deplete your energy. To overcome them, you must replace the negative habits with positive rituals. Rituals are precise actions you consistently do in specific times to achieve certain objectives. Waking up at 5am every day, for example, is a ritual. Drinking water instead of eating whenever you are tempted to overeat is also a ritual.

The key thing about rituals is you have to make them automatic. Why? Because by making a ritual automatic you don’t need to push yourself to do it. Instead, you will be pulled to do it. Doing the rituals will be as effortless as brushing your teeth.

Of course, you need to train yourself to make a ritual automatic. The acquisition period lasts between thirty to sixty days.

4. Be a sprinter, not a marathoner

Effective energy management requires you to balance stress and recovery. In your daily work, one good way to apply that is by working like a sprinter rather than a marathoner. It means that you should have an intense work session (called ultradian sprint) for about 90 to 120 minutes followed by a shorter rest period. The rest period recovers your energy and prepares you for the next intense session. This is a much better way to work than working continuously because it follows your body’s energy cycle.

Photo by jam343


  1. * Physical
    o Have breakfast. – Always
    o Have between seven to eight hours of sleep every day.- Hmm time for bed already..
    o Do regular workouts. Ouch…
    * Emotional
    o Spend time with your loved ones.Chacked.
    o Allocate time for your hobbies.- Easy.
    * Mental
    o Have positive self-talk. Always.
    o Learn new skills. – Always
    * Spiritual
    o Define and follow your purpose in life. – I do.
    o Pray or meditate. – I reflect a lot.

    Great practical blog post. I can easily see where I lack focus.
    I do strongly agree on this: “Build positive rituals” – Negativity is very draining. As Henry Ford said, If you believe that you can or you can’t – you are right.

  2. I believe that sleep and spiritual disciplines are some of the most neglected positive rituals we can engage in. I can definitely tell when I am depleted spiritually, or when I am physically tired. I believe that here in the United States, we would do well to imitate many other countries, who take a ‘siesta’ during the afternoon. We would probably be much less stressed, and much more productive.

  3. This is a really great topic! A lot of time management techniques have failed to work for me preceisely for the reason that I may have the time schedule worked out but don’t have the energy to get done what I need to during that time. I definitely think that replenishing your own energy supplies and making sure to grow your energy capacity can assist you in being more productive. I’ll have to check out that book!

  4. I totally agree, especially with your last paragraph in point #2 since I am your perfect Bad Example.

    I’m a public speaker and author. My most requested topic: Don’t Miss Your Life! Funny thing is, I just about did mine in promoting the message! (Doink!) I had to splat before figuring out that If I am going to continue to run my professional race, preaching a message I wholly believe in, yes, I have to be a good stewart of my energy rather than my calendar, and motivational speaking and clear-headed writing takes serious energy.

    Pre-burnout, although my calendar often didn’t “appear” that overly booked, I was far too often running on empty and couldn’t figure out why. Until … I realized that the energy needed surrounding a speaking engagement–not just the actual “talking” itself, or the dots on the calendar–is immense. Planning, packing and shipping books, working with committees (oy), travel planning, travel (extra stresses that come with lack of sleep, travel delays, etc.) speaking, two days of constant interaction, packing up, travel home, unpacking books, book work from back-of-room sales, catching up with things that piled up during my absence … One large two-day speaking engagement consumes a week’s worth of energy–at least for me. (We each have our own threshold.)

    I finally wrote a book on the topic: Don’t Miss Your Life!: An Uncommon Guide to Living with Freedom, Laughter and Grace. Although it’s an odd thing to say, I’m glad I did fry myself, since it made for a strong chapter of warning from a Voice of Experience. I am brutally frank about my downfall. And truthfully, the whole horrible incident also made me even more passionate about my message.

    I am very thankful to live smarter and more balanced now, and therefore able to write about the topic with overflowing humor. I am also grateful there are others out there spreading the word! Thank you!

  5. Frode,
    Nice to see that you have done most of the items in the list. Yes, building positive rituals can really make a difference in someone’s life.


    I believe that here in the United States, we would do well to imitate many other countries, who take a ’siesta’ during the afternoon.

    Some great people even allocate time to take a nap in the afternoon. Winston Churchill was one.

    I have the same problem myself. I sometimes have the time to work on something but can’t accomplish anything. As it turns out, the problem is lack of energy.

    Interesting experience. Glad you successfully overcome it 🙂

  6. […] Latumahina presents Proven Principles for Managing Your Energy posted at Life […]

  7. Nice summary of important points. I especially like how you outlined number one.

  8. Donald,
    It is one of the best topics I have read about lately, and you have put it very well. I am not fully convinced on all the ways you suggested to manage the energy, but it definitely made me realize how important it is to do so.

    A very good, thought provoking post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Paul,
    Glad you like it.


    it definitely made me realize how important it is to do so.

    Energy management is indeed very important. Unfortunately, time management is still much more popular. The Power of Full Engagement does a great job to give energy management the attention it deserves.

  10. […] Latumahina presents Proven Principles for Managing Your Energy posted at Life […]

  11. Great stuff!

    I would add “Stop a few times a day and take really deep breaths. Exhale fully, letting used energy out, and breath in fresh energy. Best done outside with lots of green around”.

  12. Family Matters,
    That’s an interesting tip you shared.

  13. This is a well thought out list. I like the the idea of more sleep.
    Great article.

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  15. BunnygotBlog,
    Sleep is indeed an important part of our energy cycle. Many productive people have a good sleep habit.

  16. […] I’ve linked here to a particular post on this overall most excellent blog on keeping your act together. This post covers the basics…if you aren’t paying attention to the list of things in this item, there’s little chance that you’re going to feel good and function well. […]

  17. I like the concept of sprinting in your work and other activities. I also like the concept of making sure your resevoir of energy is maintained throughout the day. I don’t know where I read this (on twitter, maybe), but the quote was, “Sip Away the Stress.” Instead of sipping cola or coffee, sip water! Our body needs hydration, and when we don’t have enough water, we get tired! I especially pay attention to this between lunch and 2 pm, since that’s when my energy level tends to dip.

  18. Positive self talk is a key essential to programming you mind for success. With positive self talk a human being has literally no limits to what he or she can accomplish.

    any thoughts?

  19. […] Proven Principles for Managing Your Energy […]

  20. Only recently, have I heard of life energy management coaching services. I think that it is an interesting idea. I think that it is essential for people to develop their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual sides of their lives.

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