Why Energy Management Is Important: A Lesson From Theodore Roosevelt

What is a key factor for personal productivity? For many people, the answer is time management. Time management has even become synonymous with personal productivity. The assumption is that the better you manage your time, the more productive you will be.

But there is a missing element here. With good time management, you can allocate the time you need to do your tasks. But what about the way you use that time? Well, that’s a different matter! Let’s say two people spend one hour on the same task. One of them can make a lot of progress while the other one barely makes any progress. What makes the difference?

One possible answer is the level of interruption. The person who gets interrupted a lot will have less time to focus and therefore makes less progress. But let’s say both of them can work without interruptions. What else can make the difference?

Here comes the factor that I believe is just as important as time management, if not more so: energy management.

Given the same environment and amount of time, your energy level determines your productivity. The higher your energy level, the more you can accomplish and vice versa.

In The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, there is a good example of this from the days when Roosevelt was a student at Harvard:

The amount of time he spent at his desk was comparatively small – rarely more than a quarter of the day – but his concentration was so intense, and his reading so rapid, that he could afford more time off than most.

While not stated explicitly, I believe that his intensity came from his abundance of energy. Here is a comment from his father during that time that strengthens the case:

Theodore Senior, admitting to an “almost sinful” interest in his son’s progress, worried sometimes about the physical phenomenon he had helped create. “His energy seems so superabundant that I fear it may get the better of him in one way or another.”

Here is another excerpt from the book, this time describing Roosevelt as the president:

With his clicking efficiency and inhuman energy, the President seems not unlike a piece of engineering himself. Many observers are reminded of a high-speed locomotive… “He never stops running, even while he stokes and fires.”

It’s quite clear, isn’t it? We can see that an abundance of energy is a key factor for Roosevelt’s success. It’s not the only factor, but it’s an important one. It helped him get so much done. It helped him connect with people. It helped him become the leader he was.

The lesson is this: if you want to reach your full potential, manage your energy well

In Roosevelt’s case, it started with physical exercise. He was physically weak as a boy and had ill health. But one day his father gave him a challenge:

“Theodore,” the big man said, eschewing boyish nicknames, “you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body. It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it.”

Jerking his head back, he replied through clenched teeth: “I’ll make my body.”

The promise, once made, was adhered to with bulldog tenacity.

This is the turning point for him energy-wise. I believe that a similar transformation is also available for us!

4 Comments

  1. I thank you, sir. Brain scientist have discovered that when one engages in any intensive exercise; the brain releases a hormone – endorphins that help us to perform at our peak levels not forgetting our moods.

  2. Wow Donald, this is a fabulous tip for today. We have so many more interruptions than ever before on your computers and mobile devices. Some days I find it so sad to see people having dinner but they are on their mobile devices instead of interacting with those around them.
    The same can be said in the workplace today too. I turn everything off when I’m writing an article or trying to learn something new, it really does make a difference. Thanks for this helpful and insightful post.

    • Donald Latumahina
      Donald Latumahina

      Thanks for sharing, Lisa! Indeed, interruptions can make it difficult to be productive. With more possible interruptions these days, we need to manage them well to stay productive.

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