Energy Management for Superior Performance

Achieve and maintain a higher level of performance at work and in your life by implementing rituals to better manage your energy and time.

Do you find it difficult to resist that piece of delicious chocolate even though your nutritionist would advise you not to eat it? Do you snooze your cell phone alarm many times before getting out of bed in the morning? Do you have trouble concentrating on important tasks? If, like many people, your answer is yes to any of those questions, you might be lacking self-control.

Exerting self-control can lead to an improvement in productivity and directly impact individual success. A series of longitudinal studies on delayed gratification [1], led by psychologist Walter Mischel since the late 1960s, has shed light on the impact of self-regulating behaviour on individual success. In the suggested experiment, kids were asked to resist the urge to eat a marshmallow for a few minutes in order to then get two marshmallows.  Kids that were able to resist their initial impulses and wait for the better reward were able to achieve better outcomes later in their lives with respect to SAT scores [2], educational attainment [3], body mass index (BMI) [4], and other life measures [5]. These results show that the ability to exert self-control can have a substantial influence on individual performance. The following video shows the experiment (very fun to watch!).

If self-control can have such an influence on our lives, how can we improve our ability to self-regulate our actions and behaviours? The social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister coined the term Ego Depletion [6] to explain the phenomena in which a prior exercise of volition can lead to a temporary reduction in the self’s capacity or willingness to engage in volitional action, including controlling the environment, controlling the self, making choices, and initiating action. This internal energy required to exert self-control is similar to a muscle that experiences a temporary reduction of strength after physical exercise.

The phenomena of Ego Depletion suggests that if you improve your ability to manage your energy you can improve your chances of acting with volition. This idea is equivalent to taking care of your muscles by allowing for adequate rest time. The Energy Project, suggested by Schwarz and McCarthy [7], offers some insights on how you can build energy and resilience across four dimensions (Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual) to deliver sustainable high performance. In this program, people are encouraged to implement new life rituals to reduce their energy deficit.

Here are some examples of rituals that you can apply yourself to start managing your energy better today:

Body Energy Rituals

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night
  • Don’t skip breakfast and be sure to eat something nutritious
  • Exercise frequently (at least three times a week of cardiovascular training and once a week of strength training)
  • Take regular planned breaks during your day (break down work into timed intervals, separated by short breaks)

Emotional Energy Rituals

  • Plan some focused time in your week to spend with your family or loved ones
  • Save some time to devote to the activities you enjoy the most
  • At least once a week, call someone you love to demonstrate appreciation
  • At least once a week, stop to reflect on your accomplishments and blessings

Mental Energy Rituals

  • Take ten to fifteen minutes per day to meditate
  • Plan your daily and weekly priorities ahead of time
  • Take some time to read and think creatively
  • Take an e-mail-free vacation

Spiritual Energy Rituals

  • Write down what is most important to you and compare what you wrote down to the way you allocate you energy and time
  • Delegate tasks that are not aligned with your strengths or with what you enjoy doing
  • Before making decisions, analyze if you are acting according to your values and purpose or based on the demands of others
  • Invest time and energy in activities that will make a positive difference to others and the world

Now it is time for action! What ritual can you implement in your life to reduce your energy deficit? We hope that by implementing some of these rituals, you will improve your ability to exert self-control and, consequently, will achieve high performance at work and in your life.

[1] MISCHEL, W.; EBBESEN, E. B.; RASKOFF ZEISS, A. Cognitive And Attentional Mechanisms In Delay Of Gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 21, n. 2, p. 204-218, February 1972.
[2] MISCHEL, W.; SHODA, Y.; RODRIGUEZ, M. L. Delay of Gratification in Children. Science, p. 933-938, 26 May 1989.
[3] AYDUK, O. et al. Regulating the interpersonal self: Strategic self-regulation for coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 79, n. 5, p. 776-792, November 2000.
[4] SCHLAM, T. R.; WILSON, N. L.; SHODA, Y.; MISCHEL, W.; AYDUK, OZLEM. Preschoolers’ delay of gratification predicts their body mass 30 years later. The Journal of Pediatrics. v. 162, p. 90–93, 2013.
[5] SHODA, Y.; MISCHEL, W.; PEAKE, P. K. Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies From Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions. Developmental Psychology, v. 26, n. 6, p. 978-986, November 1990.
[6] BAUMEISTER, R. F. et al. Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 74, n. 5, p. 1252-1265, 1998.
[7] SCHWARTZ, T.; MCCARTHY, C. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. Harvard Business Review, p. 63-73, October 2007.

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