Career Corner: How to use your energy to be more efficient at work
Planning to do the most challenging work at the optimum time for energy is key. Geraldine Gallacher MD of The Executive Coaching Consultancy explains how we can manage our energy better to get ahead at work.
What stops us from being truly efficient at work? Most City professionals are used to managing their time effectively within a deadline driven culture. Yet anyone who has worked on a high profile project for a stretch of time will recognise that working flat out isn’t sustainable in the long term.
Tiredness creeps in, brain fog clouds our judgment, and we take longer to make decisions that are often poorer quality than those we make when we feel fresh. Most people realize that they tend to perform best when they’re feeling positive energy. What they find surprising is that they’re not able to perform well or to lead effectively when their mood and energy are low. We can all learn to recognise when our energy waxes and wanes and plan when we do things at work accordingly.
Your frame of mind fluctuates throughout the day
If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank. It influences sleep-wake cycles, hormone release hunger, blood pressure and brainwave activity. Many people find their energy rises first thing, declines over the morning and slumps in the afternoon to rise later that evening as we unwind from the working day.
We’ve all heard about the mid-afternoon, “graveyard slot” but few people appreciate just how significant an impact it can have on decision making.
Plan to do your toughest assignments around energy peaks
Research shows professionals, from anesthesiologists to judges all suffer from lapses in concentration in the late afternoon with serious consequences. I won’t ever agree to an operation in the afternoon again and if I should ever end up in court I will definitely see if I can get seen straight after the judge has had a break as they are likely to give a more lenient sentence at that point.
No two energy profiles are the same. As a night owl, I tend to come alive at night and reckon my mood pattern looks more like this!
It’s worth thinking about your peaks and troughs in a day and plan to “eat your frogs” i.e. do your toughest assignments when your energy is peaking. For me, that’s about 9pm!
Schedule break time
Few people plan breaks into their “to do” list. Yet a significant body of research shows the brain performs best when it is frequently rested. So be as assiduous about planning in your break time, as you are your meetings. You really do need time to think or rather, to not think!
Parents work flexibly for peak performance
My own natural energy patterns had to change quite dramatically when I became a mum. One of the hardest parts of parenting was learning to be on the ball at 6am. For many parents, it makes a lot of sense to work hard in the morning and then break in the afternoon to pick up the children and spend some early evening time with them before logging on again at night. This pattern is precisely what generates peak performance. It also enables busy parents of younger children to balance home and work life.
It’s worth remembering that by working long hours you may not be doing your best work or making decisions of the highest quality. Use your knowledge of how your energy rises and falls to maintain peak performance. As Daniel Pink, author of When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing says “I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing”.
Geraldine Gallacher is Managing Director of The Executive Coaching Consultancy and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Released On 2nd Jul 2018