I don’t often take naps. It’s not normally in my routine. But the other day, during an 18 hour family day trip, I scheduled a twenty-minute nap. When the time came, I sat in a chair, got comfortable, set my alarm and fell asleep. As I was falling asleep, I remembered the importance of focusing my time on renewal. I had expended energy and I needed to take this step to stay awake the rest of the day. I couldn’t be distracted by looking at my phone or keeping my eyes open. I had this small window of opportunity to sleep and I had to make it count. It worked! I was ready and fully focused the rest of the day.
In a booked called Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, I learned something that stuck with me. The key to being fully engaged is learning to manage our energy not just our time. We must grow in the skill to effectively oscillate from expending energy and renewing energy. Sports players learn to do this quickly, not just between games, but even between game points through routines and attitude. If all we do is expend energy for long spurts without renewal, a physical, mental and spiritual crisis looms very near. On the other hand, if all we do is live a life of renewal without expending energy, we, like muscles, atrophy.
The process of going back and forth helps us to be completely engaged in work and at home. We have more energy for what matters. We must become comfortable strategically disengaging for the purpose of rest and renewal for future engagement.
What does this oscillating process look like?
It looks like little sprints of intense and focused work followed by some strategic disengagement. These strategic disengagement moments help us renew our strength and energy.
I once heard someone say that you are capable of working totally focused for 90 minutes. Most often, we don’t. In fact, studies have shown that we pick up our cell phones and devices every six minutes. With full engagement, you can learn to work a full 90 focused minutes, followed by 20 minutes or so of disengagement. These little breaks can become rituals so we don’t have to think too hard about what to do. It’s kin to the batter who steps out of the box and hits his shoes against the bat before stepping back in. Just enough to regain focus, but really nothing he had to expend energy to accomplish.
This also applies to the scope of the whole 24 hour day. We’re not meant to be supercomputers totally on task all day. We’re humans. We have 24 hours, eight of which are to sleep. So, for 16 hours, we can focus. Eight to twelve of these hours may be focused on work. The other four-six hours can be focused on other aspects of our lives each day – relationships, improvements, hobbies and more.
In my life, I want to learn to work hard while I am engaged in work, then learn to disengage from work to play hard while at home. This time of disengagement from work and full engagement at home requires some planning and practice. Here are some things that may help, in no particular order:
Make a plan for your first 90 minutes of each work day (READ: Deep Work: Getting Valuable Things Done In A Distracted World)
Create a “break ritual” after a long spurt of focused work.
Keep your cell phone off at the right times
Get a good bedtime / morning routine (READ: A Morning Routine That Helps Me Accomplish More)
I’m sure it takes a bit of practice, but it’s something I want to learn how to incorporate!
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