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Another book that changed my life forever.  Every single time someone asks me to recommend them books, the power of full engagement is always on the list.

This book teaches you how to manage the only thing worth managing; your energy.

Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance. Pretty much everybody has heard about time management, but when is the last time you heard about energy management?

The book is based on the research and consulting that both authors have done with the world’s greatest athletes. The book provides a set of tools to help the “Corporate Athletes” function at an optimal level of performance.

Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.

The 4 principles of full engagement:

Principle #1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy…

1) Physical

2) Emotional

3) Mental

4) Spiritual

Principle #2: Because of the fact that our energy level diminishes both with overuse AND underused, in order to function at a peak level you must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

Principle# 3: If you want to build capacity you must push beyond your normal limits, training like an elite athlete would do.

Principle #4: Positive energy rituals are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

“Every one of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors has an energy consequence, for better or for worse. The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have. The premise of this book—and of the training we do each year with thousands of clients—is simple enough: Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy.” ~ Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz from The Power of Full Engagement

In the end, the only thing that matters is the ENERGY you put in the hours, not the number of hours. When I used to work a 9 to 5 job, I remember thinking: Man, I could be so more productive if I could control when I eat, when I take breaks, what time I show up to work and what time do I leave. I could have probably accomplished the same amount of work in only half the time.

power of full engagementThe authors tell us to think in terms on a sprinter, not a marathon runner.  We need to approach life as a series of SPRINTS, oscillating between periods of INTENSE ENGAGEMENT and equally intense renewal. Unfortunately, in today’s work culture, the work environment is more one of a marathon runner. The problem with that is that it breaks our naturally oscillating rhythms of life. We were not built to work that way and this is why most people have a crash of energy in the afternoon and they try to stay awake with a lot of coffee and sugars.

The right way to do it is to go ALL IN for a short period of time then rest effectively. This is what the Russian sports scientists started to do in the 1960’s and they’ve had amazing success with their Olympic athletes.

One of the author is a performance psychologist and he started to study world class tennis players to understand  the factors that set apart the greatest competitors from the rest of the pack. He was not able to detect any significant difference between points but he began to notice a huge difference WHEN CAME THE TIME TO REST BETWEEN POINTS.

The best players had each built almost exactly the same set of routines between points.  In the short sixteen to twenty seconds between points, the best players were able to lower their heart rates by as much as twenty beats per minute. The other players often didn’t experience ANY change in their heart rates.

People are way more productive when they go through periods of high stress followed by periods of renewal. This is the complete opposite of the typical idea that time management in which everything is approached like a marathon, with a consistent level of stress throughout. The problem with this way of thinking is that it doesn’t account for our natural fluctuations in energy. Most of the time, it leads to a “burnout” or a period of significant disengagement.

When you start to think in terms of energy optimization instead of time management, you start to value what you drink and eat way more. You won’t perform at a peak level if you eat crap. If you skip your breakfast and go to work for 5-6 hours, you cannot expect to be at an optimal level like if you ate a healthy breakfast. Again, this is not the number of hours that you put in that matters, it is the ENERGY YOU PUT IN THESE HOURS.

power of full engagement bookYou have to view yourself as a world elite athlete if you want to be really successful.

It is not only about physical energy, it is also about mental energy. If you let the negative thoughts control you when you are trying to accomplish something, you just won’t perform at a peak level.

Television, the authors warn us, is like eating junk food. It is not good for your mental energy.  In our society most people use TV to relax and recover, but it is not a quality way to recover. Like junk food, it is rarely nutritious and it is way too easy to consume too much. Some researchers even found evidence that prolonged television watching is actually correlated with increased anxiety and low-level depression.

Another important idea I got from the book is the idea of rituals. A lot of studies confirm that specificity of timing and the precision of a behavior dramatically increase the likelihood of success. What you have to remember is that your willpower is way weaker than you think. If you only rely on willpower to become ultra productive, you will fail. You have a finite amount of willpower every single day and if EVERY DECISION that you make takes energy from your willpower, you won’t have any left quickly and you won’t be able to focus and get anything done.

By determining when, where and how a behavior will occur, you no longer have to think much about getting it done and you will be more productive. All high achievers do this. They all have a specific routine that they execute every single day. Their brain doesn’t have to spend any of its willpower to execute because it became a habit. This is why these people are able to get a ridiculous amount of work done!

“We use the word ‘ritual’ purposefully to emphasize the notion of a carefully defined, highly structured behavior. In contrast to will and discipline, which require pushing yourself to a particular behavior, a ritual pulls at you. Think of something as simple as brushing your teeth. It is not something that you ordinarily have to remind yourself to do. Brushing your teeth is something to which you feel consistently drawn, compelled by its clear health value. You do it largely on automatic pilot, without much conscious effort or intention. The power of rituals is that they insure that we use as little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving us free to strategically focus the energy available to us in creative, enriching ways.

Every single time you have to think consciously about whether or not to do something, you deplete your energy by using your willpower. All great performers rely on positive ritual in order to manage and regulate their behavior. Also, the harder the challenge and the greater the pressure, the more rigorous your rituals need to be.

Key insights from the book

  • Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance.
  • It is energy management makes full engagement possible.
  • Because energy capacity diminishes with both overuse AND underuse, you must learn to balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal in order to function at an elite level.
  • To build capacity, you must push beyond your normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.
  • Positive energy rituals; highly specific routines for managing energy–are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.
  • Sustained high performance is best served by assuming the mentality of a sprinter, not a marathoner.
  • Performance is optimized by scheduling work into 90- to 120- minute periods of intensive effort followed by shorter periods of recovery and renewal.
  • Food is your only source of energy, so consciously eating to maintain energy will have a HUGE impact
  • When you’re doing more than one thing at one time, you’re not giving all of your energy to anything.

Again, this is one of my favorite books and I highly recommend you to read it. If you apply these principles in your life, it will dramatically increase your productivity.

Click here to get the book.

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