Focus on Energy as Your One Main Metric



“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” — Aristotle

I gave a talk on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, to a small audience of about 50+ people, a couple of weeks back.

For some people, giving a talk in front of an audience would drain their energy.

For others, it gives them energy and makes them feel alive.

Energy is a personal thing.

The more you know yourself through self-awareness, and the better you manage your personal energy, the better you can manage your work and life.

In the book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott Adams shares why he manages his personal energy as his one main metric to help him balance across all of his competing priorities.

Multiple Competing Priorities

We all have competing needs, wants, desires, and priorities.

Adams writes:

“We humans want many things: good health, financial freedom, accomplishment, a great social life, love, sex, recreation, travel, family, career, and more. 

The problem with all of this wanting is that the time you spend chasing one of those desires is time you can’t spend chasing any of the others. 

So how do you organize your limited supply of time to get the best result?”

Maximize Your Personal Energy

One way to cut through to what counts, is to focus on energy as your main metric or your main way to help you survive and thrive among all of your competing priorities.

Adams writes:

“The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy.

I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.”

Energy is Whatever Gives You a Positive Lift

Don’t complicate it or over-engineer it.  Just think of energy as a positive lift.

Adams writes:

“’Energy’ is a simple word that captures a mind-boggling array of complicated happenings. 

For our purposes, I’ll define your personal energy as anything that gives you a positive lift, either mentally or physically. 

Like art, you know it when you see it.”

Calm, Focused Energy

We’re not talking Red Bull bound-off-the-walls energy here.  We are talking about a peaceful calm type of energy, as in when you are calm, cool, and collected, as in a James Bond kind of way.

Adams writes:

“When I talk about increasing your personal energy, I don’t mean the frenetic, caffeine-fueled, bounce-off-the-walls type of energy

I’m talking about a calm, focused energy. 

To others it will simply appear that you are in a  good mood. 

And you will be.”

What The Dog Whisperer Teaches Us

Did you know that the fastest way to calm a dog is to calm the owner?  Dogs read our clues.

Adams writes:

“You might be familiar with a television show that was called The Dog Whisperer. 

On the show, Cesar Millan, a dog-training , helped people get their seemingly insane dogs under control. 

Cesar’s main trick involved training the humans to control their own emotional states, because dogs can pick up crazy vibes from the owners. 

When the owners learned to control themselves, the dogs calmed down, too.”

Energy is Contagious

People read our cues, too.   You get what you project.

Adams writes:

“I think the same method applies to humans interacting with other humans.  You’ve seen for yourself that when you talk to a cheerful person who is full of energy, you automatically feel a boost. 

I’m suggesting that by becoming a person with good energy, you lift the people around you. 

That positive change will improve your social life, your love life, your family life, and your career.”

Manage Your Personal Energy for the Big Picture

Don’t stress out over managing your energy in a micro way.  Think big picture and worry about your energy the macro way.  

Think about your overall day, your overall week, and your overall year. 

Take the longer term view, and look for little opportunities to move in a better direction overall.

Adams writes:

Managing your personal energy is like managing budgets in a company.  In business, every financial decision in one department is connected to others. 

If the research and development group cuts spending today, eventually that decision will ripple through the organization and reduce profits in some future year. 

Similarly, when you manage your personal energy, it’s not enough to maximize it in the short run or in one defined area.  Ideally, you want to manage your personal energy for the long term and the big picture. 

Having one more cocktail at midnight might be an energy boost at the time, but you pay for it double the next day.”

Maximize Your Natural Energy Cycles

Match your energy to the task where you can.

Adams writes:

“My comic-creating process is divided into two stages to maximize my natural energy cycles.  In the late afternoon and early evening my hand is steady. 

I’m relaxed from exercising and ready to do some simple, mindless, mechanical tasks such as drawing the final art for Dilbert or paying bills online.  It’s the perfect match of my energy level with a mindless task. 

Without the exercise I wouldn’t have the attention span to handle boring tasks.  i would be bouncing around from one thing to another and accomplishing nothing.”

You like you more when you are feeling your best.

Other people do too.

And if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?

Do yourself a favor, and the rest of us, and manage your personal energy to bring out your best and let your brilliance shine.

It’s contagious.

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  1. Hello JD,
    Your insights from your site helps me a lot. Even in a little way, I tried to implement them of what you preach.
    I keep forwarding the emails you sent by subscription to my friends. They found it useful too.

    The above article is telling us to manage our energy for overall picture but, could you also write points on how to manage personal energy or what to do to gain positive energy and manage it.
    It can be from your experience or ideas you have. If you could pen it out, it would help.

    I certainly want to maintain a positive energy so that I can do some learning and blogging at night after coming back from office.
    I get tired easily and my mind or maybe emotion does not seem to focus on doing anything…
    I am looking forward to hear your reply.

    • Hey Manisha — great question.

      I can write more in future posts, but meanwhile, there are a few things you can do:
      – Work out hard before you start your day. It’s counter-intuitive. There’s science behind, this, but it will help you deal with stress, give you more energy, and you can get by with less sleep. It will make everything throughout your day much easier to handle, while making you stronger. I do 30 minute workouts.
      – Simplify recurring decisions in your day, like when to eat, what to eat, etc. If you establish simple routines, you’ll avoid “decision fatigue” which is where all the little decisions in your day wear you out.
      – Find ways to spend more time with catalysts and less time with drains. Catalysts are people and activities that give you energy, drains are people and activities that suck the life force out.
      – Connect your work each day to your values. If you like to learn, then see each task as a way to master your craft. If you like to make impact, then find ways to make what you do reach more people and make a bigger splash.

      Simplify, establish routines, and spend more time your values.
      That’s the key.

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