There’s this misconception that time is all we have when we talk about the most precious asset to our human experience — aside from money and relationships.
Self-help junkies tout it as the ultimate thing to coo at dearly in your arms. They tell you it’s the only thing you can’t get back and that it’s worth more than a multi-billion dollar valuation. And while all those things are true — it’s energy that deserves the spotlight at the Broadway show.
It’s the reason you can lift a finger to take care of anything related to money, relationships, creativity, or “time” in the first place.
If you want to live a more fulfilling life, how you spend your energy should matter to you as the most valuable asset to manage — time will pass regardless, as it more or less stays the same in its continuous nature. Energy comes and goes. It’s the most precious depreciating asset we have as long as we’re breathing. Not time, as many of us like to think — and as I’ve recently realized.
Energy as an asset
The last time I was sick, I was wondering where I had gone wrong. I don’t get sick often, and when I do it catches me by surprise. I’d made it a point to start taking certain supplements this year, a cocktail with plenty of Vitamin C. I had had rigid plans for the day — especially since I had mostly blown off the day before and was ready to trot back on the work wagon.
But I woke up to aching joints and a heavy body akin to having worked 17 breakless hours. Completely devoid of any vigor I’d felt a mere few hours before.
I didn’t have a commute or an office to drag my day through, so I knew if I really needed to take a day to rest then I could — which helped me feel better and more at ease. I knew time was there, but the energy to do more than shuffle my way to the bathroom and drink a tepid glass of water was suddenly not.
it led me to ask, “what‘s the point of having time to manage if I don’t have energy for anything?”
Energy, unlike time, isn’t continuous, can be fickle at best, and depending on things out of our control, can show up in your life as a tease, not always there when you need it most. Time is a linear human construct. Energy is not.
When we write all about productivity and how we “spend our time” is tied in with it, I can’t help but think it comes from a place of oversight that makes the assumption energy is a given. Because it isn’t.
Take a trite quote from Gary Keller’s The One Thing—
“High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy.”
It says any notable achievement or results require energy. It didn’t quite say time — that’s a given for anything that needs doing.
Creativity can take more energy than time
Remember when you were seven and ideas came like hummingbirds to honey? They would materialize and you’d happily go after them — because besides time, more importantly, you had the energy to pursue your imaginations.
As I sit and write, or gather paints to marry to a blank canvas, or create a new piece of content for a blog, the more energy I have, the more creative risks and detours I can take, and there is were I strike gold and find satisfying work, work I bid as worthy of sharing with others.
In the creative economy we find ourselves leaning towards, time will be more available to us, and energy management will start being touted as the new thing to manage “well.”
Managing anything — especially energy — in your life “well” starts with knowing yourself just as well.
Playing with energy
What does deliberate energy management look like? It’s hard to say since everyone can vastly differ in this camp.
Technically everyone and Beyonce has 24 hours in a day, but not everyone has the energy — or the desire — to do what she does. I mean, it looks fun, but hard pass.
At this point we’ve understood we ultimately — once we get past our bs — make time for the things that truly matter to us, Netflix and extra sleep be damned. But energy management can take more than blocking time off each day to assign to a task.
It inevitably starts with paying attention to your body and your natural tendencies. That and building an awareness of your natural rhythms. In terms of my sleep chronotype, I found out I’m a ‘bear.’ Meaning I’m in one of the more common chronotypes. I wake up with the natural sunrise and tend to feel less energized in the afternoons. Learning your chronotype is a start to learning to manage your energy better.
As you manage your energy, the obvious things apply here:
- Be decisive about not associating with people who sap you of any will to live or faith in humanity. Even if the distance hurts. Attachment isn’t synonymous with healthy.
- Be intentional about creating spaces where you can set aside time to talk — with yourself or your partner — about the hard decisions that take a very real toll on your mental energy.
- Shield your emotional energy — and your very human tendency for comparison by managing your relationship with your phone.
Doing these things might seem extreme, but if you’re serious about harnessing your energy and investing it into what matters — what gives you the most fulfilling returns — then being intentional about doing things like these suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy.
In the end, how you manage your energy is ultimately how you spend your life — because as long as you’re alive time will be there, hurrying you along.