The rallying cry in the business world today is “Do More With Less!”  You hear those words in every corporate board room, sales meeting, and on every conference call. With the economy changing, competition increasing and margins tightening, we have come to believe that the only way to succeed in this economy is to decrease staff, work harder, and pile more onto our already overcrowded schedules.

I have to wonder: is it working – this whole idea of doing more with less? My answer: not only NO,  but H-E-double-toothpicks no!

There has to be another way. In my line of work (as an Executive Coach, Sales Trainer and Motivational Speaker) I get the opportunity to consult with a variety of corporate professionals and business owners.  I find that no matter what the industry, they all have one thing in common:  they need  to produce more and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their workforce.  Yet in their quest to increase productivity they are merely increasing the stress, pressure and burn-out of their workforce. In short, doing more with less may work for a little while, but for long-term growth and productivity, this is not the solution.

I was the keynote speaker at a convention last week, and I asked the group how many believed they were on overload right now; how many believed they had more than they could  possibly do or handle? All but two hands went up in the room.  All but two hands!

So what are we supposed to do? How do companies “do more with less” without sacrificing the longevity of their people?

We have to stop managing our time and start managing our energy. Energy — not time — is the key to increased productivity, efficiency and a strong, healthy and more effective workforce.

Manage your energy? Sounds a little “New Age”, right?  Well it may sound woo-woo, but it is not. It is actually backed up by scientific research. It was brought to the forefront by a man named Tony Schwartz, who has used this concept with corporate executives and leadership teams. He captured it all in a book entitled, The Power of Full Engagement.

You see energy, unlike time, is something you can control. Unlike time, energy can be managed. Think about it — anyway you cut it, there are only 24 hours in every day. You need at  least six or seven of those to sleep, so now you are down to at most 18 hours in a day to get it all done. No matter how much you beg, plead or cry, that is all you get.

Energy, however, is different. You actually have control over how much you have, how much you build and how much you lose. By learning to manage your energy you can effectively “do more with less.”   It is simple really; the better you feel and care for yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally, the more energy you retain and build. In addition, the better you learn to manage your energy, the less energy you will lose. All of this leads to increased productivity.

So how do you manage your energy? There are a number of ways to begin the process, and everyone’s “energy plan” is different, but here are three ideas to get you started:

Put First Things First

Do you know what is important to you? What is most key in your life? What do you want to have accomplished, done or achieved by the time your kids are grown, you retire, or you are 85 sitting in a rocking chair?  Yes, most of you could easily answer that question; but if I asked you if your daily actions match those priorities, your answer would most likely be different. In other words, ask yourself: are you putting your energy into the things that are most important to you? The things that most give you energy back? Or is your energy being lost because you prioritize those things that actually take energy from you?

You see, when it comes to managing energy, understanding to put first things first is key. You must ensure  you have enough time for what is important in your life, because doing that actually builds your energy capacity. The guilt you feel from not prioritizing those things actually depletes your energy. Yes, by not doing those things that are important to you, you actually set yourself up to lose energy. So the person who leaves the office to have dinner with his children and then goes back to work actually builds more energy than the person who stays at work until 7 or 8 p.m. Pretty cool, right?

Learning to manage your energy simply means making time EACH day to put energy into the things and people most important to you. Doing that will build your energy capacity — to better deal with those things and people that aren’t priorities.

Throw Out The Bathwater, Keep The Baby!

Ever notice that some days you get up and look at your schedule and you are pumped and excited about the day, while other days you think, “Lord just help me make it until lunch time”? Well, you have to ask, why do we create schedules like that for ourselves?  When you look at your schedule and you see a day that just brings you down, you need to ask, “What on this schedule can go?  What am I doing in my life that I do not have to do? Who am I socializing with that I don’t have to socialize with? Do I really have to go to all of these meetings or volunteer for all of these organizations?”

Well, the truth is, it would be wonderful if we could just go through life not doing anything we don’t want to do, but hey, life does not work that way. So, while we can’t get rid of everything that drains our energy, if we are honest with ourselves we can get rid of some things. Protecting even some of our energy allows us to build our energy capacity.

So let’s make a list. What drains your energy? Ask yourself: what are you doing in your life that “steals” your energy? Remember, your energy is a gift, so protect it!

Skip the Coffee – Take an Energy Break

Research has shown that after 90 minutes, our ability to continue to focus, comprehend information and stay engaged starts to diminish; in other words, we start to lose energy capacity. We may work long, grueling hours putting in our time, but the truth is we are neither efficient nor effective. That guy in your office may be racking up billable hours, but is he really  producing more or even better work than his co-workers? The answer is “no.”

So how do we continue to produce the volume of work we need to produce and manage our energy?  You need to skip the coffee and instead take an energy break. A short 15 to 20 minute break every couple of hours will do wonderful things for your mind, your body, your spirit and your capacity to produce.

Need ideas? A simple walk; a laugh with a co-worker; a few minutes listening to your favorite tunes; or just standing up to stretch your legs. Take a few moments every few hours to replace the energy you’re expending. It will clearly put you on the path to being able to produce more with less!