December 31, 2017
December 31, 2017
If we could learn to manage our time better we would be able to attain more in less time and not be so exhausted. We only have a certain amount of energy and yet our demand for it is endless. No matter how hard we work or how productive we are there is always more to do.
Change is accelerating the number of decisions we need to make. The complexity and dynamism of these decisions is increasing as we aim to succeed. As a result we experience intense pressure and live exhausting lives.
In our ever-changing and unpredictable world today, people are obsessed with managing their time. There is ‘never enough time’ and there are ‘not enough hours in a day’. Time management courses are available in the belief that it is possible to manage time. But time is not the problem.
Even if you could add a few extra hours to your day would not help if you are exhausted and drained, because you do not have the energy to get the job done. It seems in today's world leaders need limitless energy. Energy to pour into organizations, invigorate teams and constantly enliven stakeholders. When we have the energy we can achieve more in one hour than we can the whole day when ‘running on empty’.
We focus on time management instead of energy management because it seems easier, and we are unaware on how to manage our energy effectively. We do not know where our energy comes from and where it goes. Scientifically, energy diminishes as we age. We peak at 25 years of age and then our energy levels decline at approximately 3 per cent a year thereafter.
In a stressful and demanding job it is energy management not time management that will transform results. You need to learn how to manage your greatest resource so you can get through your day with fuel still remaining in your tank.
From a medical perspective, our heart creates the vast majority of our raw energy. It is therefore crucial that we understand more about our heart so we can look after it and learn to manage our energy levels.
Listen To Your Heart
Your heart is directly linked to business performance and results. The cardiac muscle pumps blood through organs and cells over a distance of nearly 97,000 kilometres (60,000 miles), propelling five litres (approximately 1.3 US gallons) every 60 seconds.
Ancient cultures, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Greeks, affirmed that the heart was the primary organ in the human body. It is capable of influencing and managing emotions, morality and decision making ability. Aristotle believed that ‘the seat of the soul and the control of voluntary movement – in fact of nervous functions in general – are to be sought in the heart’ and that ‘the brain is an organ of minor importance, perhaps necessary to cool the blood’.
In the corporate world we talk about bringing ‘the heart back into business’ but it seems more of a concept than a commitment to make it part of the culture. And yet the heart is the source of a great deal of our power, wisdom and ethical insight.
Within your body your organs generate a constant tune. These tuneful parts of your system are called biological oscillators. The best known and most powerful biological oscillator is your heartbeat.
The heart is the body’s main power station with a power output of 1 to 5 watts. This is much greater than the power output of the brain or any other system in the body. This is largely due to the heart having to synchronize the electrical charge across all of its individual cells in order to contract and pump blood. The brain doesn’t pump blood so it doesn’t have to synchronize its electrical activity, which is why the heart generates about 40 to 60 times more electrical power than the brain. This electrical signal is measured by the electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).
When we train our heart to generate a coherent signal instead of a chaotic one, it causes all other oscillators to synchronize with its own beat. This cardiac coherence aligns and synchronizes all our other systems to create physiological coherence that gives us greater control over our energy reserves and how we utilize them.
Consequently, physiological coherence then facilitates emotional coherence and cognitive coherence, which means that the clarity and quality of your thinking improves. In turn, when you learn to manage your own coherence, you automatically affect the systems of others. This results in the team you are working with to transform and become coherent. Once you have several coherent teams at the top of an organization they become the most powerful signal in the system and everyone else becomes coherent around those highly functioning individuals and highly functioning teams. This can have a profound effect on business performance and results.
Not only is your heart the biggest pendulum in your system, but it also has its own brain. In 1991, John Andrew Armour MD, a leading researcher in the field of neurocardiology, discovered that the nerve cells in the heart’s ‘brain’ are identical to those found in the brain in your head. Dr Armour’s research demonstrated that the brain in the heart was made up of a network of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, just like those found in the actual brain.
In business it is biologically impossible to separate the mind and the heart. Our brain-based intellect functions by integrating data from the heart and the gut, and this is central to our ability to decide what actions have the greatest business impact.
Energy is created automatically through the physiological processes that are occurring in our body all the time. We have the capacity to create a huge amount of raw energy, and the majority is created by the heart.
The 'normal' pattern of an individual's heartbeat during a 'normal' working day is usually chaotic all day. Changes in the external environment stemming from situations at work, physical activity, emotional response, and practically everything done during the course of the day results in instant changes to the internal physiological environment.
These internal changes are unconscious and they instantly change the way you feel, which changes the way you think, what you do and the results you achieve. To impact your performance and results positively, you need to know how well you use the fuel available in your tank.
Leaders rise up through the ranks over the course of many years. They lose 3 per cent every year from 25 years of age onwards, and being under constant pressure to perform, their biological systems break down faster. This means they have less fuel in the tank to start with and they are not using what they do have efficiently.
When exhaustion starts to kick in there is an excessive increase in adrenaline levels and a rise in activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Leaders who are under excessive pressure are constantly pumping adrenaline into their system and will often exhaust their adrenal glands’ ability to produce sufficient adrenaline to cope with the demand.
It is crucial that leaders learn how to effectively manage their energy so that they can deal with the increasing demands of modern business and maintain agility. You need to know why you are energetic one day and exhausted the next. Where your energy comes from, where it goes and why you suffer from exhaustion.
May The Force Be With You
In order to sustain performance at the highest levels you need to balance intense effort with recuperation. It is not possible to keep going indefinitely. When it comes to athletics or sport, most people accept the need for recovery time, yet in the business world, leaders are expected to just keep working. As a leader, learning how to manage your energy levels for maximum efficiency and recuperation can revolutionize your performance.
In order to have more energy, you need to become aware of your physiological signals and learn how to control them. These are:
List all of the things, situations, events and people that boost your energy and then everything that drains you of energy. The key benefit of this list is to visualize and make you aware of where you are currently using your energy and what affects your energy levels, either to improve or to lessen.
Once you have created your list, take a moment to study the insights they present to you. Look for any conclusions or patterns you can identify that will help you to better manage your energy levels. These can be any patterns in your schedule, people in your life or the type of work that deprives you of energy. Take note of how many energy boosts compared to the number of energy drains in your list.
Next, highlight the top three energy boosts and the top three energy drains. Write down what action you can take to add more positive energy boosts and what you can do to minimize the drains on your energy reserves.
This will drive you to do more things that lead to positive energy. We usually beat ourselves up over things that go wrong, but rarely give our team or ourselves credit when things go right. And remember when we dwell in the past or the future we rob ourselves of life.
Also be aware that you can boost other people’s positive energy just with a smile, a simple act of kindness or an encouraging word. Not only will you get a positive boost at the time that event happens but reflecting on it later will give you a further boost when you add it to your list.
The main way we lose our energy is through chaotic breathing. Just as we deplete more fuel driving in the city than we do driving on the motorway, when our breathing is chaotic we use up much more energy.
When we are reactive we, by default, have a chaotic heartbeat. For example, if you miss your train, or late to a meeting due to traffic, your frustrated reaction causes your heart rate to spike and use up more energy than you need to. Practicing coherent breathing allows you to become responsive instead of reactive, and not waste any valuable energy. To impact performance we must stabilize our physiology. And by far the quickest and easiest way to stabilize our physiology is to stabilize our breathing.
Generating a coherent breathing pattern creates cardiac coherence. As our cardiac physiology becomes coherent the power output of the heart rises, and this activates other biological systems to synchronize with the heart.
This synchronicity allows all our organs to play their own coherent tune so that the whole system creates a more balanced and harmonious tune. This physiological coherence then facilitates emotional coherence.
The important steps for the Breathe Skill are:
When we breathe rhythmically and smoothly we create coherent breathing and a coherent heartbeat. Your physiology then stabilizes and creates cardiac coherence, shifting your heart rate from chaotic to coherent. This helps maintain self-control in highly charged or stressful situations, prevents the brain from shutting down and enables you to think clearly and be more focused. In addition, it gives you a better chance to change the way you feel and prevents the unconscious expenditure of your most precious energy reserves.
If you control your breathing then you are in charge of your physiology. Events, situations and other people will not make you reactive, which can be detrimental when making crucial business decisions, problem solving and building relationships.
Be mindful not to become obsessed or stressed with trying to get your breathing right. Practice coherent breathing whenever you remember, or have any dead time in your hands. If you can find just 10 minutes a day to practise the Breathe skill then this will lead your coherent breathing to become your default pattern of breathing. When it does you will discover that you are less reactive and less likely to ‘fly off the handle’ than you were before. And you’ll have much more clarity and energy available.
If you do not have enough energy it will not matter how smart your strategy is or how innovative and creative your ideas are. With coherent breathing and physiological coherence it is possible to end the day with as much energy as you had when you started and hugely improve your vitality and performance.
Physiological coherence and breathing is the platform on which health, well-being, cognitive ability, clarity of thought, building relationships and improved performance is built. Commercial life is bruising, the pressure is unrelenting and it is important for leaders to have the time to address the health implications of their lifestyle.