When you start a business, most experts will tell you there are two types of “capital investments” you can make. Money. And time.
If you have money you can buy other people’s time. If you don’t have money, then you’ll need to invest your time to get it all done.
Fair enough. But there is a third resource that is seldom referenced. It doesn’t show up on budget sheets or business pro formas. It won’t be factored in when you calculate your profit margins or return on investment.
But without it, you’re toast.
Not just your physical energy, either. Although I feel strongly about making sure clients are protecting their physical energy by eating right, getting enough sleep, taking time for R&R and so on. But think about what drives a business. It’s not just your ability to physically perform tasks. Your business runs on creative energy, problem-solving energy, emotional energy, even spiritual energy.
Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you had to make a difficult decision in your business or respond to an irate employee, customer or vendor. What about that time you found out that your killer product idea, the one you’ve spent months, or even years, developing, has just been launched, by someone else.
What kind of energy did it take to weigh all the factors and take a calculated risk? What kind of energy did you spend engaging with an angry person and turning them into a loyal ally? What kind of energy was required to turn on a dime and create a new approach to your product, or to let go of all the investment and attachment you had to your product’s success and starting planning your next big thing?
Not physical. Although you were probably physically exhausted when all was said and done.
So if your energy is your most important currency, how do you invest it wisely and leverage it fully?
Three ways you can start today:
1. Stop managing time
Of course, we don’t really manage time. If I ever learn to stretch or compact time I’ll be sure and write an article about it. What we manage is how we use time.
Most of us treat our calendars as though every hour on it took the same amount of energy. We don’t take into account that a two-hour strategy session with the team requires a different energy investment than two hours of reconciling accounts. So we fill our hours, and destroy our energy reserves.
In fact, most of us aren’t even aware of how much energy, or what type of energy, the events on our schedules, or the tasks on our to-do lists take. We aren’t self-aware enough to notice that a two-hour strategy session leaves us tired and exhilarated the same way a great exercise class does, while two hours at a desk balancing the books leaves us drained and cranky. Or maybe, for you, it’s the other way around.
But if you’ll pay attention to the tasks that leave you depleted, and delegate those even if you think you’re good at them, or you think you “should” do them, you’ll have more energy to invest elsewhere.
2. Schedule for a balanced energy budget
Some things you just can’t delegate and still stay in touch with your business. That two-hour strategy session may require your presence, if not your leadership. So don’t schedule it the same day that you have another meeting or task that is going to require the same type of energy. If it’s your creative energy that is drained, make it is the only creative activity in your morning. If wrangling so many people’s ideas and input wears you out, balance it by only using the rest of your day for tasks that don’t require interaction with other people.
3. Problem-solve the problem, not the symptom
We sabotage our energy reserves (and waste a lot of time and money) by trying to fix the business one incident at a time. We create new rules, implement new systems and make new agreements with our staff and with our clients when there is usually a master domino we can push that will make a lot of other dominos all fall down.
Spend your energy (and time and money) identifying the root of the problem, and creating a definitive solution, rather than going for reactionary quick fixes that provide only superficial and temporary solutions.
Sure, energy is a renewable resource. But why squander it? After all, it’s the fuel that keeps the engine running!