Monday, July 26, 2004

Loehr and Schwartz Distilled

by Asim Jalis

The main ideas of Loehr and Schwartz (The Power of Full Engagement) are: 1. To build capacity expend energy vigorously, and then restore it by resting. 2. To work without expending energy, use daily routines. 3. Use rituals to signal to your internal systems to ramp up and ramp down energy expenditure. If we reflect on these insights they can be further reduced to a single concept: energy. Some activities renew energy and others exhaust it. The goal of personal management, according to L&S, is not to manage time, but rather to manage energy. If a person alternates between energy expenditure and energy renewal throughout the day then his energy level will remain constant and his output will be high. If he spends his whole day expending energy he will eventually become exhausted and will then waste most of his time. He will waste his time because he didn't manage his energy. If a person does not expend energy, and only accumulates it, by resting or sleeping all day, then over time he reduces his capacity. The ideas really work if applied to physical training, and to setting up a daily exercise routine. I have not had much success in applying them to mental work. Currently I am playing with their concept of energy. I am trying to apply to different areas, and to see if this yields some insights. My current thought is that in mental work, rest is not the best way to renew energy. The way to renew energy is to do some kind of complementary mental work. I was recently looking at my transcript and I noticed that whenever I took mathematics and programming classes together I enjoyed both of them much more (and did much better at both) than when I focused on one or the other. Whenever I program I begin to crave: (a) mathematics, (b) narratives, stories, fiction. This suggests that the way to achieve renewal after programming is by reading mathematics and novels. Another parameter I am exploring is the rhythm of work and rest (or alternation). How long and how short can the rhythm be. For example, would it make sense to switch back and forth every hour, every 5 minutes? Every minute? Where does it become absurd? Or does it make more sense to switch every few days, or months, or years, or decades?