Time vs. Energy

“You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back. ” Vincent, from the movie “Gattaca”

When you perform a task, focus on the time it takes, not the energy it requires. Do you have to clean the toilet? Not desirable or glamorous, but necessary. Taking out the trash? Same as the toilet. Type up that email to send to your manager? Same as the trash (sometimes). Take that phone call? Same as the email. We all – at the office, for work, for home, for your organization – have tons of things to do that we don’t like, but that we know need to be done.

What’s good, however, is that many, if not most, of those tasks don’t take very long. 5 – 15, maybe 30, minutes, and it’s complete. What may be stopping you, or weighing heavily on your mind, is the energy that you have to put into it. I’ve noticed that entrepreneurs, good managers, skilled technicians – they all just do it, and without mentioning how much energy it takes.

Take note of those who succeed, whether the software developer, IT guru, the barista, the manager, the plumber, the electrician, the musician, etc. They just get it done. They appear to treat each task as if it was the only one they needed to do. Worry about the rest of the day and procrastination are not apparent in their work.

Working out to stay fit takes about 30 minutes, but concern about how it will feel, about getting everything together, about showering and getting dressed afterwards – well, that means you just can’t get to it today…too much to think about and prepare for. The same thing goes with your project at work – lots of other things to do and getting ready leaves no time for 25 minutes to work on that project. Well, not really – but we find ways of getting out of things by rationalizing.

Parenting doesn’t take a whole lot of time each day, but it takes lots of energy. Succeeding doesn’t take a lot of time each day, but it takes a lot of energy. Getting fit, finishing that project, going through your task list – doesn’t take a lot of time for each individual task, but it takes energy. Of course, over time your end goal may take a whole lot of time. But broken up each day, it’s manageable.

All of this doesn’t mean that you do EVERYTHING that comes to mind. You have limited time each day. “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of,said Benjamin Franklin. So don’t just spend all of your energy getting every little desire done. You need to have a hierarchy of important things. Over time, your tasks WILL catch up with you. Timothy Ferris said, “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” You will eventually have to do the tasks that really need to be done.

First things first. I heard someone say, “Do the next thing next, and the next thing will follow.” You have things to do, and a great number of them are little, onerous, repetitive, boring, annoying tasks that show up in ALL aspects of life (work, house, marriage, parenting, relationship, non-profit organization, religion, hobbies, health, fitness, education). So take the time to do each of them, one at a time, energetically, without thinking about what it takes. And you’ll find that you get a lot done.

PS Yes, there are days when bad and/or sudden things happen. There are days when something big occurs that takes all day. But if you live your normal days in non-crisis mode, then you’ll be ready for those days when some server crashes, an emergency project comes about, a crisis occurs.

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