Personal Energy

by Stuart Harris

Your time, money and human energy

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker or merchant banker, in any job you make your living from working with three basic resources: time, money and energy.

Whether you work in manufacturing, distribution, technology, retail, showbiz, public services, or anywhere else for that matter, these are the three raw materials you work with. Time, money and energy are the basic resources of the modern world.

Exercise

If you find yourself nodding in agreement with this statement then feel free to skip the exercise. On the other hand if you don’t believe it, or you can’t see the relevance of energy then you might be curious to try the exercise.

The importance of time and money are obvious to anyone with an ear for a cliché, such as ‘time is money’ and the immortal ‘I’ve got the time, if you’ve got the money’. A business stands or falls on its ability to manage money. And success or failure with money is ultimately measured against time: your annual income, your monthly turnover, your hourly rates.

The importance of human energy isn’t so widely recognised, certainly not on a par with time and money, although there are clearly links. But the way you speak about them shows that there are great similarities.

Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital.

Daniel Webster

With money you can spend it, waste it, use it up, save it, invest it and make it. Likewise with time you can spend it, waste it, use it up, save it, invest it and make it.

Energy is similar; you can waste it, use it up, save it, and invest it. You can ‘spend’ it although people usually talk about ‘using’ energy. And you can make energy.

Every waking moment of every day you are deciding how to use your energies. You may sometimes decide consciously and you will definitely decide unconsciously a lot of the time. Either way, you are deciding how to use your energy, because you can’t not use it. And that fact alone begs a very important question of any thought, feeling or activity:

Is the energy I’m using for activity ‘X’ an investment or an expense?

Ultimately, if we want to be happy, we need to plan and live our lives according to our values (see Goal Setting and Work-life Balance). Energy you use for thinking, feeling or doing things that satisfy your values is an investment. Energy that you use for anything that doesn’t satisfy your values is an expense.

The difference is not necessarily in what you do, but how you frame it. Your hour at the gym can be a mindless, sweaty grind or a challenging exercise in concentration, a mechanical routine or a thoughtful experiment, torture or fun. It’s up to you.

As with money, it’s entirely up to you how you spend your energy. But it’s handy to have clear guidelines for evaluating what constitutes good value for you. Take a moment and ask yourself:

  1. What sorts of activities would I consider investments of my energy?
  2. What sorts of activities would I consider energy expenses?
  3. How do I recognise which is which?
Key tip

Get used to asking yourself ‘Is the energy I’m using for activity ‘X’ an investment or an expense?’