Something I give a good deal of thought to on a fairly regular basis is what I put my energy into.  Learning to manage energy is tricky.  How are our efforts, not to mention our time, best spent? I saw a great demonstration about time and energy involving a jar of nuts, a larger jar, and some oranges.  The oranges represented major life goals and the nuts represented tasks.  The large jar signified a person’s life span.  When the large jar was filled with nuts first, not too many of the oranges could fit in at the end.  Yet, when the oranges were placed alternately into the jar with the nuts, somehow they all managed to fit in the jar together.  This showed that thoughtful use of one's time and energy to complete major goals and small necessary tasks (and sometimes not so necessary tasks) allows for the completion of both those things, versus always allowing the tasks to take precedence and never making time for big goals.  Powerful stuff.

Despite this point being abundantly clear to me, it can be hard to get past the tasks.  Personally, I can not work on a major goal if the environment around me is messy, so I first have to engage in the task of cleaning up my space. With four young children at home, I could potentially not ever move beyond that task! So, the question was presented to me recently by a caring individual, “What can you compromise on? What can someone else do, or what can you let go of?” She could probably see the wheels turning in my head- and they haven’t stopped.  I thought I had done very well in making room for my most valued goals by paring down some of the activities which take up a good deal of my time.  When it was brought to my attention, however, I realized that the tough process of letting go of some activities I was involved in was only a baby step in managing my energy.

I wish I could say that I’ve thought of some good answers since this question was presented to me a few days ago.  In thinking about energy my mind has considered circadian rhythm and how much sleep I’m getting (not enough, I can tell you since I recently pointed to a carrot in a board book and told my two year old it was a rabbit), ultradian rhythm and my natural capacity for staying engaged, and finally engagement.  When I first began to write this post, I had a little trouble because I wanted to detail my train of thought and explain the importance of all these things and how they relate, but a final epiphany helped me realize that what is most important to me in the results of my thinking is the one thought I want to share above the others.

Whatever the task or goal, engagement matters.  In this fast-paced world of distractions (smart phones), it is very easy not to be engaged.  As this has come to my attention over time I have tried to stay aware of it so that I am fully present and focused.  Even though my kids do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts yet, they will one day and I really do not want Twitter joining us as we try to enjoy our family dinner (well, unless the meal I make is just that fabulous, then we should probably “Instagram it,” too).  I realize that behavior I want to see from my children, must first be modeled by me.  Beyond that, I strongly believe that you and those around you get more out of life if you are fully engaged.  Imagine a baseball player at bat who does not have his head completely in the game.  I cannot imagine too many grand slams from a player like that.  Similarly, we need to have our heads in the game of life.  When working on things or with people who truly matter to us we need to be fully present.  For me, that means continuing to get clear about what are “nuts,” or tasks, and what are “oranges,” or goals.  If that is true for you, too, then consider this as well: are there times when we confuse the nuts with the oranges and the oranges with the nuts? I think those of us with the best of intentions do, but it comes down to understanding what is most important and when working on those most important things, or spending time with those most important people, we must be 100% present and engaged.

Have any secrets for managing your time and energy? As always I welcome your comments.  


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    Jennifer Loebel