Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Keeping Energy Levels High

Looking back over a year of Getting to Excellent I have had a somewhat mixed reaction to my attempts to improve personal energy levels. I think there is a feeling in business that personal energy levels are not a business issue – providing you do your work then whether or not you have a hangover isn’t anyone else’s concern. And to some degree that may be true, but only to some degree.

Yet for an organisation to do well, so must each of its departments, and each individual within those department. And this is even more important in small businesses. So keeping energy levels high IS a performance management issue.

It has taken me three attempts to give up caffeine. In my usual blasé style, I thought it was going to be easy. I was wrong, oh, so wrong. It’s been difficult, but I'm almost there. In 12 days’ time (yes, I’m counting) I will have gone 100 days without caffeinated beverages. The desire for a cup of tea is now pretty much gone, and the benefits of better sleep and fewer headaches are definitely worth the price. So with an admittedly small test sample of precisely one, I’d say it takes at least 70 days to form a new habit: much, much longer than I had guessed and longer than some other articles suggest.

My return to the gym was less successful. 2009 has been a busy year and I can’t honestly say that exercise is a habit yet. But I’m convinced that this will pay big dividends on the energy front. Getting back in the gym, however, has been massively instructive in managing performance. I’ve written before about the importance of seeing how far I’ve run or cycled, or calories burnt, in keeping motivation levels high. I don’t believe work is any different. Measurement is a great tool in helping and encouraging better performance.

Of course there are other areas to consider in improving energy levels, such as reducing alcohol (I don’t drink much but then it doesn’t really agree with me) and eating better (and eating less).

At the beginning of this post I said I’d had mixed reactions to these initiatives. That would be something of an understatement. Whilst there has been a big interest in my attempts to give up caffeine on the internet, family and friends have been less convinced. One other person has gone cold turkey and given up caffeine completely (and is happier for it) but on the whole everyone else I know has been mystified. But I guess everyone reacts to things differently.

There are clearly different levels of managing performance: personal, departmental and company-wide. However, at a personal level, keeping energy levels high is something that can be measured and managed: and pays dividends for doing so. Keeping off caffeine, getting more exercise and improving diet are all, therefore, on my resolution list for next year. Just so as you know.


  1. Well done Caroline! I am sure you will make the 100 days.

    I agree that these are business issues. If we really care about our team members, we must act in their best interests, and sometimes that means making them aware of unpalatable truths- like needing to eat better and exercise.

    I read somewhere (David Maister?) that 80% of work performance problems are caused by personal issues. Personal health and wellbeing are key example I think.

  2. Andrew - wow! 80%? That's a massive proportion, but totally logical when you consider that business is all about people - whichever way you look at it. Thanks for your comment and I look forward to more in the new year!

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