I recently read Derek Siver’s sparknotes version of Scott Adam’s new book. Scott Adam is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon. In the book, he offers a mish mash of life and business advice. One that really struck me is, “the most important metric to track is personal energy.”
It was refreshing to finally read about someone who thinks similarly as I do and who can put it so eloquently simple. Being a number geek, I track a lot of things: my productivity and results every 25 minutes, miles run, weights lifted, the number of hours spent on a business event v. its outputs, etc. I obsessively do cost and benefit analysis of every action to maximize efficiency. But my comparison basis level has always been, “is this action worth my expendable energy?”
As a kid, I didn’t have a lot of energy. I wasn’t the kid who bounced off the walls from physical restlessness. I was the kid who did gymnastics and soccer but was also into calligraphy and drawing. I only got restlessness from the lack of mental stimulation. To help me pursue my numerous interests, my mom taught me that I had a limited amount of energy and that it was up to me to decide how and what to expend that energy on. I could spend all that time playing with the kids in my apartment building, but then I would get tired and wouldn’t have the energy to read at night.
This lesson carried over to my teenage and adult years. People always think that I do so much because I have a lot of energy. Not true, I’m just careful about distributing it to projects I care about. I have a list of priorities of how I want to expend my personal energy: g.Maarifa, working out, Felici.ly, personal life, WAND, music, etc in decreasing order. Some things are now a part of my system, such as g.Maarifa, working out, and eating right. Nothing can destroy these three. I’m working on putting more packets of energy into my personal life and other work projects. Focusing more on my personal life when it’s one-on-one with people I care about is easy, because I don’t need to expend so much energy. But large gatherings, going clubbing, and meeting a horde of strangers exhaust me because they drain my energy and make me anxious, and ultimately, they don’t make me more relaxed or happier. So I steer clear of them, unless they are for close friends and business.
One thing I don’t agree with my mom and Scott Adam is that personal energy is limited. I believe that personal energy can be increased to a certain point. Eating right, exercising, and being with people who support and stimulate you can raise your personal energy level.
By measuring your life through personal energy, we no longer need to focus on each task’s costs and benefits. Rather, we can view a day or a week systemically and decide which action or event is worthy of our time and effort based on our personal energy gauge. Not only will this simplify our decision making process but it will also prevent burnouts and dangerous over-exhaustion.