Personal Energy

by Stuart Harris

Using your energies efficiently

Efficiency is optimising the results you get for the energy you invest – or getting the results you want with the lowest possible energy investment.

It takes a lot more energy to fail than to succeed, since it takes a lot of concentrated energy to hold on to beliefs that don’t work.

Jerry Gillies

In the world of work, the normal deal is that you get X amount of money for Y amount of your time, based on the skills and expertise involved. Normally the deal doesn’t specify either the amount or the quality of energies that’s expected. How could it? And yet without human energy, time and money in business are worthless. It’s your energy, applied to your work, that makes the difference.

That doesn’t mean that you have to burn up a zillion calories of energy to make a difference in your business. Quite the reverse. Just as with time and money, the art is in using energy effectively and efficiently.

Take sport, where performance and achievement are everything. British sporting heroes are more often praised for their grit and work rate than their skills. Contrast this with one of Brazil’s great soccer players, Socrates, who was also a qualified physician. Being a heavy smoker he wasn’t a great runner – hence his nickname ‘The Strolling Doctor’. He did not achieved soccer greatness by ploughing up and down the pitch at top speed, but by cultivating the knack of putting himself and/or the ball in the right place at the right time.

It’s hard for many people to imagine getting better results by easing back a little. The British are European leaders in the culture of long hours and ‘busting a gut’.

When in doubt, you have to try harder, right? Not necessarily.

The trouble is that trying really hard and then trying even harder all too easily becomes an unthinking habit.


Getting results is sometimes a matter of putting more energy in, but it’s always a matter of investing the right amount of energy at the right time. That means having the flexibility to be able to turn down your energy input as well as turn it up, and notice what happens.

What if you could have your own energy control panel?

You can.

Imagine having a meter going from 1 (resting) to 10 (busting a gut), showing the level of energy you’re applying to an activity. This is the Energy Applied meter. Think of an activity that’s important to you and rate the level of energy you’re applying to that activity.

Now imagine a second meter going from frustration through neutral to satisfaction; this shows the results of the activity that are important to you. This is the Results meter. Rate your feeling about the results that you’re getting from that activity.

Now imagine an Energy Control knob that you can use to adjust the level of energy you’re putting into the activity. Looking at the Energy Applied meter and the Results meter, decide whether you need to reduce or increase the amount of energy you’re applying to the activity.

So just take a moment to think of a time in the future when you’ll be engaging in the activity again, and as you begin the activity notice yourself remembering to adjust the energy level as you’ve just decided. Notice what you see, hear or feel that reminds you to adjust your energy level.


Finding the ideal level of energy is a matter of trial and error. When you do this exercise you’re already ahead of the game, whether or not you improve your results the first time you try it.

How? Because you’re increasing your ability to adjust to the situation.