What is the difference between energy and effort?

We talk a lot about energy. Anyone who has done one of our coaching programs, workshops, seen us speak at an event or even just had a regular conversation with us will know that. Energy is at the core of what we do, how we do it and ultimately how productive we are at doing all of that. We’ve discussed energy management previously and how this differs from time management – time is fixed, energy we can create more of. Energy can increase and decrease depending on how we use it, how we create it and how we invest it.

Our ultimate goal is getting performance up and effort levels down. With this in mind, we want to start thinking about how we structure our time for sustained high performance. If you are currently unable to sustain your performance without feeling drained, exhausted and rundown, it’s not high performance…it’s burnout. So, what can we do about it? Let’s think about energy versus effort. A lot of the time, the way we operate in the workplace it is literally two speeds – go and crash.

Throughout history, we’ve been taught to simply work harder – we go like a bull at a gate until we crash. And that might be a cold or a flu or some kind of illness that stops us from performing at our best. Then we pick ourselves up and we go as hard as we can again, until we crash…again. And then we keep going and repeating the process over and over throughout the weeks, months, years. I’m sure you’d this is a familiar pattern in your life, and those around you.

These crashes are what we call forced recoveries. You probably won’t have them happen at the most convenient time, in fact it’s often the opposite – we often get sick when we need the energy most, or on the first few days of a holiday.

So, what’s actually happening to your productivity during this time?

We start out great feeling like we’re getting through tonnes of work, however, our actually productivity starts to decrease. What you actually have happening is your effort is higher than your actual performance. Remember we said at the beginning of this article it is all about getting your performance higher than your effort. This situation is the total opposite of that, which is the way most people operate.

If you said to an athlete, here is your training plan. We’re going to train you really, really, really hard, and then you’re going to get injured. And then we’re going to pick you up, and you’re going to get trained really, really, really hard again, until you get injured again. And then we’ll train you really, really hard until the event so that when you turn up to that event you are the most tired you could possibly be – but we still expect you to perform and ultimately win. What do you think the athlete’s response to that training program might be? They’d probably look for a new coach, and who could blame them? It makes no sense to operate this way!

How does an athlete manage sustained high performance?

Athletes are very smart at managing their energy. They know they cannot train heavy 7 days a week. Imagine if you were a marathon runner and trained 42 kms at pace every single day? There would be burn out, fatigue, injuries. Disaster.

Athletes know it’s far more productive to have a light training day or a rest day than to keep pushing, cause an injury and then take 7 months to get back to race pace. Instead of waiting for a forced recovery, they manage their recoveries. They train Heavy, Medium and Light so they are in the optimal performance zone at precisely the right time – maximum output with no wasted energy on the day of the race. After that, they know the importance of a big recovery where it’s all awesomeness – chicken schnitzel burgers and good times! They may dislike the part where they have to climb back up to their peak again, but they trust the process and ease back into it knowing that a big recovery will propel them even higher again for even better things. They know that managing recovery is the key to success.

So why don’t we do this in the workplace? And more importantly, why do we feel guilty for managing our recoveries and exercising self care? Without self care, you are in no position to help others – clients, friends, family, anyone.

If you’re interested in learning more about managing your energy and effort more efficiently for sustained high performance, contact us today.


If you’d like to find out more, join the conversation in our next open workshop.