Energy vs. Time – Making Work Sustainable

Walking around a college campus most students are overly attached to their cell phones – they are constantly texting, checking their emails, and making sure they’re up to date with what’s happening on social media. During class students whip out their laptops to take notes, browse Buzzfeed, and text their friends across the room. Many students can relate to this way of being, most claiming they are not distracted, but simply mastering the art of multi-tasking. And this ability prepares students well for the reality of work.

This multi-tasking ability is often expected by employers, as the increasingly fast-paced and demanding corporate environment begs for the attention of employees at every corner of the room. It’s important to be able to work on a number of projects, produce impressive deliverables and provide 24/7 guidance and support to clients simultaneously. With these high expectations, the workplace is bleeding into the personal lives of most – phones never stop ringing, and email volume never seems to be manageable.

A recent article published by the Harvard Business Review focuses its attention on the effectiveness of a “multitasker”. Authors Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy provide insights into troubling and ineffective work habits that most of us have adopted. Schwartz, president and CEO of the Energy project, introduced a unique idea that aims to create a more manageable, rewarding, and distinguishable work and personal life. A healthy work/life balance is key to this idea but is often a struggle for most in corporate America. Many organizations focus on improving this aspect of their corporate culture, often with little success.

Schwartz’s concept evolved from the idea that time is a finite resource, but energy is an interminable resource.  A common workplace expectation is to produce more in less time, and to work longer hours to accomplish as much as possible. This fixation that “time is money” is what is holding back the exponential development of employees, reducing employee engagement and increasing turnover rates and medical costs. With an emphasis from upper management to alter the traditional expectations they may be able to develop better and more manageable work habits that bleed down the corporate ladder, encouraging a more energetic, effective and motivated workforce.

It is often a organization-wide concern to build sustainability in an organization, but not much focus is placed on building a sustainable workforce, which should be at the core of a sustainable company. Schwartz takes you through 4 steps that provide suggestions on how to improve your performance by focusing on the body, the emotions, the mind, and the human spirit.

With the goal to restore physical energy, Schwartz emphasizes the importance of nutrition, exercise, and sleep. A routine that allows for adequate sleep, daily exercise, and time to indulge in nutritious meals one will be physically able to engage in more level-headed decision-making. The next step focuses on one’s emotions, allowing one to become more aware of what they are feeling and manage their emotions more readily. The third step involves one’s energy and refraining from shifting focus across many different tasks. Becoming distracted and checking an email or text message can result in an initial task to take up to 25% longer than without any distractions (Schwartz). With a fully focused mind and minimal distractions one can complete work as much as 25% quicker, and leave more time for other projects or assignments. The last step in The Energy Project involves the Human Spirit, which involves finding meaning in the work that one does. By stating a daily goal and understanding the meaning behind a day’s work employees have been shown to be happier in the workplace and increase productivity.

Schwartz has presented these ideas to many large corporations, among them EY and Wachovia, who have adopted his suggestions on how to develop a better body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Included in these suggestions are simple daily modifications like going to bed at a reasonable hour, waking up a bit earlier to spend time at the gym, checking your emails at scheduled times, and silencing or turning off phones when working on projects and during meetings. Taking breaks throughout the day and ensuring you eat healthy and wholesome meals at regular intervals also decreases irritability and provides a happier and more effective working environment.

These are some of the small adjustments employees at EY and Wachovia made to their daily routine. The employees who participated in The Energy Project reported higher productivity, better performance, and more positive relationships with clients. Evidence of the effectiveness of The Energy Project can also be seen in large companies such as Sony, Deutsche Bank, Nokia, ING Direct, Ford and MasterCard (Schwartz). Leaders from these companies also reported similar findings after modifying their work habits in response to The Energy Project’s findings.

Supporting and encouraging the introduction of some of these minor changes in work habit and daily rituals can increase overall employee value. With the benefit of happier, more productive and engaged employees an organization can develop a more positive corporate culture with a sustainable workforce, and address the growing problem of work/life balance. It is not only important for organization to focus on these changes, but also for The Energy Project to expand into the college environment.

As young adults entering the workforce students are eager to develop knowledge and skills that will prove valuable to potential employers.  Encouraging students to instill these changes to one’s work habits will allow students to fully develop the skills and discipline needed to benefit from these methods. An early understanding of the idea of recharging one’s own energy is something that is distinct and can be valuable to any employer.

Christina Schmitz


Schwartz, Tony, and Catherine McCarthy. “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” Harvard Business Review. N.p., 01 Oct. 2007. Web. 8 Feb. 2015.

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