Self Management at Work: 3 Critical ‘Tanks’

Credit: Mubariz Mehdizadeh, Unsplash

My son said all of his “tanks” are empty when he comes home from work. He didn’t mean his car’s gas tank or anything else mechanical. He meant the tanks in himself that drain during the course of a work day.

His social “tank” was empty because the introvert in him was depleted by all of those emails, phone calls, meetings, networking events and other interactions with people.

His emotional tank was empty because he has to display certain necessary emotions — humor, enthusiasm, optimism, etc. — all day long as part of his role in a high-profile position at a Fortune 500 corporation. They are necessary work emotions because he has to display them even when he doesn’t feel like it.

He also has an intellectual tank that gets drained from various research projects that require deep thinking, careful analysis and respect for pressing deadlines.

Finally, his physical tank was empty on this day for a good reason. Our conversation came after he spent 10 hours in the office plus another three hours at a Chamber of Commerce event.

No wonder he felt depleted.

Like my son, all people have four human faculties they use at work — social, emotional, intellectual and physical. But people have varying capacities that drive these tools. Three of those capacities or “tanks” are time, stress and energy.

The Time Tank

Time at work has more of a quantity limit than a quality limit. The amount of time can increase not nearly as much as the productivity during time.

The quantity limit means that most people can work only a certain number of hours — usually around 50 according to various research — before they:

  • Experience declining productivity;
  • Suffer from increasing health problems;
  • Fulfill family and other responsibilities outside of work;
  • Give in to the desire for a better work-life balance.

Some workaholics are exceptions. They may work 100 hours a week and double their total time in the office, although their actual productivity doesn’t double because of declining energy.

But a time-efficient worker who holds what used to be a 60-minute meeting in 20 minutes or discovers a new way to complete a task in half the time doubles or triples her productivity without the risk of burnout.

The quality limit is much higher. It is easier to increase productivity with good time management than it is to increase productivity by adding extra hours. Time is therefore a critical work resource and a tank that expands or contracts with careful management.

Even better, good time management at work leaves time for replenishing activities outside of work as well such as more and better sleep. Replenishment increases productivity.

More information: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-143/pdfs/2004-143.pdf

The Stress Tank

Bad time management increases stress and depletes personal energy. Stress is a resource that expands or contracts depending on self management and external factors.

A newspaper editor lays out the front page of the New York Times for a printing press deadline at 10 p.m. tonight. A few minutes before 10, the design of the page is done and is ready to go to press. The editor relaxes.

Suddenly, a reporter and another editor rush in to announce that a bomb went off in midtown Manhattan and killed a dozen people. The layout editor tears apart the front page and starts over again even though the all-important deadline is now past 10. The stress level skyrockets. He goes home two hours later mentally exhausted, irritable and frazzled.

Twenty four hours later, the layout editor finishes the next front page in time and without any last-minute disasters. The stress level stays low.

Stress taps a tank with a capacity that rises and falls with the amount of stress. Chronic stress depletes the ability of a worker to handle more of it. Stress that regularly rises and falls does not.

Self managers expand their stress “tank” by taking actions such as exercise and meditation to lower or eliminate lingering stress. They take a five-minute walk around the building (as I did many times) or spend at least 15 minutes eating lunch in the cafeteria rather than at the office desk. Relieving stress increases their capacity to deal with stress and avoid potential breaking points.

More information: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress

The Energy Tank

Credit: Victoria Heath, Unsplash

The example of the professional worker above with a 13-hour day illustrates the demands on mental and physical energy in addition to the demands by time and stress.

The next time that 13-hour day happens, a highly effective time manager may shorten it to 12 hours and protect some of the remaining energy for tomorrow. Stress-relieving and energy-building behavior both during and outside of work may also protect it. Better diet, sleep and exercise obviously increase energy levels.

Even if the day demands 13 hours, a high capacity for energy will make it more productive and a lot less draining. Anyone who thinks of energy as a tank that they control can turn it into an important work-related asset.

More information: https://www.inc.com/brady-wilson/these-5-simple-energy-boosters-can-increase-your-productivity-right-now.html

Time, stress and energy are three interrelated “tanks” or resources that workers can increase on their own and protect when they are in decline. Workers who recognize these resources as flexible and controllable will find previously untapped benefits on the job.

Scott S. Bateman

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