Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, Video of conference Leading@Google 2010

Check out all my posts on mentality, high performance and excellence in the welcome and index.

As has been described in an earlier post, Tony Schwartz, is an expert on experts, and an expert on expertise. The company he started out, the Energy Project, has assisted major league corporations increase their employees’ productivity and morale. Schwartz delivered a conference in Google in 2008, and in 2010 went back to finish what he had started.

His message is once more the same: time cannot be expanded, when we have more work to get done there is no way to get additional hours to our days or weeks, and working longer hours is actually counterproductive. Energy, on the other hand, which is the capacity to get work done, can be kept at a maximum level, it is through the careful monitoring and tending to of our habits and methods we can keep ourselves really firing on all cylinders.

Schwartz goes into greater detail and offers much more evidence this time around, compared to his conference in the same venue in 2008. He mentions and explains the 4 kinds of energy we humans run on.

Schwartz critically calls for us to invest time and resources into understanding human physiology, because there is no better knowledge we could have than how do our bodies and minds work when we are trying to work . An obvious observation is that human beings are radically different than machines and computers, yet a lot of times we choose to push ourselves as if we were cybernetic.

Schwartz pronounces sleep and rest to be paramount. Sleeping appropriately  is dead serious, it’s even more important than eating right. Stress, and pushing our bodies to the limit to elicit the hormones that fear generates is along with cutting the hours we sleep a technique that a lot of people use to get work done, but it is greatly deteriorating in the short and long run. Living beings are oscillatory, everything about us has rhythm, our days do, our bodily systems do, our organs and tissues do, and even our cells do. Superior fitness is not the capacity to work harder for longer, superior fitness is being able to recover more quickly from exertion. And the best way to go is to incorporate renewal into the middle of our days and activities, because we do learn to and grow our capacity to recover; just as we learn to work more effectively, recovery can also be mastered. As we get better at recovering, we are fitter, and we are capable of working more productively when we work and feel better all around.

Superior working habits also demand that we learn to concentrate our undivided attention. When we tend to more than one thing at a time, each one item gets much less than the proportional share it theoretically should. Human cognitive power is very poor when asked to multitask, a lot of processing power is lost to nothing. Striving for flow, the state of absorbed attention and activity, and with practice eventually reaching it should be our objective. A later post will deal with the amazing concept of flow.

Schwartz closes this master lecture with a call for us to massively shift and alter the traditional work and productivity paradigms we operate under. The best way to get things done is to sprint repeatedly, rather than try to put ourselves through a never ending marathon. Work that we get done with our undivided attention, that is parceled in delimited and gradual stages and with regular renewal breaks distributed in between gets far superior production than what we can accomplish doing several things at once and always pushing until exhaustion.

This conference also runs for an hour, but it’s so good and edifying that it deserves to be watched more than once. Schwartz deals somewhat poorly with the time constraint he faces, but he does his best to keep it engagin, fun and light. His closing argument, which cites work by K. Anders Ericsson is shocking: superior results and performance do not belong to superior people, they belong  to people with superior habits and methods. If you want superior results for yourself, just develop the habits and routines the great ones live by.

Here you go.

 

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