What is Avid Weekly Ideas?
Each week I publish an idea or two either from a book I am currently reading or from my backlog of book notes. 📚
Of course, this isn’t intended to replace book notes or reading the book itself. Instead the aim is to extract a key idea or two from a book that struck me as insightful and share-worthy. Then I package it into a bite-sized digestible chunk. I hope these little nuggets of insight will spark some inspiration or ideas in your own mind. 💡
The Energy Metric
In case you think the name Scott Adams sounds familiar that’s because he is the creator of Dilbert, one of the world’s most famous syndicated comic strips.
Of course before becoming the success that he is now, he failed “at more things than anyone you’ve ever met or anyone you’ve even heard of.”
In this book he “shares the strategy he has used since he was a teen to invite failure in, to embrace it, then pick its pocket.”
The focus of this week’s instalment of Avid Weekly is particularly on his concept of the Energy Metric which I found to be quite useful and unique.
The timeless “human problem”…
…is one of opportunity cost.
We humans want many things: good health, financial freedom, accomplishment, a great social life, love, sex, recreation, travel, family, career, and more. The problem with all of this wanting is that the time you spend chasing one of those desires is time you can’t spend chasing any of the others. So how do you organize your limited supply of time to get the best result?
Of course many people have written books on this subject and offer many different frameworks and metrics that help you solve this problem.
But I was impressed by what Adams proposed. I like its simplicity and I think it makes sense. He calls it the Energy Metric.
What is the Energy Metric?
The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.
In this way he uses energy as his currency for productivity.
Some suggest money, others suggest time, and still others suggest results as their metric for assessing priorities. The use of time in this regard is a different approach that makes sense in the long run when you think about it.
What does it mean?
To him personally it means:
Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps. But it also means having something in my life that makes me excited to wake up. When I get my personal energy right, the quality of my work is better, and I can complete it faster. That keeps my career on track. And when all of that is working, and I feel relaxed and energetic, my personal life is better too.
Note that he defines energy broadly.
“Energy” is a simple word that captures a mind-boggling array of complicated happenings. For our purposes I’ll define your personal energy as anything that gives you a positive lift, either mentally or physically. Like art, you know it when you see it.
Some tips on boosting energy levels
Adams goes on to give some tips on boosting your energy levels.
Avoid energy killers → “For me, shopping is an energy killer. The moment I walk into a busy store, I feel the energy drain from my body. The exhaustion starts as a mental thing, but within minutes I feel as if my body had been through a marathon. Shopping is simply exhausting for me. Your situation might be different. For some people, shopping is a high. It boosts energy. So using my example, a person like me should seek to minimize shopping (and I do), while a person who gets a buzz from it should indulge, so long as it doesn’t take too much away from other priorities in life.”
Keep it simple and do not optimize unnecessarily → keeping things simple reduces the chances of things going wrong. Overly optimizing drains energy as you have to pay attention to more detail and more could go wrong. Simplification frees up energy, making everything else you do just a little bit easier.
Sitting position → always sit with good posture and do not slouch. He found that whenever he sat with good posture, both feet on the floor, it seemed that his body sent signals to his brain that it’s time to concentrate on work. Avoid using the same sitting position for work that you use for relaxation. Additionally, if the couch is where you usually nap or watch TV, it is probably a poor place to work.
Tidiness → every second you look at a messy room it is subconsciously or consciously a drain on your energy levels as your mind has to work harder to sort through the clutter. One trick he suggests for those who struggle with tidying is to invite people over on a regular basis. It naturally motivates you to tidy up in order to present a neat environment for your guests. Or even just the desire to not feel embarrassed by your messy space is good enough reason to start tidying! Check out Avid Weekly #6 for more on tidying.
Knowledge and lack thereof → “One of the biggest obstacles to success—and a real energy killer—is the fear that you don’t know how to do the stuff that your ideal career plans would require.” Don’t be intimidated. When you start asking questions, you will discover there’s often a simple solution. Keep in mind that every time you wonder how to do something, millions of people have probably wondered the same thing. From his personal experience he couldn’t “think of a single instance in which I was stopped because there was information I needed and couldn’t find it. I think most entrepreneurs would tell you the same thing. And more to the point of this chapter, when you know how to do something, you feel more energized to take it on.”
Don’t be an asshole → he defines an asshole as anyone who chooses to make the lives of others less pleasant for reasons that don’t appear productive or necessary. This pollutes the energy in a group situation and there is often a cost associated with cleaning up the mess you made. Some people think this is a way to “energize” your team but it won’t work in the long term.
Prioritize your wellbeing and self-improvement → “It’s useful to think of your priorities in terms of concentric circles, like an archery target. In the center is your highest priority: you. If you ruin yourself, you won’t be able to work on any other priorities.” So taking care of your own health and self-improvement is crucial. The next ring is economics. If you don’t get your personal financial engine working right, you become a burden on everyone from your family to the country. The third ring is friends and family. The next rings are your local community, your country, and the world, in that order. He suggests to not bother trying to fix the world until you get the inner circles of your priorities in order. Granted, life is complex and this neat little model of priorities won’t always work. And there is a fine balance to strike before you cross the border of being “selfish.”
TL;DR of key ideas
- Throughout history a common problem faced by humans is one of limited resources and opportunity cost. This gives rise to the importance of prioritization.
- There are many frameworks for prioritization but Adams proposes a simple metric: your energy levels.
- Adams gives several tips on how to maximize energy levels including: avoiding energy killers, simplifying instead of unnecessarily optimizing, observing good sitting/working posture, tidiness, not being deterred by a lack of knowledge, don’t be an asshole and prioritizing your wellbeing and self-improvement.
What do you think about using energy as a metric for prioritization? Does it sound useful or is it just an impractical gimmick? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @AvidBookReadr.
If you liked this week’s ideas, please consider reading the entire book to get the full context, meaning and nuance. As always, happy reading! 📚
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