Jonathan has to prepare for a big presentation to win a huge deal for his company and for his chance at a promotion. He’s worked through the first three key areas of PERFORM.
Jonathan has learned how to plan, and he has seen improvements. He regularly schedules time blocks to block and tackle. But he finds himself pushing too hard then dragging when trying to maximize focus work and deep work. He came to me to figure this out, and it came down to one word: pacing.
The problem is, you may know what to do with block and tackle, but like Jonathan, you may be too tired and not at your best during the time block.
One of the biggest errors road warriors make is the inability to pace themselves.
They, by default, have their energy consumed and easily end up in the exhaustion cycle of busy, thinking, “I can’t stop now,” which easily leads into the beat down, where they think, “I can’t take this anymore.” In no time, they are in burn out: “I can’t keep going.”
LEARNING TO PACE YOURSELF ON THE ROAD IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO PERFORMING AT AN OPTIMAL LEVEL ON THE ROAD.
You find the concept of pacing in sports. Coaches spread out a player’s minutes in order to pace their energy to last the entire game.
Often, it’s very predictable with star athletes who strategically come out of the game at the end of the first quarter then sit the first few minutes of the second quarter to get extra rest to increase their energy throughout the game.
Runners have a similar pattern if they run any amount of distance. You cannot sprint the entire race; you must settle into a pace that allows you to have the endurance to finish the race.
But, road warriors seem to sprint the entire day, rest very little, then start the sprint all over again the next day, and we wonder why we come home absolutely exhausted and crash over the weekend.
We are completely useless and unavailable to our family, and often go right back out there and do it all over again the next trip!
Business travel is actually a marathon that requires pacing. Most of us are on the road for more than one day, so we need to find a pace to make it effectively through multiple days of a trip. It seems logical because you’re on the road going from one place to another, to meeting after meeting.
Now, I can already hear the pushback: “You don’t know my schedule!” Correct, I don’t. But I’ve been there and I am coaching many who are still there right now. Many go so hard the first day by getting up early for a flight, changing time zones and staying out too late the first night.
They wonder why they’re sharp as a bowling ball the second day of the trip! (This guy is also the king of excuses, and if you really pull back the cover on his day, you will see that most of the pacing was a choice that could’ve been changed. This kind of guy has potential if he’s willing to drop the defense and learn about pacing.)
It’s not only possible to pace yourself on the road, but it’s also necessary to truly perform at the level you want so you can be at your best.
HOW DO YOU PACE YOURSELF WITH BUSINESS TRAVEL?
PACING IS MONITORING YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
I use a term called an Energyologist (another Buckley-ism). My made-up definition for my made-up word is:
AN ENERGYOLOGIST IS…
A PERSONAL STUDY OF YOUR OWN ENERGY
The only person who can know your own energy is you. In fact, most people don’t even know their own energy levels, so how in the world could they possibly know or even care about YOUR energy? Become an Energyologist for your own good because it’s a key element for effective pacing.
Awareness is a HUGE buzzword right now because most people, especially on the road, are moving at an unsustainable pace. They are laser-focused (or simply oblivious) and unaware of anything around them let alone how they’re personally doing.
This must change, road warriors. You must be responsible to monitor your energy levels. Maybe this will help.
There are three directions of energy:
Consume Energy – The road by default consumes our energy with the travel, delays, time zone changes, different cities, and hotels, always having to be on.
Conserve Energy – This is a choice and often, it’s about what we DON’T do.
Create Energy – This is the biggest choice that must be done consistently by choosing energy-giving behaviors (energy habits) that will create much-needed energy.
You must become an Energyologist so you know how the road will either consume, conserve, or create energy for you, but you must look for it. Do you know what happens when you don’t decide?
The result is sideways energy, which ultimately consumes your energy.
PACING IS ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
1. WHEN IS MY ENERGY HIGHEST WITHIN THE DAY?
Each of us is different from how energy flows within us during the average day on the road. If you tend to be more of a morning person in general, your energy may be the highest at that section of the day.
But is it in the early morning when you first wake up? Mid or late morning? The entire morning? If you’re an evening person in general, is it early evening? Late evening? The entire evening?
The key is to match specific levels of work to your energy level.
For example, I have the most energy to be creative first thing in the morning. I’m not necessarily social at that time, but my mind is clearest to create. This is my writing time, project time, etc.
This is when I tend to do my deep work, so I try to do whatever I can, even on the road, to match my highest energy level to the time of day that can allow me to maximize my time and efforts. It’s a challenge and a dance, but it’s worth the effort.
2. WHY IS MY ENERGY LOW RIGHT NOW?
Often, the answer may be as simple as, it’s 2 pm and you’ve not stopped for lunch. Or what you ate for lunch is sitting in your gut like a 20 lb. dumbbell because it was a poor choice. Or because the only movement you’ve had in numerous hours is your fingers on the keyboard and multiple yawn reps. C’mon, man.
Sometimes, it’s bigger like running on little or low-quality sleep. This cannot be solved at the moment but can be in a few hours by getting to bed on time or even earlier to bank energy for tomorrow afternoon.
Finding the why of your energy drop is key to solving the problem and not repeating it day after day. STOP the bleeding.
3. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO CHANGE MY ENERGY LEVEL?
Once you know why your energy level is low, you can actually do something about it. Go eat something healthy. Stand up and stretch. Take a break and go for a quick walk to move the body and rest the mind.
You’ll be surprised how much doing something different that puts positive fuel in your body or even gets you moving will do for low energy.
Certain tasks give me a hit of energy so I’ll switch to that task. Listening to some music gets me up along with some quick-hit exercises like push-ups, burpees, and leg squats to get that heart rate up.
You need to figure out what can change your energy level besides getting a hit of sugar that you’ll regret later.
4. HOW CAN I MATCH MY TASKS WITH MY ENERGY?
Sometimes a small tweak is not going to change your energy level. So, I pick a low-energy task that requires more time, and I dedicate the time to that task. I have a list of low-energy tasks I can turn to at any given moment that needs forward motion.
These are the no- brainer, little-to-no-thinking tasks that need attention but definitely NOT during high-energy moments.
Often, working on a few of these tasks for 15 or 30 minutes is all I need to snap me out of the low-energy funk. Other times, I’m going to ride the low-energy tasks out for the remainder of my day because it’s just one of those days.
It’s not a big deal when it is mid- to late- afternoon, but it’s a major concern if it’s 1:05 pm. Learn to match energy with the task.
PACING IS MAKING KEY CHANGES TO BOOST MY ENERGY
1. CHANGE OF POSITION
Stretch, stand, walk, do push-ups (seriously, try it!), and just move. Our bodies aren’t designed to sit in one place for long periods of time. This ironically zaps the energy out of us, even though all we’re doing is sitting.
2. CHANGE OF LOCATION
What if I worked in a different location? It may mean moving to a different room or possibly to a completely new environment to make the most of the afternoon. If I’m struggling with my energy, I’ll move to the hotel lobby and bring my noise-canceling headphones. A different vibe often brings me a hit of much-needed energy.
3. CHANGE OF ACTIVITY
Learning to have a pulse in my energy is huge for productivity. It’s SO easy to try and force something when the reality is your energy is just not there. Don’t force it. Adjust and evaluate. Sometimes, the worst thing is to force something that ends up taking twice as long with results that are half as good. Holy bad math, Batman.
BABY STEP TO PACING
Awareness is first and foremost, because most road warriors simply aren’t aware of what is consuming their energy, nor do they know ways to conserve or create energy. You need to begin to look at how your energy flows within your day so you can maximize the high and decrease the low to become an Energyologist so you can perform at an elite level on the road.
1. There are three directions of energy: consume, conserve, and create.
2. Learn to ask the right questions: Why is my energy low right now? Is there anything I can do to change my energy level? How can I match my task with my energy?
3. Learn to implement key changes to boost your energy: change of position, change of location, and change of activity.