If you had to pick one priority in your life, could you do it? That’s an important question because focusing on the wrong priority would get you a bad result, and having multiple priorities isn’t practical. For example, if health is your top priority, you might make choices that are good for your health and bad for your career, such as saying no to having a few drinks after work with your boss.
We humans want lots of things: good health, financial freedom, success in whatever matters to us, a great social life, love, sex, recreation, travel, family, career and more. The problem is that the time you spend maximizing one of those dimensions usually comes at the expense of time you could have spent on another. So how do you organize your time to get the best result?
The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main goal: energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.
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.
At this point in my post, I must invoke the Dog Whisperer analogy. The Dog Whisperer is a TV show in which dog expert Cesar Millan helps people get their seemingly insane dogs under control. Cesar’s main trick involves training the humans to control their own emotional states because dogs can pick up crazy vibes from the owners. When the owners learn to control themselves, the dogs calm down too. I think this same method applies to humans interacting with other humans. You’ve seen for yourself that when a sad person enters a room, the mood in the room drops. And when you talk to a cheerful person who is full of energy, you automatically feel a boost. I’m suggesting that by becoming a person with good energy, you lift the people around you. That positive change will improve your social life, you love life, your family life, and your career.
When I talk about high energy, I don’t mean the frenetic, caffeine-fueled, bounce-off-the-walls type. I’m talking about a calm, focused energy. To others, it will simply appear that you are in a good mood. And you will be.
Before I was a cartoonist, I worked in a number of energy-sucking corporate jobs, in energy-sucking cubicles. But I enjoyed going to work, partly because I exercised most evenings, and usually woke up feeling good, and partly because I always had one or two side projects going on that had the potential to set me free. Cartooning was just one of a dozen entrepreneurial ideas I tried out during my corporate days. For several years, the prospect of becoming a professional cartoonist, and leaving my cubicle behind, gave me an enormous amount of energy.
The main reason I blog is because it energizes me. I could rationalize my blogging by telling you it increases traffic on Dilbert.com by 10%, or that it keeps my mind sharp, or that I think the world is a better place when there are more ideas in it. But the main truth is that blogging charges me up. It gets me going. I don’t need another reason.
As soon as I publish this post, I’ll feel a boost of energy from the minor accomplishment of having written something that other people will read. Then I’ll get a second cup of coffee and think happy thoughts about my tennis match that is scheduled for after lunch. With my energy cranked up to maximum, I’ll wade into my main job of cartooning for the next four hours. And it will seem easy.
Manage your energy first.