Energy management 101
why energy matters & specific tactics that worked for me
This is hyper personal. This may not work for you and that is by design. But maybe this stuff does resonate and if not, maybe it spawns other thoughts.
Below isn't a summary of articles, books, or twitter threads. Nothing that I share is unique, but it is battle-tested and rooted in experience. It is also actionable.
I used to think that I am invulnerable (wrong) and that my teammates aren’t impacted by the energy I put out (wrong)1. I thought that I can be creative and that I can make +EV decisions 24/7/365 (so wrong). And while I am still figuring things out, I wish that someone shared this with me when I felt the weight of it all building from 0-1.
TLDR = let’s not bury the lead
consider thinking about how you manage your physical and mental energy because it is having an impact on your product/team
check out 17(+1) tactics i am using to manage mine2
And if there is ONE thing you take away from this email - let it be this. Right now go outside for a 15 min walk and on the way back bring a large bottle of water to your desk. Ignore this email. Please go and we will catch up over the weekend.
1,2,3 - go go go!
So what is energy management? To me energy management is the deliberate process of managing your internal energy to (1) help make higher quality decisions and (2) to serve your team better.
A lucid mind is important to building a startup/product/anything (your X).
Heaps of energy and a clear mind are especially important when you are taking something from 0-1.
Why does it matter? If you have high energy you can…
be there for your team. Whether you are building a product within a large team or building in private - your energy levels matter. You want to be a source of positive energy for others. Energy is contagious.
make (1) max +EV (expected value) tough/irreversible decisions and (2) +EV in-the-moment/reversible decisions. You want to do your absolute best to get the high stakes decisions right. And you want to move quickly through the reversible in-the-moment decisions and avoid spinning in circles.
maximize momentum when you are winning and be a beacon of strength when things are tough. Both are important. Both will test your energy and your resolve.
This will compound to give you and your team an edge. If our singular focus is the success of X (ex. your product/team/business) - then we need to design our life to serve X3. If that sounds too intense - that’s fair.
At the min let’s consider how our actions “outside of work” impact our decision making at “work”. And if we want to do whatever it takes to make our X wildly successful (my philosophy) - we should construct our life to channel maximum energy into X.
OK let’s break it down. Here are some of the tactics that I’ve developed over time. Many are self-explanatory so I’ll be brief. Some of these are going to seem odd, but going back to our TLDR - the larger goal is to think about the concept of energy management. Our habits are individual.
Physical energy is a mix of our activities and our environment. If you feel good - you will make better decisions.
Be active X days a week. AM is best because you get a burst of energy after you exercise and you can channel that energy into work - often your toughest task and often before the team wakes up. Plus, if your day escapes, which it often will, at least you did one thing for yourself.
Minimize eating “trash food”. Processed food, junk food, sugar etc. It will make you feel sluggish. We want sharp and lucid.
Drink water. You’ve read the studies. We are water. I ignored this for years and with time learned that for me drinking water helps with headaches. Mandatory large water bottle at desk is a cheat code.
Sleep. Lot’s of studies on benefits of sleep. I am the last person to talk about sleeping a lot, but I do think it’s worth to think about your optimal # of hours. Then try to get your # each night. Disobeying your body will hurt your mind in the long-term.
Phone. Face down and on do not disturb mode. Plus who calls besides robo scammers?
Simplify daily life. There is merit to simplicity. I personally do not care much about what I eat or how I look. I also do not derive much joy from either food or appearance. These activities do not energize me and take away time/energy so I simplify. For someone that seems wrong and that is perfectly fine. For me energy saved worrying about these things, is energy I can invest in our mission. Maybe there is one thing in your life that you are spending time on today that you can simplify? Maybe it’s something that is meaningless to you and you are doing it out of an old-habit or because of a social construct that you don’t believe in?
Workspace/your setup. Do whatever makes you happy. No strong opinion here. I think this is over-engineering. If your desk is messy - so be it. If you don’t like clutter - tidy up. I’ve worked with people who obsess over their setup and get nothing done and I’ve worked with the 10x engineers/operators who have a dinky old monitor with a post it note and do mountains of quality work. Setup your work environment in a way that makes sense for you and move on. Unlike taking care of your health (not debatable), this is.
The most important on this list? Exercise. Move your body however you want. I’ve gone through periods where I let myself go to push things forward at work. Looking back that was a mistake. A bad trade. If you slip off the path, snap out of it, and get back on. Who protects the protector?
If you exercise - you will be a better thinker, leader, teammate, and your best version of self for everyone around you. Even if your current venture fails - your future self will thank you for working out!
Mental energy is a mix information we consume (our media diet) and “emotional/spiritual” activities we engage in. Being mindful of your information diet will either charge you up or bleed you dry.
Here are 9 tactics that work for me:
Remove as much media clutter from your life as possible. This will help you clear your mind for your X.
What is clutter when it comes to mental energy? Today, most of the things that go into our head is clutter. A large % of all news/social media is noise. It is designed to get you to click.
What makes things harder is not just the design of the modern information flow, but the abundance and the access to the information. What do you mean you don’t know about ABCD new development in Z sector? Are you ignorant? Better read up!
It is okay to not have an opinion on ABCD because we are laser-focused on our team/product. Let’s 2x down on what we care about and shut down all the noise. Specifically, I do not follow trends/fads unless they are aligned with our mission. I do not look at markets, day-trade, or worry about asset prices. I do not follow sports and never owned a TV. This may seem extreme to some and everyone will have a different calibration, but my #1 point is that consuming information is energy and it’s important to be selective.
“…to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X. We are defined by what we choose to reject.” - Mark Mason
Remove obligations. Most obligations are weight. They hang over us - taxing us mentally. Obligations stand between you and your X. So let’s surgically handle them and going forward - let’s be deliberate about what we say yes to. What does this mean in practice for me? No debt. Few long-term plans. I am a poor life planner, plus I prefer to have an empty day/weekend where I can say yes to things as them come. If nothing comes - great too. Be selective about commitments and when I commit - follow through. Avoid things lingering, not just because it lets others down, but because the weight of the lingering promise will chip away at my energy. Goal is a clean slate. A clear head. Freedom. Lot’s of free time to give me the room to tinker, to study, to create, and to engage on my own terms.
Read, BUT do not feel indebted to the author. We’ve been programmed in school to read things cover to cover. If you don’t finish a book you are a bad student. False! One of the Twitter philosophers said that some books are meant to be blogs and I think that’s so true. Sometimes the author is full of it or you are not having fun. Drop the book. You think my POV here is nonsense or self-explanatory? Alt+f4 now and save your time. There is so much to learn - the opportunity cost of muscling through a book just to live up to some construct is not worth it.
“Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.” - Charlie Munger
Practice being present. Instead of looking at the phone study the environment when waiting in line buying groceries. Be in the moment with a friend. Look at nature. A lot of creative work (ex. product management, art) is observation and practice helps!
Try breathing exercises, 5min meditation, or both. I am not educated on this to go in depth, but am here to share that this has worked for me. I wish that I adopted this sooner. These days I do 10 deep breaths and at exhale I repeat a short mantra. I do this whenever I observe myself drifting to a negative state of mind.
Have a creative outlet or a hobby. It will help you get into flow state and disconnect. It can be gaming, running, gardening, painting warhammer figures, art etc.
Practice gratitude and look for a positive angle in all problems. It can be as simple as acknowledging 1 thing you are grateful for each day and seeing issues as learning opportunities. Also, consider imbuing your company culture with gratitude (more on that later).
Practice negative visualization. One of the most famous Stoic exercises - negative visualization will (1) prepare us for shit that will happen (and shit will happen) and (2) help practice gratitude and give us appreciation for what we do have. What if we suffered a data breach? What if the product launch flops?
Invest in meaningful relationships. Be vulnerable with your friends, family, and your team. Spend quality time. Build meaningful connections, especially at work. Let them know how you feel. Give.
And don’t take yourself too seriously! Photos from James Webb Telescope put all of our problems in perspective.
One last thing = unscheduled time. Time management is important and deserve it’s own section, but for now 2 things:
Idle time matters. All builders need idle time for tinkering, for thinking through tough irreversible decisions, for pouncing at an opportunity, and for being there for a teammate when they need you.
The more precision there is to the day, the less in control we are of our own time. So what? To start, be ruthless about meetings (more on that later) → free yourself and your team.
“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
How does this look in practice? For me this is a solid week of “scheduled” commitments from one of the busiest periods.
Energy management is the deliberate process of managing your internal energy to help make higher quality decisions
High energy → lucid mind → better decisions + happier team
The most important thing is to (1) think about the concept of energy management and to (2) engage in activities (mental and physical) that give you energy. Avoid being along for the ride in your environment.
We are all wired differently and so different things will work for different people, but if there is one thing you can’t go wrong with - it is some form of physical exercise.
That’s it! Take care of yourself.
Thanks for reading ace high! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
PS: If any of this resonated - would love to know what. If you think its nonsense - even better. Make a case against? And if there is something you are practicing that is working for you - would be A+ if you shared.
Was blind to this. Learned this only after close teammate called me out multiple times. Thank you Morgan
Each of these tactics deserves an independent post. If helpful - would be happy to go deeper on each, but am also trying to be mindful of time.
We are all wired differently. I understand that my absolutist philosophy may seem like a lot for some and those who feel that way are right. Let’s abstract from the serve-X/channel-everything-into-X theme and focus more on the general principles behind energy management.