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The Power of Full Engagement Book Summary

May 12, 2021    •   minute read

This is a book summary of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

It is my top recommended book for business performance and productivity.

Let’s dive in.

The Power of Full Engagement: One-Paragraph Summary

To perform at your best, you need to manage your energy, not time. There are four sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Recovery is as crucial to maintain energy level. You must follow highly specific rituals to create a balance between energy expenditure and energy renewal for full engagement.

To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.

The book is about performance, but it also teaches us how to live a well-balanced life. If you can optimize and maintain these four sources of energy, I can’t imagine how you can’t live a fulfilling life.

Key Takeaways

There are seven key takeaways from The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.

To perform at your best, you need to optimize your energy, not time.

Cramming 48 hours of work into your 24-hour day could make you more efficient in the short term. But your energy will not sustain that for long. Chances are that you will suffer from a burnout after a few days.

So, the key to high performance is energy management. Again, quoting the authors:

To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.

Only by being fully engaged can you perform at your best.

Training and recovery are key to maintaining your energy.

The book suggests that training is important for high performance. Just as you can build your physical muscles, emotional, mental and spiritual muscles can and should also be trained. Sustaining your pain builds your muscles. For example, by writing your emotion and the causes every time it happens makes your emotional muscle stronger.

Another key to full engagement is to take regular breaks. The book recommends taking a break every 90-120 minutes. However, you should not use your recovery breaks to do more work. They are for you to relax and… recover.

10-minute mindfulness meditation, savoring your tea or coffee, or taking a stroll in nature help you recover better and maintain high performance when you get back to work. Reading a book may be another leisurely activity I’d personally recommend. The key is to choose an activity that makes you feel relaxed.

Physical energy is crucial for full engagement.

There are three things that affect your physical energy: exercise, food, and sleep.

If you are too busy to exercise, you are too busy for high performance. It is one way to develop and maintain your physical energy level.

People know that physical exercises are important for performance, but many often forget that healthy food affects physical energy level too. When you eat a large amount of carbohydrates, your productivity takes a hit. That’s how people experience the afternoon slump. It reduces your ability to focus and complete tasks.

Another way to maintain physical energy is a good sleep. It is a form of recovery that helps you maintain not only performance but also health and well-being. Put simply, it is as vital as exercise and nutrition.

You can maintain emotional energy by doing what you love and being active.

You must do what you need to do, but never neglect to make time for what you love doing too. For that will improve your positive emotional energy. If you do not feel good, it is difficult to get focused on a task and even harder to produce a high-quality outcome.

Physical energy affects emotional energy, too. So, you should identify activities that you find fulfilling and captivating to help you boost your emotional energy level. Examples include a mindful walk, a stroll around your office building, or just stretching every 60 minutes. Any physical activity that takes your mind off work will do the trick.

To maintain positive mental energy, you need to maintain appropriate focus and realistic optimism.

Realistic optimism means seeing the world as it is but always working positively towards a desired outcome. Visualization, positive self-talk, and effective time management are key to developing positive mental energy.

Your physical and emotional energy affects mental energy. Physical exercise stimulates cognitive capacity, meaning when you exercise, you can think and perform better.

Specific things you can do to boost mental energy include learning something new, solving a puzzle or a Rubik’s cube, and meditation.

Spiritual energy is the source of motivation.

Spiritual energy provides a force for action in all endeavors of our lives. It fuels passion, perseverance, and commitment. It explains why some people achieve what seems impossible.

Personal values and purpose beyond self-interest are the driving force for spiritual energy. Passion, commitment, integrity, and honesty are crucial to build your spiritual muscles.

Three Steps towards Full Engagement

The book suggests a training system that contain three steps for full engagement: (1) defining your purpose, (2) accepting your own limitations, and (3) building positive rituals.

First, you must create a positive purpose that comes from intrinsic motivation and compassion for others. Purpose becomes a more powerful source of energy when its sources move from negative to positive, external to internal, and self to others. A positive purpose determines how you should invest your energy.

Then, accept your limitations by facing the truth requires that we be open to the possibility that we may be wrong about ourselves and others, and everything else. Nothing is all wrong (nor right). Furthermore, avoiding the truth only makes us defensive, and this could be a waste of energy. Therefore, accepting our limitations reduces our defensiveness and improve positive energy.

Finally, the power of rituals — they create a balance between energy expenditure and renewal and allow you to perform at full engagement. It takes between thirty and sixty days to build a ritual. For a ritual to take effect, it must be precise and specific. To make lasting change, we must build serial rituals but focus on one change at a time.

Actionable Advice

Here is actionable advice from the book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.

1. Exercise regularly.

You have now learned that exercise is important in most of the dimensions of energy: physical, emotional and mental. Even just a walk for 30 minutes a day could work. If that’s too big, you can get started by building a gateway habit such as 3 push-ups a day.

2. Eat healthy.

This is what most people often neglect. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to eat healthy. It only requires eating more veggies and eating in moderation. Whole foods are a better choice than processed foods.

3. Sleep and take regular breaks to get re-energized.

Like the previous two, a good night sleep and regular breaks improve energy in most of the dimensions. Unfortunately, we do not care enough about it. I am still struggling in this area myself, but I am working to get better at it, so should you.

4. Work less but more deeply

Now, this may be the most difficult for most working professionals. Unlike athletes, we have so many kinds of work we need to attend to — from leadership, to management, to administrative and communications. That is ok if quality is not a big deal, but if you want to perform at your best and produce outstanding quality outcome for the people your business serves, you will have to work less but more deeply. In other words, focus on important work. It may mean that you will have to delegate a lot of what’s on your plate and eliminate shallow tasks that do not contribute much of the outcome of your work or business.

Over to You

What one insight did you get from the summary of the book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal?

Leave a comment.

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