time management versus energy management

    Time Management Versus Energy Management

    1024 669 Elizabeth Zelinka

    We have previously acknowledged the importance of the work of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement (2003) to the way that we structure our transition coaching programs.  One of the most impactful aspects of this work proposes a paradigm shift from the historical use of time management techniques to

    the notion that the skillful management of energy is what results in optimal performance, personal well being, and an overall sense of satisfaction. Let’s look at the key differences in these two paradigms.

    Old Paradigm

    Under the old paradigm, self-discipline and time management are the keys to success.  Life is understood as a sort of marathon that should be run with a steady intensity, and hard work is what results in rewards—economic and otherwise.  There is an underlying assumption that steady struggle is just part of the success equation, and all downtime is wasted time. Performance is fueled by the promise of achievement, and stress is to be avoided to whatever extent possible through the power of positive thinking and sheer determination. Under this approach, there is a linear expenditure of energy and little or no time set aside for intentional recharging (and maybe more than a touch of pride associated with superhuman endurance).

    New Paradigm

    Under the new paradigm, structured habits of stress and recovery and skillful energy management are the keys to success.  Life is understood as a series of productive sprints, offset by intentional periods of downtime and recovery. Performance is fueled by a clear purpose and an understanding that stress is a necessary part of the success equation, as long as there is adequate space for recovery. Strength training is an easily understood example of this model in action. One uses weights to place a specific muscle group under intense stress, literally pushing it past its current capabilities to failure. The muscle is then allowed to rest so that it can recover fully—to a point beyond its previous capacity. This cycle of stress and recovery is the key to expanded capacity in all areas and can be seen everywhere in nature.

    How Does Energy Management Work in Practice?

    Creating structured habits and rituals that support this oscillation between stress and recovery is crucial to effective energy management.  First, it is critical to spend as much time as possible working on something that you enjoy and at which you excel. Second, it is important to create a space for intense focus and engagement (whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual) so that the desired level of energy can be expended in an effective way and with minimal interruption. Throughout these focused “sprints” of effort, frequent and restorative breaks are necessary to allow for an energy recharge. These breaks should be enjoyable and pleasurable—not a different form of stress.  Finally, it is important to become aware of and break negative habits such as working for long periods without a break, responding to exhaustion with the destructive use of food or other substances, and adopting a critical (rather than appreciative) attitude.

    The net result of mastering the art of energy management is the ability to “perform in the storm” as Loehr and Schwartz describe it. Whether moving through transition or seeking greater levels of success, it is the ability to sustain high performance in the face of increasing demand that sets the high performer apart from the others.

    the paradox of your comfort zone

    The Paradox of Your Comfort Zone

    1024 683 Elizabeth Zelinka

    We all want to feel comfortable. Many of the actions we take every day are directly or indirectly designed to maintain our feelings of comfort, stability, control, or certainty. And yet, we are all faced with constant change. When the changes are big, we call them transitions.

    Transitions can be tricky. On the one hand, we know they are important and lead to the next great thing, but on the other hand, we are forced to step out of our comfort zones to move through them. If maintaining comfort is the stronger pull, we can default into choices and decisions that do not lead us to authentic success but rather keep us mired in limiting conditions that erode our self-esteem.

    There is an interesting connection between one’s comfort zone and one’s self-esteem. They expand (or don’t) in a synergistic dance—often quite unconsciously.

    Let’s look at two contrasting examples.

    Susan is a hard-working accountant who has always applied herself beyond anyone’s expectations. She works long hours and provides outstanding client service, but often ignores her own needs—including her desire for rich and rewarding family relationships. Her inability to spend time with her family makes her feel guilty, and although she knows she’s a high performer at work, her overall self-esteem is damaged by her feelings of inadequacy in her personal relationships. Susan is offered an economic incentive to retire early – at age 55 – which would allow her to spend unlimited time with her family and pursue some personal goals that she has ignored for many years.  Money is not an issue.  Paradoxically, although Susan does not need the money she will earn by continuing to work until age 60, she declines the early retirement option due to an overwhelming discomfort with the blank canvas in front her. This decision amplifies her feelings of guilt and self-doubt, and she doubles down at work—defaulting back to her comfort zone.

    Michael is widely known as one of the most successful partners at his law firm. He is a consummate rainmaker—a really great technical lawyer but also incredibly good at people and relationships. He has continually expanded his capacity in all areas of his life, investing in his physical health, his personal and professional relationships and his knowledge and expertise. He exudes the quiet confidence of a person who is deeply grounded and generally optimistic. He has always walked his own path, often making choices that set him apart from his peers but has somehow managing to exceed expectations anyway. Michael is offered the opportunity to retire at age 55. Money is not an issue for him, so he decides to take the leap. Leaving his career is far out of his comfort zone, but having pushed the limits of comfort on a daily basis for most of his life, he is confident that he will land on his feet. This decision breeds even more confidence as he moves forward into new and exciting territory, sure of success and continued expansion.

    Susan and Michael are both remarkable people, and neither is worthy of more praise than the other. But they provide contrasting examples of how the practice of pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones (or not) can create wonderful synergies of enhanced self-esteem (or default us into limited circumstances that diminish us in subtle but important ways).

    staying grounded in times

    Staying Grounded in Times of Transition: Identity Matters

    1024 683 Elizabeth Zelinka

    In our work with high-performing lawyers and other intense professionals in transition, we encounter a very consistent challenge—and one that I faced myself when I left my firm years ago—the impending loss of identity.

    We find that many professionals are strongly identified with their firm, their title, their practice, and their professional success. After all, it has taken nearly everything they’ve got to succeed at such a high level for so long.  Their careers have left them little time or energy to know themselves beyond that specific context.  It is no wonder that the idea of leaving can be downright terrifying.

    There is tremendous power in coming to know ourselves outside of the career context and without reference to the various “roles” we play in our lives.  Roles are ephemeral—they come and go over the course of a lifetime—so identifying around them without a connection to a deeper definition can be perilous.

    Setting aside the “need to earn a living” (even for a few days) can allow us to reconnect with who we really are, what we really love to do, and the many ways that we might choose to structure our lives if we believed we had a choice.  And suddenly, we realize that we do have a choice—many more choices, in fact, than we ever knew. The process of clarifying one’s identity beyond professional roles can be the difference between a smooth and successful transition or a lengthy process of confusion, aimlessness, and frustration.

    If you are in a time of transition, no matter what the reason, embrace the opportunity to get to know yourself outside of your career.  There is far more to you and your life than how you earn a living.

    I am about to retire

    I’m About to Retire from my Law Firm. What Now?

    1024 766 Elizabeth Zelinka

    If you are one of the many talented, educated, capable, dedicated and otherwise high-achieving lawyers who is on the brink of retirement, you might have a strange mixture of excitement and trepidation.  After all, this is the moment you have been working for your whole career – but everyone is asking what you will do next, and the nature of your current career may have left little time to ponder that question.

    I have enormous respect and admiration for anyone who can thrive for decades in Big Law.  I started my career there, and frankly, ten years was more than enough for me.  I retired from my firm seeking a more balanced life, and although it was an exhilarating decision, I wish I’d had the insight to employ a transition coach as I embraced my new life.

    Working in big law firms is excellent training when it comes to thinking on one’s feet, handling stress, multi-tasking, building confidence and otherwise testing one’s mettle within a structured and defined environment.  It does not train one, however, for stepping into the unknown, finding one’s independent self-worth, valuing time more than money or cultivating talents not required for the execution of legal assignments.   In fact, I found that the experience tends to create a fair amount of tunnel vision, and it can be difficult to define what success looks like outside of the big firm paradigm.  Without some perspective and a game plan for the future, walking away can create feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, fear, insecurity and confusion.

    This is where a good transition coach comes in.  A good coach can quickly get you past the negative emotions I just described and into forward motion and genuine excitement.  How?  It is all about a new perspective and expanding possibilities.  When was the last time you:

    • Controlled your own time?
    • Thought about what really makes you happy?
    • Clarified what you really love about your work?
    • Imagined the perfect day?
    • Entertained entrepreneurial ideas?
    • Set your own agenda?

    Retirement is the opportunity to create a life composed of exactly what you want.  If “exactly what you want” is a complete mystery, then don’t try to go it alone.  Invest in a good coach to partner with you to get clear about the future and to get moving in the right direction.  You are standing on the brink of an opportunity of a lifetime.  Make the most of it.


    get out of your picture

    Get Out of Your Picture to Find Your Calling

    1024 684 Elizabeth Zelinka

    There is an adage that says “You can never see the picture when you’re in the picture.”  That explains the common phenomenon we’ve all seen—the therapist who cannot manage his or her own dysfunctional life, or the “cobbler whose children have no shoes.”

    Everyone needs the opportunity to get out of his or her own picture, so that the picture can come into focus. It is then that dots can be connected and synergies become obvious. Understanding aspects of core identity (work style, values, drivers, self-ideal) alongside a definition for a satisfying life and career can highlight opportunities for the most meaningful engagement and ignite an incredible level of enthusiasm.

    Whether we are conscious or it or not, we all strive for three things:

    1. We want to do something we’re good at
    2. We want to make someone’s life better with our efforts
    3. We want to be appreciated for our contributions

    At the intersection of these three things will be your most fulfilling work (some call it your “calling”), and sometimes the simple act of putting definition around these desires can light up an otherwise hidden path forward—even within your existing career.

    So, how do you find your calling?  Answering these questions can help you get on the right track to finding an answer.

    First, what are you great at? What comes naturally to you? Ask yourself questions like:

    1. What have I been complimented for?
    2. What achievements do I most enjoy revisiting?
    3. What positive things have my peers and colleagues noticed about my work?
    4. What challenges am I called upon to help address?

    Second, what contributions feel meaningful to you?  Ask yourself questions like:

    1. When do I gladly make sacrifices for others?
    2. When have I made a positive difference to someone that made me feel as good or better?
    3. What do I care about above all else?

    Finally, what’s your preferred feedback loop?  Ask yourself questions like:

    1. Do I need explicit feedback or is implied appreciation enough?
    2. Do I like to receive praise in public or private?
    3. Is it important to me that I am trusted with increasing responsibility?

    Once you find your calling, you’ll look back and ask why you didn’t do it sooner. So step out of your own picture one of these days and see what comes into focus.


    are you fully engaged

    Are You Fully Engaged?

    1024 683 Elizabeth Zelinka

    “To be fully engaged in our lives, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.” – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement, 2003. The insightful research of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz has revolutionized the way many think about achieving and defining success. It has certainly informed much of the work we do with transitioning professionals.

    The genius of their research and work is that it shifts the conventional assumptions that we are stuck managing the limited resource of time and instead posits that we all have an unlimited and more powerful resource under our management—our energy.  They further posit that our total energy is generated four ways—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually—and to be a high performer, all four sources of energy need to be managed effectively.

    The powerful idea of full engagement underscores the importance of big picture thinking when it comes to optimizing performance in any area of life—including career or even retirement.  Many start with the assumption that a great career leads to a great life.  In fact, the reverse may well be true.  If the greater picture of life is not in order, it is impossible to engage fully at optimal levels and therefore exhibit top-level thinking and sustained high performance.  Getting your head around the big picture means looking at important things like your physical health, the quality of your relationships, your methods and habits for recharging, your ability to focus and recover, your definition of a meaningful purpose—you get the idea.

    Of course, in order to begin to have any clarity at all about the big picture, you have to slow down, get perspective, and take stock.  If you have been running at a frantic pace for a long time, you will probably find slowing down uncomfortable and downright difficult to do.  It might feel impossible to imagine creating adequate space in your life for what truly matters to you. But it is a critical aspect to developing into a high performing individual in every area of life—including your current or next professional success.