Updated: Aug 10
Back in the 80's and 90's corporate executives were often judged by the hours they kept. Many sales professionals who were striving for high performance success could often be found at the office early in the morning until late in evening. At one of my first corporate sales jobs I had a district sales manager who would arrive at work at 6:30 am and would often stay until 10 pm making sure that other sales professionals and management knew he was there. This same manager could often be found in the officer on weekends "getting work done." The problem was, it was hard to tell what work he was working on. Was he so overwhelmed by his position that he could not get his work done during the regular work day or was he creating work for himself so that he could impress upper management? I for one, still don't know the answer.
I worked for a company not long ago that tried to build its culture around this philosophy. At this company, if you wanted to be considered a high performance sales professional, you were expected to be in the office early, work late into the evening, and, working weekends was considered a must for success. This left little time for a sales person to recharge and not burn out. While it is true that some sales jobs might require you to work early, or late or weekends, generally the same job will not require all three. Research has shown that working long hours does not result in more output, and the fact is, that when put to the test, managers could not detect a difference in work output between employees who actually worked an 80 hour week and those who pretended to. However the health problems caused by working long hours are very real. Overwork can lead to high levels of stress, impaired sleep, depression and many other problems. For professions that rely on interpersonal skills like high performance sales, the impact of working long hours can be brutal. Research has shown that if your career relies on interpersonal communication, making judgement calls, reading other peoples faces or managing your own emotional reactions, working long hours can make things far more difficult.
I have heard people talk proudly about how they can operate on minimal sleep but the reality is that for every 100 people who believe that can operate on minimal sleep, only 5 people actually can. The other 95 people are just fooling themselves and suffering the ill effects of sleep deprivation. This leads me to my main point. When managing your work day and workflow you must manage your energy and not your time. So what do I mean by this?
As a high performance sales professional when you manage your energy instead of your time your will set more appointments, close more sales, and be at the top of your game physically and mentally.
Traditionally we are taught to manage our time by dividing tasks that need to be completed and assigning a specific amount of time to getting them done. However this philosophy can cause us to obsess over time and time management and, that, can lead to burn out and loss of energy. It is important to remember that time is a finite resource but energy is renewable. Scheduling every minute of your day to increase productivity might sound good but it does not take into account the need for us to recharge our batteries in order to remain productive.
When planing your day by managing your energy it is important to remember that some jobs will require more energy than others and you want to plan around that during your day. As you can see from the active burn ultradian rhythm chart above, your high energy task should take place during that peak 90 minute cycle while your low energy tasks should take place during the 20 minute recharge cycle. As you look at the Daily Burn chart use it to set boundaries for your high energy and low energy activities. For example if you are required to make 100 cold calls a day and you hate cold calling, break it into manageable segments and complete those segments during your 90 minute peak energy times. But, when you hit that 20 minute trough take time to rest, recover and recharge. Do not keep calling during that time, instead, shift to a low energy task such as updating your CRM or or handling some low value paperwork.
Link your Ultradian Rhythm with your Circadian Rhythm. This means getting the right amount of sleep and developing sleep habits that allow you to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. This sleeping habit will allow you to wake up naturally instead of using an alarm clock and when you wake up on your own your are in your rhythm. Start your day with exercise and get off to a strong start.
Plan your day around your 90/20 Ultradian Rhythm split. When you are in your high energy phase stay focused and avoid switching tasks. This is not the time to check your emails or your phone. When this cycle ends it is your recovery time and you will feel it. You might be hungry or thirsty or just find it hard to concentrate. Don't try to fool yourself into thinking you can power through it, you can't. This is what energy management is all about. Use this 20 minute recharge time to take a short break. Spend the rest of the time handing low energy, low value tasks and once rested jump back into your high energy tasks and get back to focusing on those things that make you a high performance sale professional.
Effective energy management means focusing on the task at hand. I hate to break it to you but there is no such thing as multitasking. Multitasking is a myth and to become a high performance sales professional you must understand this concept. So why can't we multitask? If you think about it, Multitasking is really transferring your focus from one project to another. You don't believe me? Next time you are listening to a song try to focus on the music and the lyrics at the same time, you can't do it. Your brain goes through a complex splitting process which allows you to focus on one or the other. It is the same with energy management. During your peak energy time focus on your most important task at hand.
They key to managing your energy and being the most productive you can, starts with you:
Get the right amount of sleep
Focus on one task at a time (Remember multitasking is a myth)
Set your work boundaries so that you can focus on your high energy tasks at the right time and reserve your recharge time for your low energy tasks.