What’s it about?
At Your Best (2021) is a step-by-step method to getting past time management. It shows how to align your time, energy, and priorities so that you may achieve your goals, has more energy for what you love, and begin to thrive both at work and home, based on Carey Nieuwhof’s decades of leadership.
About the author:
Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling author, leadership consultant, and podcast host with 1.5 million monthly listeners. He was the founding pastor of one of North America’s fastest-growing churches, and now he works with leaders from all over the world to help them thrive.
What am I getting out of it? A step-by-step method to overcoming burnout and prospering.
Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time in the day? You put in long hours yet achieve little of what you set out to do. Meanwhile, your life ambitions continue to elude you.
Life comes with a built-in feature of being busy. There are numerous sources of distraction. Most likely, you’re overworked and overcommitted. However, too much stress harms your health. You are deserving of more. It’s past time to end stress and live at an unsustainable pace.
You may not believe it, but you do have time. You have the same number as the world’s most productive people. The only question is how you intend to use it.
You’ll learn why simply managing your time isn’t enough in this essay. You’ll learn how to balance your three key assets – time, energy, and priorities – to avoid burnout and start living at your best, based on the author’s experience recovering from burnout.
When your time, energy, and priorities are all on the same page, you’ll thrive.
Carey Nieuwhof’s life seemed to be going swimmingly in 2006. His company had grown larger than anyone expected, even though he was just in his late thirties. He was happily married to his high school sweetheart and had two healthy sons.
But there was something more going on inside. The work expectations, according to Nieuwhof, were nearly unbearable, and they were affecting his health and personal life. He’d become engulfed in a stress cycle, and he began fantasizing about ditching everything in favor of a Fijian hammock.
There has to be an alternative. Nieuwhof recognized three critical assets to constructing a life he didn’t want to leave as he began to recover from burnout.
To live at a pace he could maintain, he studied what other high-achievers did so effectively. He discovered that they didn’t only manage their time. They also devised a plan for combining their energies and priorities so that they all worked together rather than against each other.
He not only recovered from professional burnout but also found himself prospering physically, spiritually, and with his family after aligning these three critical assets.
The first key asset is focused time. One reason you never have enough of it is a failure to focus your time. You probably treat all hours equally, but they’re not. Your time gets eaten up by distractions and small tasks. The day gets away from you, and you don’t get around to the important things.
While most people know they’re competing against time, few think about their energy, the second key asset. When you fail to leverage your energy levels, you end up squandering your most productive and valuable time, leaving you with little energy for the important tasks.
Priorities are the third and last crucial asset. When you let others decide what you do each day, your priorities are easily hijacked since you are forced to focus on their priorities rather than your own. The key is to learn to say no and be comfortable with it.
In this post, we’ll look at how to break free from the stress cycle and instead live in the thrive cycle by rearranging your time, energy, and priorities.
Discover your energy zones to help you focus your time.
It’s 2:00 p.m., and you’re trying to concentrate on your colleague’s presentation, but keeping your eyelids open requires toothpicks. Does this ring a bell?
You’ve probably noticed that your energy fluctuates throughout the day. It is quite natural. Even doctors are guilty of this. According to the researchers, the rate of adverse events among anesthesiologists climbs as the day progresses.
The most important thing is to understand your energy cycle and use it to your advantage.
While everyone’s energy cycle is different, most people have three to five hours each day when they are most productive. The author refers to this as your “green zone,” and it is defined by being focused, productive, and upbeat.
Despite having a finite number of high-energy hours, many people use their valuable green zone in haphazard and unplanned ways, such as mundane meetings or email responses. Instead, use this time to do your most critical and time-consuming duties.
What about for the rest of the day? When you’re in the yellow zone, you’re neither at your best nor at your worst. It’s not a wasteland: you can do a lot in the yellow zone, just not your best.
You’re at your lowest energy level when you’re in the red zone. You’re tired and find it difficult to concentrate. It’s at this point that you’ll have to force yourself to do anything.
Take some time over the following several days or weeks to figure out your energy cycle. Keep track of when you’re at your most energized and ready to take on anything, when all you want to do is nap, for example. Make use of green, yellow, and blue. Use the green, yellow, and red zones to draw your energy clock and spend hours in each zone.
The first and most important resource is concentrated time. Failure to focus your time is one of the reasons you never have enough of it. You probably don’t regard all hours the same, but you should. Distractions and minor jobs take away your time. The day runs away from you, and you fail to complete the most important tasks.
While most individuals are aware that they are racing against time, few consider their energy the second most important asset. You waste your most productive and valuable time when you fail to utilize your energy levels, leaving you with little energy for vital activities.
Make the most of your energy by performing your best work while you’re at your most productive.
You know when you’re in your green zone and feeling energized since you’ve discovered your energy cycle. You’ll also notice when your energy levels begin to drop towards your yellow zones. Finally, you’re aware of the times of day when you’re having trouble completing the majority of chores in your red zones. So, what exactly should you do in each zone?
Thriving is all about optimizing your green zone by performing the most important tasks to you: your gifts, passion, and influence.
Your talents come naturally to you but are tough for others. For example, the author may talk in front of big groups without much preparation or notes, which many people fear.
But don’t be satisfied with innate ability. Your green zone is also a place where you can hone your talents. Make the most of your time by honing your talents, learning something new, and practicing.
What you love to do is your passion. You’re probably passionate about what you do well, but your enthusiasm can stretch beyond your abilities. Look for hobbies that energize you rather than deplete you, activities you enjoy or can’t live without. Hobbies or spending time with loved ones are examples.
Finally, concentrate your green zone on tasks that have the greatest impact. These are frequently the primary responsibilities that add the most value to your company. Or significant life ambitions like publishing a book. Consider this: What am I attempting to achieve with my life? Make the most of your green zone time by getting there.
You’re free to conduct less hard work after you’ve completed the vital chores during your green zone. Use your yellow zones for things that are somewhat important or need a modest amount of energy. You could, for example, have meetings or send emails to the entire organization.
Your red zones are for the least important tasks to you. You may want to respond to emails, do normal administration, and exercise during these periods. Remember that your red zone isn’t for making life-or-death decisions or delicate jobs like resolving interpersonal disputes.
Take some time now to categorize your duties and goals by zone. You can do anything important, energizing, and something you’re good at in the green zone. What tasks are you able to delegate to the yellow zones? And how can you make the most of the red zone’s low-energy hours?
Focus on the proper things and avoid distractions to realize your priorities.
You take a seat at your desk and pull up your calendar. It’s vacant, much to your astonishment. There was not a single appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You think this is ideal. You can finally get started on that large project you’ve been planning for a long time. Perhaps you should publish a new blog post. However, there is a knock at the door.
A colleague only needs five minutes, which quickly goes into twenty. Meanwhile, your inbox is overflowing, and you’ve been summoned to an urgent afternoon meeting. The day is almost done when you finally return to your desk. What went wrong? You worked all day but achieved none of your objectives.
What happened was that distractions and unprioritized chores stole your priorities. You spent the entire day responding to everything that happened. If you let them, these seemingly urgent yet inconsequential jobs will take up your time.
Distractions must be kept to a minimum. Everything in our tech-driven culture vies for your attention. According to one survey, the average user touches their smartphone 2,617 times every day! It’s no surprise you can’t concentrate. So make sure those notifications are turned off.
It also helps to conduct your best job in a comfortable setting. In that way, you’re similar to a plant in that you require the correct ecosystem to thrive. Create a comfortable and distraction-free workspace to set yourself up for success.
Pressing and critical chores, such as accepting a call from the boss or preparing for that presentation, will always consume your time. However, knowing which chores to prioritize is crucial to optimizing your green zone. As anyone who has ever lost a whole day knows, it’s easier said than done.
Concentrating on high-yield activities is a good strategy. According to Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, 20% of work generally delivers 80% of results. The author understood that his organization’s value is driven by a few basic priorities, such as creating exceptional content and fostering a healthy work culture.
Those critical but non-urgent activities are what help you achieve your objectives, create an impact, and enter the thrive cycle. Despite this, it’s all too easy to relegate them to the bottom of your to-do list. It is because the repercussions of skipping them are frequently insignificant.
However, your advantages from making time each day for your priorities compound tremendously.
Make the appropriate relationships a priority and learn to say no.
The author spent a lot of time at his grandmother’s house as a child. Nancy, her buddy, called every day at ten o’clock. Grandma would always take up the phone, if unwillingly because Nancy could chat for hours on end. Grandma never found out how to end the conversation in a respectful manner instead of relying on her grandson to save her.
You’ve discovered that all the wrong things are constantly vying for your attention, causing your focus and priorities to be hijacked. What about people, though? Relationships are vital, and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Unfortunately, the individuals who demand your attention are rarely the ones who deserve it. It’s underachievers who don’t appear to want to improve or exhausting folks who drag you into their drama at work. Those who are most deserving of your time, on the other hand, rarely ask for it.
Remember the Pareto principle from the previous concept? It’s also significant in this case. Spend 80% of your time with your top performers, the individuals who energize you, and the ones you care about the most. The truth is that if you don’t prioritize who you spend your time with, others will.
According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, there is a limit to how many meaningful interactions humans can have. How many are there?
Think of three concentric circles. In the center, you’ll find your three to five closest friendships. These are folks with whom you communicate once a week. The second circle consists of 12 to 15 members from your sympathy group with whom you communicate once a month, say.
Your extended network is located in the outermost circle. Most people can fit about 150 people in their homes, which is about the size of early human towns. Dunbar’s framework demonstrates that you don’t have to treat everyone in your life the same way because you only have so much capacity for different kinds of interactions.
Nonetheless, juggling competing demands on your time is an inevitable aspect of life. If you don’t have a crystal clear strategy for saying no, you’ll end yourself saying yes. To avoid burning bridges and hurting sentiments, try to say no in a polite manner.
For example, tell individuals you’d love to meet with them, which is probably true; offer empathy but be firm when you can’t; refer them to another person or resource for assistance; and, finally, express thanks for thinking of you and reaching out.
Life is unpredictable. Concentrate on what you can control and adjust as needed.
The author purchased a new SUV a few years ago and drove it for over 300,000 miles in no time. It was still in excellent condition, and others were enquiring how he had gotten so much mileage out of it. But there was no huge mystery: he just took it in for the recommended service every time.
It is frequently easier and less expensive to fix something before it breaks than to fix it after it has broken. We are all aware that stress is an inevitable aspect of life. Change is as well. Both stress and change have the potential to pull you back into a stress cycle. So let’s look at some tactics for prospering and avoiding a breakdown.
The first technique is to make a calendar for all of your priorities, including family time. That’s because a calendar with a blank area can be a trap. Because his calendar was clean, the author found himself saying yes to a Saturday BBQ while at a board meeting.
Remember that the week will never go exactly as planned – and that’s just fine. Don’t try to be flawless. However, scheduling all of your priorities will help you stay on track.
Many people, however, believe they have little influence over their calendars. You would believe that if you’re the boss, these methods are simple to adopt, but the reality is that some occupations have very little flexibility.
If you’ve looked at your calendar honestly and can’t find any wiggle room, consider talking to your employer to see if anything can be worked out. You may, for example, change your start time to fit your green zone better.
Even if you don’t influence the 40 hours you work per week, you still have 128 hours to yourself. Of course, home life may be hectic, particularly during specific phases of life, such as when raising young children, caring for a sick parent, or coping with health concerns.
Your strategy may need to be tweaked to fit your current stage of life. For example, if you’re expecting a kid, it might not be the best time to start a big project or try to lose 20 pounds.
Track how you spend your time if you ever get thrown off your thrive cycle. Have your time zones shifted? What are you doing with your time? What has changed in terms of priorities? It’s best to embrace change because it will inevitably occur.