Managing Energy Not Time – Refuelling at the Dog Park

Raska at Vermont Square by Lars Paronen

This is my dog, Raska. (She is named after the Ganaraska River and Forest near our cottage).  Raska is partly responsible for helping manage my energy, and not my time, and thus helps me be more “sustainable”.  Here’s the background:

This past spring I led a workshop at my children’s old school, Palmerston Jr Public School, here in Toronto, entitled   “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time:  Create a Sustainable You and Build a Sustainable World.” This is what I wrote to the participants:You will learn about four types of energy, how to manage each one, and how they can relate to each other.  Further, you will become aware of how one of the first steps towards building a sustainable world is to become sustainable as an individual, to be motivated and fuelled more by what’s inside you rather than what you get from outside sources.  I will invite you to create a goal connected to managing your energy and then offer you free support and accountability in achieving that goal for three months following the workshop.”   I loved leading the workshop: I was back in a community I loved being a part of, having conversations with interested people about material I find very compelling.  That evening, I found myself talking about the morning visits Raska and I make to the “dog park” (aka Vermont Square), around the corner from the school.  These visits are an example of how I manage my energy not my time.

I first encountered the idea of managing my time not my energy in a book called:  The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time is the Key To High Performance and Personal Renewal by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr.  In speaking with Lorne Ellingson and reading his book, Conversations That Matter, I have since found that these concepts are very similar to an aboriginal medicine wheel, which makes the idea even more attractive to me since I love learning about indigenous wisdom and how it can be applied effectively to modern day challenges.


Each type of energy is a source made up of “muscles” that must be used, not too much and not too little, just optimally so that there is use and there is rest.  Ideally we can each create daily rituals for ourselves which ensure that we use and rest our energy sources optimally.  In this way, we can work toward being fully engaged in our lives and performing to our potential.  We can be sustainable in our use of our own energy.   (In a future post I will talk about the “building the sustainable world” idea.)

In future blog posts, I will look at the four types of energy in more detail.  For today, here they are with brief descriptions and using my visits to the dog park as an example to illustrate, since the visits have become a daily “ritual” that “exercises” my energy “muscles”:

-PHYSICAL- fairly obvious, it is the most fundamental source of fuel in life; involves nutrition, exercise, sleep and rest, and breathing is important to notice too.

There is a nice brisk walk to and from the park, which wakes me up (if my morning coffee hasn’t already); admittedly, Raska is getting most of the exercise, except if you count me exercising my jaw muscles with all the gabbing I do.

-EMOTIONAL – any activity that is enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming serves as a source of emotional renewal and recovery.

I really enjoy the whole ritual: being outside, walking, seeing neighbours and friends at the park.  I am injected with positive emotions each time: often gratitude and joy, for example.  I am also inspired by the people I speak to and by the dogs’ playfulness, especially the way they greet each other with reckless abandon.

-MENTAL – this has to do with the level of your mental alertness and ability to maximize, control and focus that alertness on completing a specific task.

This muscle is exercised when I have the opportunity to engage in a stimulating and challenging conversation, which is quite often.  However,  I use this muscle even more when I am coaching or writing these posts, for example.

– SPIRITUAL – the most significant type of energy.  The authors define spiritual as “the connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our own self-interest.” (I will definitely be exploring this idea in future posts as it is key to the kind of coaching I am doing.)

I value connectedness, nature and health, among other things, and so feeling a strong sense of community in this ritual and getting a walk and time outside as well exercises my human spirit muscle.   Further, if I get into a conversation that connects to helping people in some way, then I am fuelled more.  Finally, knowing that I am keeping Raska happy and healthy connects me to a purpose beyond my own self-interest.

In sum,  the dog park ritual takes about 45 minutes a day, which is a fair amount of time.  I could spend that time in a million other ways. However, I am committed to it because of how it fuels me.  I am mostly using my emotional and spiritual muscles, while my physical and mental muscles are resting most of the time. I am energized on many levels and ready for the rest of the day.

Chances are you are managing your energy not your time even if you had not been aware of this particular approach.   But maybe you could do more of it.  Before kids when I was working as a lawyer full time, I realized that if I worked out at lunch, it took longer than if I had a quick lunch at my desk but I had much more energy in the afternoon and was more productive as a result, in less time.  So, intuitively, I was pretty good at managing my physical energy in that way, but I still had lots to learn about how to consciously manage my emotional, mental and spiritual energy instead of my time.

So what fuels you?  What type of energy is it fueling you with?  Try noticing how you are in the four realms.  Ask yourself: “How am I today – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?”.    Notice when you are really energized by an activity.  What energy “muscles” are you using? Which are resting? As always, I welcome your comments and insights.  They fuel me, emotionally and spiritually!














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