Our main currency used to be money, then it was time, and now it is energy – let me explain.
Since the dawn of the industrial age, we have measured the value of something by the currency of money. The answer to whether I could afford something was always related to money. For most of the 20th century we viewed time as a surplus commodity and money as a more limited resource. We would give our time happily to help a friend or even a client.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, certainly by the 1980’s, we began to realise that time was not limitless. Our lives were becoming full of all kinds of activities and opportunities brought on by technology and an increasingly global economy. Whether I could afford something became more related to whether I had the time available. Many people were viewing money as an expanding resource whereas time became viewed as a finite and limited resource. In some areas of our lives, time became more important than money. E.g., 1. We became willing to pay tolls to save time driving around our busy cities. We viewed our time as more valuable than the cost of tolls. E.g., 2. We happily pay a cleaner to make sure our home is thoroughly cleaned twice a month and use our time for higher value activities.
The pandemic lockdown experience has changed us more than we realise.
During the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 we realised the extraordinary amount of energy we were saving each day not having to commute to work. In Sydney, it was normal to travel an hour, even on toll roads, to get to work from the suburbs to the city office every day, or across the city to meet clients. It was normal to be up before 5:00am to catch the 6:00am flight to Melbourne for a morning of meetings. It was normal to stay back late at work to finish off a project or to catch up on details.
Covid-related lockdowns forced us to change our habits. As much as we have complained about video calls, they do beat long commutes EVERY day. We were around our families and could be flexible about how and when we worked. We had time and energy for our children and leisure. Most service-based occupations proved work could be done with a lot more flexibility. We glimpsed how life could be different. We slowed down.
In 2023 Energy is replacing time as our most important form of currency.
When social historians look back at this period in 50 years, they will see more clearly how the Covid-19 pandemic changed society. Just like the Great Depression of 1929 – 1933 changed people’s attitudes for 2 generations (50 years or more), so the pandemic experience has changed us. My parents were born in 1930 and 1931, and they certainly grew up with a sense of scarcity about money. They lived very frugal lives and frowned on anything that was not a necessity. For them money was more important than time or energy as a currency.
For my generation, we have lived through the period where time has replaced money as the main currency. Money has become more available, and time has become more valuable. My wife and I both work, and we happily pay a cleaner to make sure the home is thoroughly cleaned twice a month.
Now in 2023, after a very clunky 2022, we are trying to ramp up to something like the pre-pandemic levels of activity – across our lives as well as at work. The trouble is we are different. The inner drive to make it all happen is not the same. Some say we are burned out. That is probably true for some. But I think it goes deeper. I think we have glimpsed the possibility of a different way of life. We do not want to go back to wasting our energy racing around just for work. We want more fulfilling lives.
This is leading to us value our energy more than our time. We know time is finite, but our energy feels even more limited. We want a better return for our investment of effort expended. Without realising it, we have begun to create a new measure – the Return On Energy Invested index (ROEI). Sub-consciously, if the expected energy to be expended feels daunting, we either say no, or drag our heels and fail to enjoy the opportunity. It appears that FOMO (fear of missing out) has been replaced by HOGO (hesitancy of going out).
Overloaded schedules lead to overloaded minds.
During the pandemic we tasted the concept of having margins in our lives. We could go slower. We could work from home in track pants and comfy slippers. We were able to create margins or buffers in our lives. This left room for the unexpected and allowed time to process stressful meetings or decisions. We enjoyed being able to just breathe in the midst of work days. This was so different to pre-2020 and it has left a longing in many.
Overloaded schedules lead to overloaded minds. This leaves us very limited mind space. Being continually overloaded by details and tasks day after day leads to a compound effect where we are regularly drained of energy. It is hard to become motivated to such a stressful way of working, especially when we now know there are alternative ways of operating that work just as well.
How are you going as you manage your energy?
In my book, INTEGRATE (2016), I write about how to map and manage your energy so that you are always ready for those high impact times in business and life. My mentoring clients have found this approach very helpful enabling them to have clearer heads at work and more energy for the rest of their life.
If you would like to have a free 30-minute phone or video call to discuss your situation please book a call with me here. I am happy to invest 30 minutes with you to understand your situation and help you towards some effective next steps.
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Over the years I’ve written many articles about energy and how to use it wisely! Here are a few of my favourites to help you integrate your work into all other parts of your life.