MANAGE YOUR ENERGY Instead of Your Time to Actually Be More Productive w/ Simon OngMar 29, 2022
Welcome to episode 41 of the Mindful & Driven podcast! It’s all about how to not lose sight of what really matters whilst chasing your dreams.
Episode 41’s guest is Simon Ong. He is a life coach and business strategist. Simon’s focus is on energy and how you can use it to lead you to the right way in achieving your goals and what really matters to you. He has won many awards for his coaching as one of the most sought-after coaches in the world.
He started his career in investment banking but realized that what he was doing on the side had so much power and could change so many people’s lives. In order to help him in this mission, he is releasing his new book called ‘Energize’ which would be released in early April. It might be already out by the time you are listening to this podcast. I’ve had an early copy myself and I can vouch for how amazing his insights are and how much I’ve enjoyed the way he tells stories.
I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation! I’d love it if you could subscribe, leave me a review and follow me on social channels.
- You can find all my work and socials here: http://amardeep.co
- Download my free Anti-Burnout Toolkit here: http://antiburnout.mindfuldriven.com
- United for Global Mental Health: https://unitedgmh.org/mental-health-support
- Find more about Simon: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/simonalexanderong
- Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/simonalexandero
- Follow him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/simonalexandero/?hl=en
Topics discussed in this episode:
- Why you should manage your energy instead of your time.
- How to make the most out of your workdays.
- How to better manage your time.
- Manage your energy instead of your time.
- How to increase your energy levels.
- Your energy influences your productivity and presence with others.
- Why exercise helps you be more productive.
- It’s better to manage your energy than your time.
- Manage your energy, not your time.
- How to manage your energy and be more productive.
- Introduction (0:00)
- Working until you drop mentality (2:32)
- The most important journey (5:04)
- Success defined by a job title (6:42)
- Cornerstone habits, productivity and being present (11:22)
- The right level of balance (18:48)
- Being kinder to yourself (22:43)
- Bigger projects and delegating tasks (24:46)
- Embracing an attitude of gratitude (27:10)
[00:00:00] Simon: When people think about productivity, we automatically default to time management. But I think before we address time management, we’ve got to address energy management. I think when we think about energy, it can influence productivity. Number one, and number two, it’s about our presence, our energetic presence. So in terms of productivity, If I get sufficient rest, if I move my body on a regular basis, I will bring into every minute where I am in deep work, a greater amount of focus and energy.
[00:00:37] Amardeep: Welcome to the Mindful and Driven Podcast, where we help you to not lose sight of what’s really important whilst chasing your dreams. Today’s guest is Simon Ong. He is a life coach and business strategist. Simon’s focus is on energy and how you can use it to lead you to the right way in achieving your goals and what really matters to you. He has won many awards for his coaching as one of the most sought-after coaches in the world. He started his career in investment banking but realised that what he was doing on the side had so much power and could change so many people’s lives. In order to help him in this mission, he is releasing his new book called ‘Energize’ which would be released in early April. It might be already out by the time you are listening to this podcast. I’ve had an early copy myself and I can vouch for how amazing his insights are and how much I’ve enjoyed the way he tells stories. [00:01:24] I really hope you enjoyed today’s conversation because I definitely did.
[00:01:27] Welcome to my Mindful and driven Simon. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
[00:01:29] Simon: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be on your show.
[00:01:33] Amardeep: What’s really interesting about how we met is that I had two separate people who don’t know each other, both told me, oh, you’ve got to follow this Simon guy. He’s got such great content. And in the same week by pure coincidence, your wife read one of my articles and reached out to me. So when I started talking to Simon, then I was talking through his Instagram, like, and I was like, wait, I recognize that person. And it was like, I was talking to both of you at the same time and you were sitting on the sofa, but you didn’t realize that you were both talking to me. Such such a small world.
[00:02:01] Simon: Such, such a small world, Amardeep. I find that when we are in the industry that we are in, the world is a lot smaller than we realize. You know, there is a saying that goes, I think it’s six degrees of separation that all of us in the world are connected through six people within our networks. And so it’s really fascinating how this works out in a practical way, as you’ve just shared.
[00:02:21] Amardeep: One thing I’m curious to get from you as we start off is, what’s some common advice you often hear people say, that you disagree with and think can sometimes lead people down the wrong path?
[00:02:29] Simon: Sure. I think one of the common advices that I often hear a lot, especially from those who are just starting out in business or even on their personal growth journey, is that you’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to to put in the hours, you’ve got to burn the midnight oil in order to beat your competition. Now there’re two parts to that statement. I just want to unpack to show you why I think that is wrong. First of all, it is this working till you drop mentality, sort of working to the point of exhaustion or burnout. Yes, I agree that working hard is important, but what’s even more important is having balance in the way that we work to understand, and actually the greatest way to be productive is to find your energetic rhythm between periods of deep work, and period of intentional rest, because it is in those moments of intentional rest that we unleash our creative self and we get our greatest insights. The second. Part of that statement I shared is about beating your competition. You know, as you get wisee, as I have got wiser, I have realized that the only competition we should be in, is against who we were yesterday, against who we were yesterday. Because if you are trying to beat your competition, that means you can only be as good as your competition. Whereas when you focus on being better than who you were yesterday, the sky is the limit.
[00:04:08] Amardeep: What you said first of all there, reminds me of learning how to learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley, where she kind of talks about this. There’s two different modes of the brain, right? You need to focus hard and that’s where you can get specific things done, if you already know what you’re going to do. But when you work in a creative industry and I think every industry is a creative industry now, right? Because anything you do, if you don’t have to have creativity that can be replaced easily by a robot or by AI in the future, our advantages as humans is that we can think creatively, we can link different things that potentially other people wouldn’t think of. And that’s our real advantage over computers or competition or whoever else is the market, and it’s that rest time, it’s when you can really get to think about that, whether it’s you go for a walk or whatever you take a bath or whatever you do to unwind, that’s where you can think about things in the back of your mind. And that’s where some of the best ideas come from. And if you don’t give yourself that time, you can sometimes miss out on these big ideas.
[00:04:59] Simon: Definitely. Definitely. It is why that, you know, when I think about my journey Amardeep, one of the statements I often talk about is that the longest journey we as humans make are the interest from our heads to our hearts. Now admittedly, it is never an easy journey, but it is the most important and fulfilling that you will ever embark on. And that is because when you embark on that journey, you will quickly learn that in those moments of rest of taking a step back from disconnecting from the noise, you will quickly learn that silence is far from empty. It is full of answers. It actually deepens that connection we have between us and our true selves, our true selves, being our gut, our intuition, our energy, our innate compass, if you will. So often we subdued our voice and we ignore it to our detriment. However, imagine if you were to listen closer and develop a powerful relationship with that inner voice.
[00:06:06] Amardeep: Yeah. And I think sometimes people can make up stories of what the inner voice is. And they’re not listening. They’re trying to make the decision in a conscious way. It’s going with the gut sometimes, like you said, of like, what feels good? What makes me happy? What brings me joy rather than what do I think should bring me joy? We can sometimes I think get caught up in these stories of this is going to make me happy. Rather than just listening and like actually something else completely might make you happy. And I think you found this, right? Cause you used to work for, in the finance industry and you were at Lehman Brothers and now you’ve taken a completely different path. And was [unintelligible] always important to you or was something which you neglected yourself when you were younger?
[00:06:42] Simon: I actually neglect a lot because I, the mistake belief I had before was I had to work hard, I had to put in the hours and when I was growing up in a Chinese family here in the United Kingdom, I was of the belief, the mistaken belief, I should say that success was defined by my job title. I am successful when I have a job as a banker, a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant. And so my goals in life were very much tied to those job titles. Unfortunately, when I started Lehman Brothers, this was in 2007, a year before the global financial crisis. And because it was Lehman brothers, it collapsed into administration in September, 2008. So I quickly got to a point in my life much earlier than many of us in which I was questioning those beliefs that I’d grown up with. I questioned whether actually, did hard work necessarily lead me to where I wanted to be? Did pursuing a career finance, because that’s what I thought would make me successful, would that actually lead to a path for fulfillment? Now using that space to go inward, I asked myself things such as, what did success mean to me? What did fulfillment look like? And what sort of impact did I want to have in the world? And even though I started to explore the answers to those questions, it wasn’t until my life became really imbalanced that I burnt myself out, that I started to build my life around those answers. And there was one moment in particular in which this awakening happened. I remember coming home after a long night out, entertaining clients in the financial industry. And I told my wife who was my girlfriend at the time, I said to her, I will be back home on the last underground train ride. Now, unfortunately I got back home mid-morning, long after the underground had closed. I took a taxi home. I was vomiting and I ended up in the bathtub of our home in the bathroom and my girlfriend rushed into the bath and she was so concerned about me. I was drunk. I couldn’t make sense of what was going on. And the next morning after we had a deep conversation amongst ourselves, I realized that this life I was living was unsustainable. And that was the beginning of redressing the balance that was so out of kilter. And to bring it back into one that I could be happier about. One that were, would actually allow me to be more productive.
[00:09:41] What were the things you did right at the very start, because. At the beginning, you started taking clients whilst working and you, you tested things out, right? You didn’t take the huge leap straight away, and I think that’s so important what you did there.
[00:09:53] Amardeep: So I didn’t jump straight into entrepreneurship and doing the work that I get to do today. That experience of burning out, the first thing I did was I handed in my resignation letter and this was the second job after I was at Lehman brothers I was in. And I said to myself, the first place I have to begin is with my physical energy, because I was getting insufficient sleep, I was eating junk, and I was doing minimal exercise. And so those were the first three things I had to address. And so when I resigned, I decided to look at jobs in which the balance would be better. Yes, I would still have to work hard, but at least I would have nicer hours. The job I was in, sometimes I was in the office at six or seven in the morning, and I wouldn’t be out sometimes till 10 or 11 at night. So that was the first thing I did is I chose a new job in which I could have better balance. And then I would use the time outside of work to exercise more, to rest more and to change my diet to something that energized me and not made me sluggish and drain me of any hope of a better tomorrow.
[00:11:16] There’s still something [unintelligible] today. Right? I know that you’re still very fit and you do a lot of exercise still. And is that something that really brings a balance to your life?
[00:11:24] Simon: Yeah, totally. You know, when people talk about cornerstone habits and habits that have kick started lots of other great habits in your life, for me, one of the foundational habits is exercise. It’s exercise because it’s one activity that you may not like to do before you do it, but after you finish it, you never regret doing it because of that feeling you get after. The feeling you get after puts you in a physical and mental state to take on whatever the day throws your way. And for me, it gave me the energy to take on new challenges, to experiment, and to do the things I wanted to do outside of work. If I didn’t have the energy, by the time I got home, I would simply switch on a TV, read magazines, scroll social media, but because I had this energy, this desire to shift and transform my life, suddenly what was important became fun.
[00:12:34] Amardeep: I think it’s one of these things as well, which I know you think about it too with, managing your energy rather than your time. Because if you think about it, if you spend an hour doing exercise in the morning, that’s an hour less to get stuff done. But the thing is because you’ve done that, it means you have more energy for the rest of the day. So it means what you can get done in the rest of the day is much more. So is that way that sometimes people think is too linear, right? It’s like you’ve taken an hour out of work, but what it means is that all the other hours you do that, where you are working are way more productive and you get way more done. You feel happier. And like I said, you don’t need to have that resty social media scrolling and all that kind of stuff, because you feel better in yourself. So that one hour is such a good investment or however long you’re going to spend in a day because it helps the rest of your day out.
[00:13:16] Simon: It’s so powerful. And that’s why when, you know, when people think about productivity, we automatically default to time management. But I think before we address time management, we’ve got to address energy management. And you mentioned a great example there, Amardeep. And I think when we think about energy, it can influence productivity, number one, and number two it’s about our presence, our energetic presence. So in terms of productivity, it’s like, well, If I get sufficient rest, if I move my body on a regular basis, I will bring into every minute where I am in deep work, a greater amount of focus and energy. That’s the result you get. Otherwise, when you start, you’re going to be very distracted. You could be low on energy and what happens, we increase the probability that we procrastinate. On the other side, we have this idea of energy being your presence. Now, if you say to your partner, why don’t we go on a date? And then you go on a date where it’s a two hour dinner. Now, if you don’t have present energy in that moment, you could be with your partner for two hours, but not physically there because you could be checking your phone, your notifications, your mind could be elsewhere. You could be thinking about the past. You could be thinking about tomorrow, what you’ve got to do in your diary. And so you’re not actually there, even though you’re spending time with your partner or your loved one. Now imagine if those two hours instead, you are 100% present, that you were listening to every word, the body language to your partner, sitting in front of you. Just imagine how much more powerful that time would be spent. And on this idea of energetic presence, Amardeep, I was told a story recently from a friend that I caught up with, Dr. Elizabeth Lindsay, and she told me how there were some tribes in the Andaman Islands who a number of years ago avoided a single death from the tsunami that inflicted damage across Southeast Asia. And she said, the reason was, is they were able to evacuate the coastlines way before the first wave hit, because these tribes were so present with their energy, that they were able to detect changes in animals behavior, the direction of the wind, the tide, and what was going on in the environment around them. They were so connected to what was happening around them, the sounds, the feelings, the temperature, the motion that they noticed changes before anybody else did.
[00:16:12] Amardeep: And I think that’s one of the things I’ve read about in Papua New Guinea as well, where the amount of, we’ve, considering intelligence in different ways, right. And people often think about it and people, lot of people listening, we think about this in terms of maths in terms of how much you can add up or what you can do on a computer. but some of the people in these tribes, they’re so in tune of nature and of everything around them, they can have a map of like miles around them and know where the Hills are, what’s the best route, all of this kind of stuff. And that’s a different kind of spatial intelligence that sometimes we lose out on. And sometimes it’s so important to have that ability to just go for a walk. And sometimes you don’t listen to a podcast, sometimes you don’t try to be productive. You just be in the moment and just like, look around you and open your eyes up. Something I’ve tried to start doing more now is not try to use each moment as some kind of productivity exercise, of let myself just go for a walk and just let my mind wander, see what comes up, what pops up in my brain.
[00:17:10] Simon: And I think we have to make peace with that idea, Amardeep, that productivity is not just about doing. We tend to think if I’m not doing I’m not productive, but actually what’s coming up in the conversation we are having is that, sometimes being can be just as if not more productive, because when you just be, whether that’s in nature or meditation or silence, what’s happening is that you’re not only deepening the relationship with yourself, but you are creating the space for wisdom and insight to occur. And a single insight from those moments can be just what we need to overcome a challenge, a problem, or an issue that we’re going through, where we need a solution. That space could be just what we need to discover the answers we need.
[00:18:03] Amardeep: Hi everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the episode so far. I want to take a quick break to ask you to check in with yourself. There’s many people struggling with balance and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s tips that my guests might share can hopefully help you along the way, but if you already feel overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s probably best that you ask somebody for help too. For some, this might be a friend or family member, while others might feel like they have nobody they can talk to. If you’re one of these people, check out the link in the show notes, it’s for United for Global Mental Health. They’ve got health plans all across the world, with people willing to listen on the other side. It’s important to let somebody know how you’re feeling. Now, back to the show.
[00:18:39] How do you structure life at the moment to have this right level of balance in there? Because obviously you’ve been writing your book. You’ve got a new child. There’s a lot going on. How do you try to keep that space and protect it?
[00:18:50] Simon: Before I jump into it. The first thing to note is that balance will evolve with your development. So what was a balance for me before becoming a parent is certainly very different to balance when you are a parent for obvious reasons, because when your child is home, your attention and energy is going to be centered around your children. When they are at school or when they are at nursery, you have greater control over your time and your energy in those moments. So for me, when I think about balance now, it’s certainly understanding my energy first. So one of the activities I do a lot is I, and also I use a bullet journal, but I also use it to reflect on my energy each day. So it could be in the mornings in the afternoons before dinner, after dinner and in the evenings, I simply just ask myself, well, on the scale of 1 to 10, how energized do I feel? And once I get greater insight into my sort of energy levels by the week and weekends, I then schedule certain things around that data. So if, for example, because once my child is home, it’s, it’s pretty full on. Once she’s asleep at eight o’clock, sometimes I would block out 8:00 to 10:00 to do some deep work because she’s asleep and there’s no distractions, and there’s also no distractions from calls or emails. And so knowing that data, I will sometimes block those hours to do a certain bit of work. If, for example, afternoons, I don’t feel as energized because of the cycles of the day, because of the way we naturally travel for the day in terms of our energy levels. Then I might use the afternoons to go out and meet people for coffee or to go for lunch. And so for me, it’s just understanding our own natural energy level. Some people be a morning person, some others will be evening people. And so once you better understand your energy, you can build your schedule around that. And then the toughest part comes with your ability to protect, to protect your schedule. Because once things pick up, suddenly your diary can be very full. So it’s to understand how I best protect my energy for the things that matter most because, and I can’t remember who first said this, but there’s a statement that goes, you must keep the most important things, the most important things. And when you do that, by keeping out the things that do not matter, you are able to make greater progress in weeks and months than most do in years.
[00:21:34] Amardeep: I really like though what you said about energy evolving and your structure evolving as well, because that happens over time, right? Because you have to journal and you have to do different things to keep checking in with yourself. Because like I said, what your structure was before you had a kid compared to what it is now is very different. And it might even change just in terms of like natural human bodies, right? Like we have different cycles and we have different things going on. For example, one thing that happens to me in the winter, I tend to wake up later because it’s cold and it’s dark and I don’t wanna get out of bed for. Whereas in the summer, I’ll wake up at six o’clock every day. No problem. And rather than trying to force myself to wake up at the same time in winter, I actually adjust my schedule, but I like, okay, I’m going to start working a bit later and I might work a bit later, but if you’re trying to fight against yourself and what your body wants to do, then that kind of takes some of the energy away from you. Because if you let it flow and go with what works, that can help a lot too, I think.
[00:22:29] Simon: Definitely. I think within what you’ve shared there Amardeep. It’s also the importance of being kinder to ourselves and not being too rigid. You know, I used to be when I sort of went through changing my habits years ago, I used to be very rigid in the sense of I had to do a workout in the gym every day. And for me, sometimes my calendar or energy didn’t necessarily allow for that. And so now I go with my sort of energy in the moment, but I still move my body. So for example, if one day I’m not feeling particularly energized, I will probably do something like swimming or yoga or pilates. And on the other day, if I’m feeling very energized, I would do a Barry’s Bootcamp class or a CrossFit class or running outdoors in the sun. So I would do something more intense when I’m feeling more energized. But I will still move my body when I’m feeling less energized. It’s just a different exercise. The key thing is as I tell my clients and audiences, consistency always beats intensity. So how can you be consistent in the habits that you want to embrace while also being kinder to yourself? Not to be too strict or rigid with how you do it, but just focus on at least doing something that allows you to be consistent with that habit.
[00:23:52] Amardeep: And it’s like I said, it’s about the whole idea of tiny habits of, it’s important to just do something. And a lot of times, if you do this something you’ve started, that’ll give you the energy to carry on doing it. So if you’re going to go for a walk, for example, if you just try to say, okay, I’m going to go for at least a 10 minute walk. Once you’re out, in fact, actually I can walk for a bit longer, but it’s just trying to be kind to yourself and giving yourself a small target sometimes. But at meeting that target as often as you possibly can, because then, like I said, then you build the habit and the consistency. Is there anything you’re working at the moment in terms of trying to build consistency into something new in your life that you think would benefit you in the long term or any other areas of your life that you’re working on?
[00:24:29] Simon: For me, there’s always lots of things I’m experimenting with. And when I say to people that I feel like at the beginning of every year, I am just getting started, that is the truth because every year I am learning something new and, and it’s done on purpose because my focus is to embrace the mindset of an eternal student. And so this year in particular, I’m. I’m focused more on building out teams and working with more people around me than I’ve done before, because I have the book launch, I’m working on some bigger projects. And so before, when I could do it with just two or three people, I’m now going to need more input and help to make sure that I can deliver the quality in the way I want to on each of these tasks.
[00:25:16] Amardeep: Yeah. And I think it’s something that’s very hard for people when they first start out. It’s to delegate and to try and work with teams because especially in the kind of knowledge economy in terms of what we do. It’s that so much of it is about how we think to try to get other people to think the way that we think, and to mimic us or to do different parts for us, can sometimes be quite intimidating. But it’s so important for us to do that because if we don’t, then we start ending up going down the burnout route. Which is what we’re trying to fight against. So it’s sometimes very hard to listen to your own advice. And I think it’s really important what you’re doing now to build up that team, to just make sure that you can have the right balance for you and to do the tasks that are important and that matter to you too.
[00:25:54] Simon: Definitely. Definitely. I think I myself, especially becoming a parent and using people like nannies and cleaners and other suppliers, that experience has showing me the importance of having a team around you, because as the demand of your, on your time gets greater, as you develop and you grow, you can very easily get distracted by things that aren’t going to help you focus on your strengths. And so that is the time and energy you want to protect by writing down, what are the things that you can outsource that you’re not the best at that you don’t want to spend your time doing? So you can then have the freedom and space to focus on the things that were actually you forward.
[00:26:36] Amardeep: And if you had to leave one message with the people today about one mindset shift they could make that’d make a big difference their lives, what would it be?
[00:26:43] Simon: For me, it’s simple and many people talk about it, but I cannot stress the importance of it. And that is embracing an attitude of gratitude. You know, during lockdown, I became a father for the first time. I became a father for the first time, a few days on after the United Kingdom went into lockdown. And it was, it was a very surreal moment because the country was at a heightened state of alert. People were very nervous about the consequences and would I catch COVID? And as a result of that, I, as a husband was only allowed to spend an hour with my daughter after she was born in the operating theater. And as I was holding our daughter in my arms. As you can imagine, you get washed over with love and there’s an emotional bond that nothing can prepare you for. But the experience also reminded me of something that we all tend to forget very easily. And that is the fact that you were born is a miracle. It is a miracle event. When you think about how many people on this planet cannot give birth, just to get to the point that you are born, to be able to experience this gift of life is an absolute miracle that we tend to easily forget. In fact, when you think about it, we have already won the greatest lottery there is going. The lottery of life. The question is what are you going to do with that winning ticket of yours? What are you going to do with that winning ticket of yours? Because when you are truly grateful for the gift of life, the lens by which you see your reality will transform.
[00:28:39] Amardeep: That’s beautiful. And I think a lot of people here listening are going to be wanting to see more from you. Where can they follow you? Where can they hear more about you? Hear more about your book as well?
[00:28:47] Simon: Definitely. So, my book Energize will be published by Penguin Random House in April 22 this year. And so you can get a copy of that now over on Amazon. The best platforms to connect with me on are Instagram. My handle is @SimonAlexanderO or over on LinkedIn.
[00:29:12] Amardeep: Perfect. And the final thing I finish up on is, what’s one small thing that’s brought you joy recently?
[00:29:18] Simon: For me, I think it is simply seeing people transformed and achieving incredible things because of conversations that we have had together, because I have the privilege to have conversations with so many people from different walks of life. That to see them take action, however small, and to see them send me a message, a photo, or video sharing how they have taken action and how it has impacted their life, those for me Amardeep, are the best messages that I get and they are the things that are bringing me joy right now.
[00:30:07] Amardeep: If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, I’d love it If you could leave me a five star review, it really helps get the message out further. Wherever you’re listening, it would be awesome If you could subscribe and share in your social media channels. If you want to see more of my work and advice, you can find all of the links in the show notes.
Thank you again for listening and I hope you have a lovely day.