If there is one rule I’ve learned that has radically transformed my life, it’s the Ten Words that form the heart of my book “Blood, Sweat, and Butter-“
“You Always Have Time For The Things You Make Time For.”
The collary and counterpart to this best expressed with the phrase, “Where attention goes, energy flows.”
That doesn’t just mean your personal energy… and your bank account will tell you it’s not just some freaky woo-woo stuff. The sooner you learn about where you are putting your time, your attention, your money- in other words, your energy, the sooner you start making wiser decisions about it.
The Many Forms of Energy
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be converted.”
We all learned that back in high school physics. You can’t “kill” energy. It takes new forms and may evaporate, but it’s never destroyed. The energy that a tree preserves from growing in the sun (light energy) is given up when it gets burned (light, heat, sound energies.) So what forms does energy take when WE use it?
You are a living engine.
Every day, humans take in fuel (food, water, obnoxiously strong energy drinks) and metabolize it into the energy that powers our minds and bodies. It’s an interesting point that calories- the measure of how much energy a given bit of sustenance contains- is a measure of heat energy, similar to BTUs (British Thermal Units- 1 BTU is how much energy it takes to raise the temperature of a gallon of water by one degree Celsius.)
So every morning, you take in fuel at breakfast and prime your body to burn that energy throughout the day. If you happen to go to work, you are turning that chemical energy (metabolizing food into calories and nutrients) into the physical energy of your labor, and from there into financial energy.
That was Physics and Biology 101- now let’s move on to Economics.
Yeah, this is gonna be a sexy blog post.
Financial Energy (a.k.a. Money)
Economist John Law famously posited on the nature of money as being “the medium by which goods and services are exchanged, not the value for which goods and services are exchanged.” In other words, if you work, money is the form your labor takes on its way to being groceries, rent, phone connection, giant inflatable ducky, etc. Money that you save, therefore, is stored energy. It is your labor (or the labor of others, in the case of investments) that is waiting to be turned into something else.
However, physical (or mental) labor is not the only thing we turn energy into. There’s also the various things that consume our energy without necessarily resulting in a financial payout. These are the things we spend our energy on that result in making ourselves or others happy. It’s the stuff we care about and focus ourselves on.
Personal Energy (a.k.a. Emotional Energy/ Labor)
You may have heard the term “emotional labor” bandied about a lot in the last few years, usually to mean the personal toll extracted from people who need to act a particular way in society (such as servers in restaurants keeping a cordial smiles for miserable customers) or who are encouraged to relive situations and struggles for the (not always in good faith) requests of ignorant strangers. For example, asking a person of color to explain to you- in detail- what “privilege” means is requesting emotional labor.
You might be more familiar with the concept in the form of people who “just drain you.” Spending time with them seems to be exhausting, making you tired and irritable while they don’t seem to need to breathe.
Personal energy can then be seen as caring (or being made to care) about something. It’s when we turn our attention and focus on something that may or may not merit it, and may or may not be something we actually want to deal with.
That is the real trick to all of this. When we come home exhausted at the end of the day, when we lack the money to buy something we want or need, and when we lack the focus or energy to do something we care about because we spent all day doing other things, we ask “Where did it all go? How can I work so hard just to be stuck in the same place?”
Let’s put all these rules together real quick:
- The Ten Words: “You always have time for what you make time for.“
- Time is Money.
- Money is Energy.
- Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.
- “Where Attention goes, Energy Flows.”
The key to saving money and using it wisely, as any financial planner will tell you, is having and using a budget. You take stock of all your money, watch how much is coming in, and decide how it will then go out. Some of it you need to pay even if you don’t want you- bills, rent, debt payments, etc. Others you want to, but don’t think you can afford.
Your personal energy is no different. Ideally, you get to decide what will get your attention and effort every day. Some of it you don’t always have an option but to care- looking after your children, keeping things in line at work, etc. A good chunk of it, however, you absolutely DO get a say in how much of your energy and headspace something will take up.
I made a point of this in my book and encourage readers to reframe the classic refrain of “I don’t have time for ___” to “____ is not as big a priority for me as this thing I did instead.” If you don’t like the way it sounds, that’s a sign to make changes:
- “I don’t have time to read” –> “Reading is not as much a priority for me as arguing with strangers on Facebook.”
- “I don’t have time to write today” –> “Messing around on the computer at work is more important to me than my writing.”
Again, some of these choices can’t be helped. We all need to eat, sleep, have shelter, and we all have an urge to industry– to devote some of our energy to some greater cause or goal. The trick is always doing it wisely, so that as much of our energies- physical, emotional, and financial– go toward the things that make us happy!
How are you going to spend your energy today?
If you’d like a little help with figuring out your personal “energy budget,” and want a place to jot down your thoughts and keep you accountable, my old friend Karol just released her first book, The Energy Budget, on Amazon! She’s an amazing person, and the book comes with a great structure and series of tools to help you make sense of how your energy aligns with your goals!