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Summary: The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Dr. Jim Loehr, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute and author of “The Power of Full Engagement”, has dedicated his professional life to improving the performance of elite athletes and executives. When Loehr started working with elite athletes, he couldn’t understand the performance gap between his low-ranked athletes and his high-ranked athletes. Both athletes had incredible talent and work ethic.

Then, one day, he noticed his high-performing tennis players doing something strange. Between points the high-performing players seemed to zone out. In the middle of a match, they appeared to be completely relaxed and in a Zen-like state.


Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz offer a lot of solid, common sense advice. The authors recommend going to bed and getting up at a consistent time – not exactly Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, early to rise,” but close. They recommend regular exercise. They say it’s good to work and to rest, and each has its place. They say to examine yourself and try to see yourself as others see you. In other words, they recommend many time-honored techniques of physical, mental and spiritual growth, combined with prioritizing how you use your energy and how you recharge your batteries. This attitude makes the book unique. The principles may be ancient, but we find the vehicle distinctly contemporary, a combo of New Age jargon and workout-style performance charting, with (at last) a key to time management that makes sense and captures all areas of one’s life. Some readers will find that thrilling, others will groan.

Book Summary: The Power of Full Engagement - Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal


  • Your most valuable resource is energy – not time.
  • Energy management makes full engagement possible.
  • Energy has four dimensions: body, emotions, mind and spirit. Each one is necessary, but no single one is sufficient.
  • In mental training, as in physical training, exercise and then rest.
  • Regain physical and spiritual energy by building recovery rituals into your routine. Positive habits create energy; negative habits waste energy.
  • Emotional energy is generated by self-confidence, self-discipline, sociability and empathy.
  • Pleasure builds job performance; negative emotions undermine performance.
  • Stress and rest are both necessary, in a rhythmic cycle.
  • Too much work can be a fatal addiction.
  • Becoming fully engaged is a change that requires defining a goal, examining where you are and taking action.

Days later he had his tennis players wear heart rate monitors and observed their heart rates during a tennis match. During the match the high-ranking, high-performing tennis players frequently engaged in short rituals of recovery and relaxed their heart rates by as much as 20 beats per minute between points. The low-ranking, low-performing tennis players had no rituals of recovery and maintained an elevated heart rate throughout the match. In the last half of these tennis matches, these low-ranked tennis players made errors that ultimately cost them the match.

Loehr found that high-performing athletes can consistently perform at a high level because they’ve developed the habit of going through rapid cycles of intense focus and relaxation.

“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

“Sadly, the need for recovery is often viewed as evidence of weakness rather than as an integral aspect of sustained performance. The result is that we give almost no attention to renewing and expanding our energy reserves, individually or organizationally.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

“We must learn to establish stopping points in our days, inviolable times when we step off the track, cease processing information and shift our attention from achievement to restoration. Moore-Ede calls this a ‘time cocoon.’” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

The key is to build a set of rapid recovery rituals into your day to restore your energy sources. You can execute the rituals in two scenarios:

  1. After 90 minutes of continuous focus on a task.
  2. Any time you start to feel slightly irritable.

The four energy sources you need to restore are physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy. To help you build your rapid recovery rituals, here is a list of rapid recovery rituals I practice every day to spark your thinking.

To quickly restore my physical energy, I walk up a flight of stairs, go for a jog around the block, or do a set of push-ups. I do these exercises just long enough to intensify my breathing, but not enough to break a sweet and require a change of clothes. By doing these brief exercises, I oxygenate my cells and rejuvenate my brain. Then I drink cold glass of water. Drinking water has a profound impact on your physical energy because your brain and heart are made of almost 75% water.

To quickly restore my emotional energy, I text someone I enjoy spending time with to make plans for that evening (ex: going out for dinner with my wife). Planning events with others creates a sense of anticipation and excitement I can carry into my work session. Another emotional boost is to give praise to others around me. “Gallup found that the key drivers of productivity for employees include whether they feel cared for by a supervisor or someone at work; whether they have received recognition or praise during the past seven days; and whether someone at work regularly encourages their development.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

To quickly restore my mental energy, I go for a walk, listen to music, let go of what I was working on, and let my mind wander. By letting my mind wander, I let ideas related to my work incubate in my sub-conscious. When I return to work 10-15 minutes later, I have a burst of creative energy. “The highest form of creativity depends on a rhythmic movement between engagement and disengagement, thinking and letting go, activity and rest. Both sides of the equation are necessary, but neither is sufficient by itself.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

To quickly restore my spiritual energy, I take out a piece of paper and write down answers to the questions: ‘How I want to be remembered?’ and ‘Who I want to help?’. Spiritual energy comes from thinking of things bigger than yourself. The greatest spiritual energy gains come from tapping into a sense of purpose. To tap into a sense of purpose: “We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—hourly and daily. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Take a few minutes to write out your own rapid recovery rituals. Include physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual recovery components.

“Physical capacity is defined by quantity of energy. Emotional capacity is defined by quality of energy. Mental capacity is defined by focus of energy. Spiritual capacity is defined by force of energy.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz


Energy Excelsior

Time is not your most precious resource. Energy is. People can manage time well and still find themselves exhausted, stressed, unable to concentrate and unable to give other people the attention they merit. People use calendars, clocks, Palm Pilots and other impedimenta of time management – but how many do anything about energy management?

“Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.”

The path to power, productivity, success and satisfaction is energy management, the strategy of “full engagement.” With full engagement, you’ll spring out of bed in the morning, champing at the bit to get to work, upbeat and positive. When you leave the office in the evening, you’ll look forward to going home and spending the evening with the important people in your life, or, what the heck, maybe hanging out and having fun alone. You’ll be creative, contented, challenged and fun. If you are a manager, your employees will be delighted to follow you, because you’ll show them the road to full engagement, and help them to align their individual goals and aspirations with those of your organization.

“To maintain a powerful pulse in our lives, we must learn how to rhythmically spend and renew energy.”

Full engagement ought to be a bottom line priority. Companies incur trillions of dollars of unnecessary costs merely because 70% of Americans are less than fully engaged at work. And the longer people stay in a job, the less engaged they are!

When top athletes were coached in full engagement, they learned to perform at the top of their games. This training didn’t show athletes how to hold a racket or skate. It taught them to manage their energy and get results.

“Because we have overridden the natural rhythms that once defined our lives, the challenge is to consciously and deliberately create new boundaries.”

Today, the same principles work for “corporate athletes,” who benefit from the same four basic energy management principles:

  1. Energy has four dimensions: body, emotion, mind and spirit. Draw energy from each. Every one is necessary, but no single one is sufficient.
  2. Rhythmically balance stress and rest.
  3. Push beyond your limits systematically. Building “mental, emotional and spiritual strength” is very much like building physical strength. No pain, no gain.
  4. Use energy rituals.

“In short, money may not buy happiness, but happiness may help you get rich.”

Change comes in three steps: defining the goal, examining where you are and taking action. First, define what you want to become – your purpose. Look at how you spend your energy now. Then act, build a plan and establish rituals to help you use energy positively.


Flavius Philostratus trained athletes in ancient Greece. He was the first to discover, or at least to write down, the benefits of a rhythmic workout pattern – exertion followed by rest. The idea is simple: the body uses biochemical resources when it works, and must rest to replenish them. When athletes have trouble, it is usually because they trained too much or not enough.

“Making changes that endure is a three-step process that we call Purpose-Truth-Action.”

The same principle applies to daily life. Too much energy spent, with insufficient rest and recovery, leads to trouble. Too much rest, with not enough energy spent, also leads to trouble. Full engagement depends on balancing, or oscillating between, rest and recovery, recovery and rest. No wonder. The whole universe is rhythmic and oscillating: sunrise, sunset; high tide, low tide; full moon, new moon. The heartbeat is rhythmic. Even sleep is rhythmic.

“Our most fundamental need as human beings is to spend and recover energy.”

Top competitors in tennis have routines, habits that allow them to recover between points in a match. Their heart rates may drop as much as 20 beats per minute between points. They regain energy in these recovery rituals. Top business professionals do the same thing. Wink Communications president Maggie Wilderotter goes on “lion hunts,” prowling around her office asking people what they’re doing. This lets her relax while connecting with her employees. Herman Miller executive vice president Bill Norman doesn’t use voice mail or a cell phone. He is an amateur nature photographer who says his time off helps him develop his intuition. Another executive takes a bag lunch so she can eat in a park near her office and have a restorative interlude with nature to break up the business day.

“We are oscillatory beings in an oscillatory universe. Rhymicity is our inheritance.”

Although rest and relaxation are necessary, our contemporary world by and large condemns it, and exalts the destructive 24/7 instead. Our bodies aren’t machines, but we treat them as such. E-mail is particularly insidious. An America Online survey conducted in 2000 revealed that 47% of its customers brought laptops on vacation, and more than a quarter logged on daily to see their e-mail. We need a “Sabbath.” Too much work may be an addiction. The adrenaline high is alluring. But it can also be fatal. The Japanese word “karoshi” means “death from overwork.” The first reported case surfaced in 1969; now, Japan reports around 10,000 a year. Five factors crop up again and again in “karoshi” cases: long hours without regular rest, nocturnal work, skipped holidays and breaks, unremitting pressure, and both physical and mental job stress. Such stress isn’t all bad, of course. To make a muscle grow, you have to stress it beyond its usual activities. The rhythmic oscillation of stress and rest is healthy.

Physical Energy

It begins in the body. Even if you are desk bound, you need physical energy, which depends fundamentally on breathing and eating. Both need to be balanced. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – it gets blood sugar levels up and kick-starts the body’s metabolic functions. Then, there’s water. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Dehydration saps strength and energy. Drink at least two quarts of water a day. Australian research discovered that people who drank just 40 ounces of water a day were less apt to die of heart disease than those who drank 24 ounces or less.

“We grow at all levels by expending energy beyond our normal limits, and then recovering.”

You also need plenty of sleep, and it is better to sleep at night. Nocturnal work is hard on the body and hard on the task. The worst industrial disasters of recent times happened at night. Night workers have more heart trouble than day workers. Sleep researchers find that workers who take frequent naps can keep alert and productive even without long, uninterrupted sleep.

“The longer, more continuously, and later at night you work, the less efficient and more mistake prone you become.”

Our bodies operate on rhythms that cycle every 90 to 120 minutes. Most of us have an energy ebb tide in the late afternoon (hence the traditional siesta). NASA found that a 40-minute nap improved performance 34% and boosted alertness 100%. Add exercise to this bodily rhythm, since exercise affects energy. Interval training, short exercise periods alternated with short rest periods, is the most effective. Even quick aerobic spurts of a minute or less followed by rest can boost your energy levels considerably, along with improving fitness, heart rates and mood. Don’t use only cardiovascular exercise; also work to build strength.


Emotional energy expresses itself in self-confidence, self-discipline, sociability and empathy. Negative emotions such as frustration, anger, sorrow or fear are literally toxic. It’s possible to build positive emotions, just as it’s possible to build muscles. Too few people treat their pleasures as if they were really important – but pleasure is crucial. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with it. Positive emotional energy comes from doing things you enjoy. But the quality and depth of pleasure matters greatly. Watching television may seem relaxing, but it’s like eating potato chips – not filling or lasting.

“Emotions that arise out of threat or deficit – fear, frustration, anger, sadness – have a decidedly toxic feel to them and are associated with the release of specific stress hormones, most notably cortisol.”

Relationships build emotional energy. Friendship is critical, and even affects job performance. Those with one good friend at work perform better. Time taken for relationship building, friendship and love isn’t time stolen from life’s necessities. It is one of life’s necessities. Practice listening to people and empathizing.

“A single negative thought is what gets you hit in the face.” – Ray ”Boom Boom” Mancini”

Be aware that:

  • Pleasure builds performance, but negative emotions take a toll on performance.
  • Self-confidence, self-discipline, sociability and empathy generate emotional energy.
  • Effective leaders can bring up positive emotions at times of stress.
  • Balance exercise and recovery in emotional as in physical training.
  • Find something you enjoy and do it.
  • Push past your limits, rest, then push again.


Physical energy and emotional energy help mental functioning. Mental, physical and emotional energy interact. Studies have demonstrated the correlation between productivity and positive thinking, which generates mental energy. The most successful salespeople have what one psychological researcher calls an “optimistic explanatory style.” Of course, thinking takes time. Most jobs don’t build in time for rest, workout breaks and thinking. They should. People get their best ideas when they are on breaks, resting, jogging, gardening or just daydreaming.

“’The greatest geniuses,’ da Vinci told his patron, ’sometimes accomplish more when they work less.”

The five stages of creativity – insight, saturation, incubation, illumination and verification – take time. Build downtime into your day, and allow your employees to do the same. Good leaders husband the energy resources of their people and their organization.

Remember these points about mental energy:

  • Organization and attention depend on mental ability.
  • Optimistic realism is the best mental attitude.
  • Prepare, visualize, encourage yourself, manage time and create.
  • Change from one activity to another to exercise different parts of your brain.
  • Physical exercise is important to mental capacity.
  • In mental training, as in physical training, exercise and then rest.
  • Mental challenges slow age-related mental deterioration.


Spiritual energy depends on taking care of yourself and others. The most important spiritual “muscle” is character: doing what your values tell you is right, even when it costs you. Spiritual energy heals. Actor Christopher Reeve said it saved his life after a riding accident paralyzed him. He thought of suicide, but decided to live to be with his family and to help others suffering from neurological damage. Examples abound of people who transcended their ordinary limits because they wanted to help others.

The critical facts of spiritual life are:

  • Spiritual energy makes everything else possible, it’s the source of passion, fortitude and commitment.
  • Spiritual energy requires selflessness.
  • Spiritual energy stewardship depends on exercise and rest.
  • Spiritual work can both expend and renew energy simultaneously.
  • Spiritual development requires going past the limits.
  • The spirit can be stronger than the body.


Training for full engagement involves purpose, self-examination and established rituals.

  • First, define what your life is about, your purpose. Be positive and unselfish.
  • Second, examine yourself. Create a baseline by identifying how you now use your energy.

Face facts squarely. Rituals are actions you take by plan or schedule that build good habits and break bad ones. Be precise, specific and positive. Be moderate. Chart the course and examine yourself each day, so you see how well you are doing.

About the author

Senior partners and principals at a performance consultancy, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz co-developed training packages that draw on their “Full Engagement” model. Loehr is a performance psychologist and the author of 12 books including Stress for Success. Schwartz co-authored Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal and also wrote What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America.


The book is a guide for achieving high performance and personal renewal by managing one’s energy, not time. The authors, who are experts in sports psychology and leadership development, argue that energy is the most fundamental resource for human beings, and that we need to balance its expenditure with its renewal in four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. They also propose a systematic approach to expanding one’s capacity in each dimension by creating positive rituals that align with one’s values and goals.

The book is based on the premise that we live in a world that demands more from us than ever before, and that we often respond by trying to do more in less time. However, this leads to chronic stress, burnout, and diminished performance. The authors suggest that instead of managing time, we should manage energy, which is defined as “the capacity to do work”. They explain that energy has four sources: the body (physical), the emotions (emotional), the mind (mental), and the spirit (spiritual). Each source has its own rhythm of expenditure and renewal, and each one affects the others. For example, physical energy affects our emotional state, and emotional energy affects our mental focus.

The authors claim that the key to high performance and personal renewal is to balance energy expenditure with energy renewal in each dimension. They use the analogy of an athlete who trains for a peak performance by alternating periods of stress and recovery. They say that we should do the same in our daily lives by creating positive rituals that help us renew our energy at regular intervals. Positive rituals are defined as “specific routines or behaviors that are intentionally practiced in order to manage energy”. They are different from habits, which are unconscious and automatic. Positive rituals are conscious and deliberate, and they are aligned with our values and goals.

The book provides a practical framework for creating positive rituals in each dimension of energy. It also includes a self-assessment tool called the Energy Audit, which helps readers identify their strengths and weaknesses in each dimension. The book then offers a step-by-step program for developing a personal energy management plan based on the results of the Energy Audit. The program consists of four steps: defining purpose, facing the truth, taking action, and seeking feedback. The book also provides examples of positive rituals for each dimension of energy, such as eating healthy foods, expressing appreciation, challenging negative thoughts, and connecting with a higher purpose.

The book is well-written and engaging, with many stories and anecdotes from the authors’ work with clients ranging from athletes to executives. The book is also backed by scientific research and empirical evidence from the authors’ own experience. The book is not only informative, but also inspiring and motivating. It challenges readers to take charge of their energy and their lives, and to achieve their full potential.

The book is suitable for anyone who wants to improve their performance and well-being in any area of life. It is especially relevant for people who face high demands and pressures in their work or personal lives, and who want to learn how to cope better with stress and fatigue. The book is also helpful for people who want to discover their purpose and passion, and who want to align their actions with their values and goals.

The book is not without its limitations, however. Some readers may find the book too prescriptive or rigid in its approach to energy management. Some may prefer a more flexible or individualized way of creating positive rituals that suit their preferences and lifestyles. Some may also question the validity or applicability of some of the concepts or examples presented in the book, such as the notion of spiritual energy or the case studies of elite athletes. Some may also feel that the book does not address some of the deeper or more complex issues that affect one’s energy level, such as trauma, mental health, or social justice.

Overall, I think the book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn how to manage their energy more effectively and efficiently. The book offers a comprehensive and practical framework for balancing energy expenditure and renewal in four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The book also provides a powerful and positive message for achieving high performance and personal renewal by creating positive rituals that align with one’s purpose and passion.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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