Berry pie

If you think this will be a blog about how recent brain research has discovered that eating pie is actually beneficial for your brain…sadly, that is not the case (though it could be said that pie = optimism = greater engagement and productivity, which has real, scientific backing, as reported by The University of Pennsylvania).

No, I’m referring to a metaphorical pie that divides up your brain and how that relates to energy usage. A few days ago, I ran across this article in the New York Times that highlighted the way elite athletes train and how those same lessons can be applied to the workplace. While all the insights were valuable, one particularly struck me: “Managing Your Energy Pie”.

This dictum was borne from the training regimen of Steve Spence, a long-distance runner, who was extremely talented and self-taught. He was middling in performance though, as he was balancing work, training, family, hobbies, and everything else that goes into the life of a person in their mid-20’s. After seeing a sports physiologist, they came to the idea of “Managing The Energy Pie” – essentially, focusing on limiting distractions, knowing that he only has so much energy that can be put into various activities and pursuits. A better utilization of his energy and time, allowed him to both be a better runner and be more attuned in other areas of life as well. The plan worked as he made the Olympic team in 1992 and finished in the top 3 of the World Marathon Championships.

This struck a chord with me, as our work is based around a seven-attribute thinking and behavioral model that provides a unique window into the way a person creates ideas, communicates, interacts, and goes about work. In particular, the four Emergenetics Thinking Attributes (Analytical, Structural, Social and Conceptual) are displayed in a pie-chart format that provides an easy way for people to see their preferences and how they tend to go about thinking.

Like a pie divided into pieces, every person has a full representation of the thinking styles, but the degree to which they utilize them and the degree to which those thinking styles influence ideas, behavior, work, and life, varies from person to person. In the image to the right, this person would heavily rely on Analytical and Structural thinking while using less mental energy around Social and Conceptual.

Just as in elite training though, understanding the full pie and where one’s preferences lie, can be a big step to better managing thinking to increase productivity. Clearly, utilizing your natural tendencies will produce the easiest and most seamless approach to thinking.

We all know however, that complex work environments and completing work efficiently, productively, and effectively require a person’s full range of thinking. You simply cannot succeed without developing detailed, structured processes for some aspects of work. In the same way, on some level, the big-picture and long-term vision always matter.

But getting into these non-preference areas of thinking are draining. If you’re a person who derives pleasure and energy out of collaboration, team building, and working with others, being put into a work situation that requires a singular focus on detailed analysis of problems and creating clear, focused guidelines and plans for implementation will likely be draining. You can do it, but at the end of the day, your brain is tired.

But, think about this in terms of managing your pie. How can you utilize the parts of the pie that actually do energize you to create more effective ways of doing the work that is naturally more challenging, less fun, and more draining?

It starts with a realization of where your thinking lies and developing methods to best accomplish the tasks and requirements of your work that you know will suck your energy. Then it can be even more rewarding to get into your zone (to borrow an athletic term) and cruise through the work that your brain is more naturally built around.

Think of yourself as an elite athlete—how you can manage your thinking and energy can take your performance to the next level.

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