You have to spend energy to make energy

by | Feb 4, 2016 | Energy

Takeaway: It takes energy to cultivate your energy levels, like by showing up at the gym, preparing healthy meals, and heading to bed at a reasonable time. But the struggle is easily worth it.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes, 40s.


Having lasting energy is crucial if you want to become more productive: energy is the fuel that you expend over the course of the day in order to get work done. If you burn out at 2 p.m., you’re not going to accomplish much after that—you’ll probably just work on autopilot, instead of stepping back to work on your most important tasks. Or if you run out of energy at 5 p.m., your home life will become a lot less meaningful, and you may end up spending your evenings watching Netflix and eating takeout. (Though I’m definitely not speaking from experience here.)

One ironic thing I’ve discovered about investing in your energy levels is that you need to spend energy to make energy. For example:

  • It takes energy and willpower to show up at the gym, but you’ll make that energy back, and then some, in increased energy later on.
  • It takes energy to prepare healthy meals (and resist unhealthy ones), but you’ll get that energy back, too.
  • It takes energy and some planning to head to bed at a reasonable time, but doing so will give you a ton of energy and focus the next day.

And while you need to spend energy to make energy, you also have to spend time to make energy. This cost often feels too great. It’s easy to look at the choice of working for 30 more minutes versus hitting the gym for a half hour, and deciding that working longer will let you get more done. Doing so will let you accomplish more—but only in the short term. In the long-run, productivity tactics like getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising will let you bring more energy and focus to your work. This way you can accomplish more in less time. With knowledge work, people who bring twice the energy and focus to their work will get twice as much done. Cultivating your energy level is easily worth the time and energy.

The most productive people recognize the importance of spending energy—and time—to gain more energy.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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