Closed September 2017

Don’t Mind Me, I’m Oscillating…

Sinewave2 I had the pleasure of hearing Tony Schwartz speak this weekend at the SXSW Interactive conference here in Austin. He is the co-author of The Power of Full Engagement (Kindle edition here) and Be Excellent at Anything (Kindle edition here). I was really looking forward to hearing Tony and meeting him because I think he has a very important message that goes beyond the workplace, and we need to think about it fully in our lives whether we work in corporations or at home or rearing our children.

Here are some notes from his speech:

  • Time is finite, but our energy is renewable and expandable. My comment on this: I think most of us understand time management on a basic level, how to use a calendar and a clock, but we struggle more with managing our own energy… how we feel throughout the day and evening. We can perform better and get more done if we focus on managing our energy.
  • We have four different sources of energy: Physical (fitness, nutrition, sleep, rest/renewal), Emotional (how you feel), Mental (your focus and attention), and Spirit (your sense of purpose in life and work).
  • We don't operate like computers– at high speeds, continuously for long periods of time. Human beings are RHYTHMIC. We oscillate. There is not one thing you can talk about in the human body that doesn't oscillate. My comment: Think about the rhythms of sleeping vs. waking, your heartbeat, your digestive cycles, your hormonal cycles, etc. They all ebb and flow. It's true.
  • We need to align with our Performance Pulse— the natural oscillatory pattern we have of high performance and fatigue, which is shown to be 90 minute intervals.
  • Productivity is about the value we produce, not the hours we work!
  • Sleep is the singlemost undervalued behavior in our lives! Did you know that if you get 5 or fewer hours of sleep for 4 consecutive nights, you are the same as someone who is legally intoxicated?
  • Tony quoted multitasking expert David Meyer who says that when you move your attention it takes 25% longer to finish the initial task you were working on. We task shift, we don't actually multitask simultaneously. (Note: See my posts on what I call "DUOTASKING" here and here)
  • We are oscillatory beings and need to behave that way… rest is frowned upon and seen as a sign of weakness, but it's really strategic and smart and a sign of strength!

Personally, I have been fighting a cold recently and I have taken a lot of time, even during this conference, to go home and rest and listen to my body. I feel so much more productive and energetic when I do. I do take regular breaks, and many of you have heard me say that I have a mini-trampoline in my office to get up and jump around throughout the day. I sometimes work on my treadmill too, to just break things up and move more. (Read my Guide to Workwalking post here.)

I want to thank Tony for sharing this outstanding message, and I want to help broaden that message beyond workplace productivity and bring it home to our personal lives. I see and hear of many overscheduled families that don't take time on a daily, weekly, or even annual basis sometimes to really stop and enjoy each other without distraction and constant activity. I see people pushing themselves volunteering for everything and over-doing in so many areas of their lives, not just work. Through our online program and my book and this blog, I preach the message that I call "The Gospel of Good Enough," which is very aligned with this idea. Our homes oscillate too, between messy and organized, comfort and chaos, dirty and clean, and empty and full. I think we can be happier getting more comfortable with those rhythms.

Are you working with your own natural oscillation, or are you fighting it constantly? As Tony says, "Will you listen to your body or override it?" Share your thoughts in the comments!

Follow me on Twitter for my Daily #ClutterTweetTip, "Like" us on Facebook, and see our weekly #ClutterVideoTip on YouTube at

If you are not reading this on, in your own RSS reader, or via an Amazon Kindle subscription, this content most likely is being used without the author's permission and is violating copyright law. Please do not support these scraper sites!


Elaine Younes

Thanks for sharing. We are more productive when we focus on the task, and less stressed.

Janet Katz

Excellent post, Lorie!! I think the comment on oscillating sheds new light on how humans operate. I know I have a good productive time of the day and a poor one. It’s refreshing to know my house does too!


A perfectly digestible productivity snack, Lorie! I am going to share this post with my friends.
I think 90 minutes at-a-time of highly focused productivity sounds right for most people, including me.
I do also like the Pomodoro concept of taking a 5-minute water/stretch break for every 25 minutes of super-intense work, such as coding, etc., but I think it depends on the person and the job. The larger point, though, is to learn your own ebbs-and-flows and honor the unique way in which you need to work effectively!
{ twitter = @danenow }


I knew right away that sleep was the singlemost undervalued behavior! I seem to be seeing that fact every where I look! AND it’s after 11:00 p.m.! rscd


Thank you for this post! It is so crucial. I love your last bullet point that says “rest is frowned upon and seen as a sign of weakness, but it’s really strategic and smart and a sign of strength!” That is very true! Now we just need to courage to go against the flow and actually get the rest we need.


I have been reading several articles and books on the brain, and sleep/rest comes up every time. We are all so focused on getting as much done as possible in our given amount of time… I now force myself to shut off and rest when I am tired or when it is time for bed, and I see a real difference in my energy level the next day. I notice that what I accomplish when tired is of less quality, in addition to taking at least twice as long, as when I sleep and tackle the task FRESH the next day.


Leave a Reply

ParadeRachael RayInStyleCNBCFast CompanyThe Boston GlobeWomen's DayWGNToday