The One Thing you need to know to manage your energy

Each day I fight a battle.  

It always happens at 8.55pm.  

I can have one of those days from hell where nothing goes to plan, but if I win at 8.55pm I tell myself I have Won The Day.  

What’s the battle?  

It’s a duel with myself.  

On the one hand is my Sensible Self who set the target of ‘Be in Bed Before 9pm.’ The one who decided this would be her hill to die on. That she is not gonna budge.  

On the other hand, is the Busy Self who just has a few more things to do and is ready to negotiate. She wants to do JUST a few more emails, JUST clean up a few more things or have JUST a few more minutes to herself because SHE DESERVES IT. 

Sometimes the Busy Self manages to negotiate for 10 more minutes and the damage is pretty minimal. 

Occasionally the Busy Self gets an inch but takes a mile and it’s 11pm and Sensible Self is pissed.  

But the majority of the time, the Sensible Self, who has been around the block, starts chatting with Busy Self around 8.30 to soften her up and at 8.55pm she digs her heels in, gives Busy Self the hand and goes to bed.  

She has Won The Day.  

Why is this such a big deal?  

Because if I go to bed at 9pm, when my alarm vibrates on my wrist at 5am I am very likely to have had 8 hours sleep (excluding those nights when my two year old wants to read stories at 2am or my four year old needs to vomit at 4am – cos parenting is #soglamorous). 

And if I’ve had 8 hours, I’m very likely to get up at 5am.
And if I get up at 5am I’m very likely to have an hour to myself before the kids become really insistent about getting out of bed.  

And in that hour, I will exercise and meditate and plan my day.  

When it gets to 6am I’ve ticked lots of energy boxes and I’m truly set up for success that day. When I’m tyring to run a business, raise two children, be creative, and get a whole lot a things done, high energy is essential. 

It doesn’t always work, but I’ve really stacked the deck to try to make sure it does. Also, full transparency: I’ve only truly nailed this very recently after years of rubbish sleep (did I mention the 2 and 4 year olds?) 

So what’s the One Thing I need to manage my energy? It’s sleep. But really, it’s to win my 8.55pm battle. Because my sleep and everything else that helps my energy, flows from that One Thing.  

What’s the One Thing you need to manage your energy? You need to work out what your One Thing is and go into battle for it. Make it the hill to die on, the one non-negotiable for the day, the thing that you will rearrange the day for.  

This might seem like a ‘nice to have’ and calling it a ‘battle’ might seem a wee bit melodramatic. But in fact, I take it really seriously. 

What I’m doing and what I’m advocating, is using the best of cutting-edge behavioural science research to achieve what medical science is telling us very clearly is needed for optimal health, functioning and performance.  

It’s a given that sleep, exercise and nutrition are essential tools if we really want to be high performers. More and better research keeps flooding in on this. Just look to Richard Wiseman (Sleep School) or Arianna Huffington (Thrive) for accessible summaries of the latest literature on sleep, for example.  

In the last decade there’s also been a flood of new research into habits and behaviour change. For example, in Charles Duhigg’s 2012 book The Power of Habit, he wrote about Keystone Habits – those ones that have ripple effects across other areas of your life. My 9pm bedtime habit is an example of a keystone habit. I focus on nailing that habit and it has a ripple effect throughout my night and day.  

In the business world, there’s increasing recognition of this kind of focus on one key powerful activity. When Gary Keller wrote his 2013 book The One Thing, he basically advocated focusing on only one thing at a time but choosing the One Thing that was like a lead domino, knocking over all the other dominos lined up behind it. He also attributes this specific strategy as the reason why his company was able to become the number 1 real estate firm in the United States.  

So what’s the One Thing that makes the biggest difference for you and your energy? For lots of people it’s sleep, and a decent amount of it. For others it’s meditation, or a workout or eating nutritious food. Then, what’s the One Thing you need to do to make your One Thing happen?  

That’s your battle, that’s your hill to die. Work out how to win that battle and you’ve Won The Day. You’ve won yourself some energy. 


Michelle Rushton

Michelle Rushton with over 15 years of experience with tens of thousands of people, Michelle has designed and delivered award-winning behaviour change and leadership development programs for companies like Microsoft, Australia Post and American Express. She is director and co-founder of the learning and development consultancy People of Influence, specialising in leadership and team development.

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