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Tony Schwartz Tips on Managing Energy & Productivity

Author Tony Schwartz (Be Excellent At Anything) had some good nuggets on increasing energy and productivity at SXSW in Austin today.

Talented artist Sunni Brown did this super-cool live drawing of Tony’s talk (below).

Some Of Tony’s Energy & Productivity Tips

Emotional Energy — How you feel influences how you perform. Duh!

A Major Myth — Most of us believe (wrongly) that to get more work done, we should work more time. Instead, Tony says, we should manage our energy better.

The Power of Sleep — “Sleep is the single most undervalued behavior in our lives” because of the myth that if we give up one hour of sleep that will equate to one hour of additional productivity.

Quote from Herbert Simon — “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Multitasking is Bad — It is inefficient to multi-task (technically you can only task-shift). If you shift your attention from something, the cost to you is 25% effectiveness on that first item’s successful completion.

Two Tips On Improving  Your Productivity– He cites a study of Berlin violinists  by some guy who is an “expert on experts” (they were cited in Outliers)

#1 Practice– The top violinists practiced for 90 minutes maximum in 3 sessions primarily in morning (Schwartz says that it’s been proven that you can only practice 4.5 hours total in a day (that’s the limit))

#2 Sleep — Schwartz said that the superstar violinists slept more than average violinists (typically 8+ hours per night) and that they also napped on a regular basis (about 2.8 hours per week).

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote about Tony Schwartz’s previous book The Power of Full Engagement in How To Recharge Yourself and The 20 Best Business Books Of All Time.


  • Chris LaSalle

    Dug it.

  • Chris LaSalle

    Dug the recap.

  • Brian Kerr

    Napping was an unexpected tip, though this seems to fall under similar assumptions as Eben Pagan’s Wake Up Productive.

    The ideas behind practice surprised me, but make sense:

    Trial, Error, Problem Solving is the natural cycle we usually go through when practicing for something. By practicing uninterrupted for 4+ hours, we lose out on an important portion, the “Problem Solving” phase.

    I remember practicing for my college tennis team 6+ hours a day, and feeling like I would get the same results as when I practiced for 2-3.

  • Rob Kelly

    That’s a great point that when you spend so much time practicing without pausing to solve the problems you’re facing, you will slow your productivity/energy/progress!

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Brian.