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Balancing Your Time vs. Energy: What’s Best for Southeast Asian Start-ups?

A case for why energy management is the way forward

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 08 Mar 2017

balancing your time

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In the start-up world, time is a company’s biggest asset. When the deadlines loom, the deliverables need to get going, and the clock is marching away at an unstoppable pace, start-ups can turn to a number of tricks to maintain, or increase, productivity.

From Stephen Covey’s famed time management matrix to apps that block distracting sites on computers, managing time seems to be the most popularized productivity framework. But is it best for Southeast Asian start-ups?

Mohammed Malik, general manager of a SaaS company’s operations in the Philippines, thinks that creating a lifestyle that supports good work should come first. “I do believe that humans inherently are wired to work through the biological clock. The chemicals and hormones in your body are awake when there’s sun up and they go to sleep at night… If you ever try to work on half a night’s sleep, you’re usually not that productive or you’re cranky,” he says.

Perhaps energy management, as opposed to time management, might be the better option for Southeast Asian start-ups.


Time management: a Western model?

There are a few time management tips that can work across cultures. In this Inc. article, Damon Brown writes about how time management guru Laura Vanderkam keeps a time journal. He says, “Vanderkam admitted that she thought she worked 60 hours a week but, after keeping a time journal for several months, realized it was closer to 40 hours a week. By keeping a journal, you can squeeze out the inefficiencies and better understand why you may not feel as productive as you think you should be.”

Once start-ups have identified how and where they spend their time, it becomes easier to implement certain tools to make sure this valuable data isn’t wasted. However, time management tools are only effective if they suit the companies they seek to serve—culturally.

“I do believe that different cultures view time as very different. Not a second do I believe that the dog eat dog culture of working day and night and working to live, that’s a predominant culture in the U.S. or in the West—I don’t believe that that’s the right way,” says Malik.

Cultural concepts of time differ in various Southeast Asian countries. According to a profile by IOR, the concept of time in Thailand is fluid. “Time is intangible and plentiful,” says the report. In the Philippines, Filipino Time is a term and cultural concept referring to a lack of punctuality.

Not only are concepts of time different across cultures, but infrastructures in certain Southeast Asian cities, such as Jakarta, seem to be a hindrance to a time-centered productivity framework. There are increasing populations, and couple that with poor infrastructure, it doesn’t help the terrible traffic. These conditions become a time and productivity sink for start-ups and their employees.

As Malik says, long commutes are a big factor affecting not only the company’s productivity, but also the employee’s overall satisfaction, which in turn affects their performance and productivity.

While infrastructure is better in other Southeast Asian cities, there is something to be said about looking to energy management instead.


Energy management: What is it and how do you implement it?

Allison Green Schoop, in this Inc. article, says that managing your energy is the first step to maximizing your productivity.

In the article, drawing from Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s “The Power of Full Engagement”, Schoop explains two of the four dimensions where you can manage your energy: spiritual energy and emotional energy. “Emotional energy is about keeping a positive emotional state. If you are in a constant state of relaxation and control despite the demands of your day, you will have more resilience and energy,” she says. On the other hand, “Spiritual energy is having a clear purpose in everything you do,” she says.

How do you construct your day with these in mind? “Mornings would be spent doing cognitively demanding and creative tasks. Afternoons would be focused on administrative activities, like status meetings or email,” says Schoop.

“The reality is most people work 50-plus hours. That is the expectation of organizations in order to remain competitive. But I think there is an opportunity to establish the next frontier of competitiveness, by recognizing that – as employee’s lives are increasingly about work – employers have a bigger role to play in their lives. The more you create space to refresh the four energies, the more those energies are channeled into creativity and productivity. It’s not about providing a perk. It’s about getting the best out of people,” she says.

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