Ep 35 – Greg Conderacci: The Author of the Book ‘Getting UP! Supercharging Your Energy’


Do you know the difference between time management and energy management?

If you’re a CPA, accountant or anyone that’s entering their peak revenue season, this podcast is a must-listen. We have a number of tips and techniques on how to get the most energy out of ourselves and how to generate more energy when we need it.

Greg Conderacci is an expert on energy management. He wrote Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy and rode his bicycle across the United States of America in 18 days averaging 150 miles a day. He really understands energy management.

Greg believes that we should move away from those old time management techniques into a new and more productive method of managing our energy.

“We’re kinda missing the boat here in the 21st century by talking about time management time management time management when, really, I think this is the century of energy management.”

The emphasis on time management goes back a couple hundred years.

  • When most people in the U.S. worked on farms, the day started when the sun came up and it ended when the sun went down.
  • During the Industrial Revolution, there was a concerted effort to make people think of time laterally. People on assembly lines were taught to think of time in terms of minutes and hours.
  • We are still victims to this time management mentality, especially in our education system.

Not a lot of people work on assembly lines anymore, so why do we still have that mentality?

We need to focus on where we add value – and we add value with our energy.

“If you look at people who are making fabulous amounts of money, they’re making fabulous amounts of money because of the value that they’re adding – not because of the time they’re spending.”

The key is to focus on energy flows. None of us are at 100% peak all day long so you should take note of the times that you are most efficient and effective and schedule the most intellectually challenging work at those times.

After that, Greg has two big suggestions for maximizing the amount of energy you have in those times:

  • Get at least seven hours of sleep.
  • Drink a lot of water.

Your energy is maximized when you have seven hours of good sleep (so don’t drink yourself to sleep!). On top of getting energy, your brain is also working while you’re asleep. You can literally solve problems in your sleep.

There’s also value to the idea of a midday siesta, or an afternoon power nap. Most people are at their lowest energy between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, anyway. Sleep or rest will charge your batteries and make you more productive for the rest of the day.

The last part of the equation are all of the energy suckers in your environment. We have technology, we have instant messaging, we have texting, we have constant interruptions and, if that’s not enough, we’ll pull out our cell phones. Discipline will save your energy.

“We’re working on a scarce resource. We should manage our time carefully, there’s no question about that, but we keep thinking it’s going to give us more time – it’s not!”

If you have energy and you are purposeful about using it on your most intellectually challenging work, then you can maximize productivity by doing less challenging tasks when you have less energy. Emails don’t need to be checked first thing in the morning.

I greatly appreciate Greg coming on the show to share these extremely valuable tips for getting the most out of our energy. A lot of accountants are going to have a much better busy season if they put his advice into action.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Welcome to episode 35 of the Improv is no Joke podcast, where it’s all about becoming a more effective communicator by embracing the principles of improvisation. I’m your host Peter Margaritis, the self-proclaimed chief edutainment officer of my business The Accidental Accountant. My goal is to provide you with thought-provoking interviews with business leaders so you can become an effective improviser, which will lead to building stronger relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and even your family.

Thank you very much for downloading in this episode. Today’s guest is Greg Conderacci, who is the author of the book Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy along with being a marketing and energy consultant, speaker, facilitator, trainer and teacher. Greg and I spend time discussing the difference between time management and energy management. Greg believes that we’ve moved away from those old time management techniques into a new and more productive method of managing our energy. Now Greg knows energy. He is 66-years-old and has ridden his bicycle across the United States of America in 18 days averaging 150 miles a day. That’s right, you heard me. So let me rephrase my opening sentence to Greg is an expert on energy management. Anyone who can accomplish such a monumental undertaking is an expert in my book. If you’re a CPA, accountant or anyone that’s entering their peak revenue season, this podcast is a must-listen. Greg provides a number of tips and techniques on how to get the most energy out of us and how to generate more energy when we need it. I’ll give you a little hint on one of these tips and it’s as simple as getting enough sleep. I know it’s simpler said than done, but if you can get seven hours of sleep a night that will help increase your energy and productivity. After we finished this interview, I decided to make this a three-part series with this episode being titled physical and intellectual energy. The second part will be titled emotional energy and the final part will be titled spiritual energy. The other two parts will air in the spring and in the fall. Now, one of my goals with his podcast is that it will help you begin to make changes in your work and personal lives so you can better connect with others and create meaningful relationships. Many people have said it takes 21 days to start a habit – but it takes a lifetime to keep that pattern. That’s why I created the Yes, And… challenge: to help keep these principles in front of you so you can build up your improvisational muscle. To sign up, please go to my website PeterMargaritis.com and scroll down to the Yes, And… challenge call to action and click to register to begin building the productive habit of Yes, And… and the principles of improvisation and remember to show your experiences on twitter using the hashtag #yesandchallenge. Now, if you’re unsure of what the Yes, And… challenges is all about, I discuss this in detail in episodes 0. So go back and take a listen. Remember, you can subscribe to my podcast on itunes, stitcher and google play. You can also purchase my book Improv Is No Joke: Using Improvisation to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life on Amazon.com. It’s available both in paperback and on kindle. With that said, let’s get to the interview with Greg Conderacci.

Peter: Hey everybody, my guest today is Greg Conderacci and I’ve known Greg oh… it’s been a number of years, through our relationship at the Business Learning Institute. First and foremost, Greg, thank you so very much for taking time out to be a guest on my podcast.

Greg: My pleasure to be here. Thank you, Peter.

Peter: Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself because I could not do justice to your background, to your bio, so I’ll let you handle that.

Greg: Well, as you mentioned, I work with you and a bunch of other great folks at the Business Learning Institute. I also teach at the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and I do all sorts of consulting and training and teaching. My favorite thing, though, is to write and talk about personal energy because I think that, essentially, we’re kinda missing the boat here in the 21st century by talking about time management time management time when, really, I think this is the century of energy management.

Peter: That’s a really good point. I like that. It’s all about energy management. And you should be the expert on energy management because you are the author of Getting Up!: Supercharging Your Energy.

Greg: Yes, people have been telling me for years that I ought to write a book because I’ve been doing energy training, both through the Business Learning Institute and other places, for more than a decade. It started as almost a hobby because I am an ultra long distance cyclist and people would always say “Greg Conderacci, where do you get the energy to… fill in the blank.”

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: and and I say well you know this and that and whatever. They say I should write a book, so I finally wrote a book! I wrote the book this year, after riding across America last year in just 18 days. That’s about 150 miles per day, which is pretty good for a 66 year-old. I was the oldest ever to complete that particular ride, which has been going on for decades. So that was kind of a feather in my cap. You know, old guy, Medicare card in the pocket. [laughs] It was a lot of fun.

Peter: So 150 a day.

Greg: On average. 200 somedays, closer to 100 some others.

Peter: I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Greg: [laughs]

Peter: I need to pick up a chapter in your book right now get super charged! I know that you have been an ultra cyclist for for a long time and and you have inspired me to get on my bike and try to ride further than the end of the street and back to my house. At one point in time, I was always training to run a marathon. I used to be a runner and I got bad knees. Because of getting to know you just a little bit better and hearing a lot from Pam about your cycling adventures I think, this year, the longest ride I had was about 26, 27 miles. It would have been longer but I had a month of bronchitis, but you were my inspiration to get on the bike and then start that. Yes it does take a lot of energy and maybe some Red Bull to keep that going, but yeah.. that’s outstanding.

Greg: Thank you.

Peter: And I got my AARP card so I guess that helps me.

Greg: [laughs] You’re now officially old.

Peter: Yes, but when you can get a discount I’ll take being old for a while.

Greg: oh yeah yeah. Well, it’s only chronologically old. It’s not necessarily physically, mentally intellectually or spiritually old.

Peter: That’s true. I have a body of an 80 year old and the mind of a 35-year-old so I think I probably even everything out.

Greg: [laughs] But you’re way ahead of me because people say I have a the mind of a 12-year-old.

Peter: [laughs] I like the concept…. Everybody talks about time management time management time management and if we think about a large portion of my audience (who are CPAs), and they’re gonna be hearing this interview in the latter part of January, they’re gonna be really needing – I like how you put it – they’re gonna be needing more energy. So talk to me about this energy management and how we’re in the century of energy management versus time management.

Greg: Well, okay. It requires, actually, going back a couple of centuries because, in the United States, about 200 years ago maybe a little more people decided that we ought to get folks off the farm and onto assembly lines, because that was the whole industrial revolution and one of the revolutions there, truly, was a revolution about the way people thought about time. I mean, if you’re on a farm, you get up when the Sun comes up you go to bed when the Sun goes dow. You’re on a whole different scheme in terms of how you manage your time and manage your energy. You might think in terms of seasons and, indeed, most people thought circularly. They thought like the cycle of seasons or the cycle of year. That really is the way human beings have thought, and many still do, for as long as human beings been thinking. What happened, though, is on an assembly line we started to think laterally because that’s the way an assembly line works and on an assembly line time is money. If the line stops you’re losing money and if the line goes then you’re making money. And so what happened is we really have to retrain an entire population to think time in terms of minutes, in terms of eight hour days (or 12 in those days)

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: And so we developed an educational system of which we are all victims still today. It’s all time-based. I mean you have certain class periods, you’re supposed to learn things in those class periods. You’re supposed to show up on time, to pay attention, you’re not supposed to ask questions, you’re supposed to do what you’re told, you’re supposed to do your homework. And all those are good skills for people working on assembly lines. Do what you’re supposed to do what you’re supposed to do it and the assumption is, of course, that you’re supposed to be just as good at two o’clock in the afternoon as you are at nine o’clock in the morning because that’s the way the line move. And last century, the 20th century, we got even more sophisticated. We got into sophisticated methods of time management and motion study and all kinds of stuff. And indeed, many people, including myself, took those courses. But when I do my training, I always ask people the same question to begin, which is have and taken a time management course? And of course many people have. They’re CPAs, you know. And I said did it change your life?

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: No, and the reason is, if you think about it, once you’ve cleaned your desk and organized your files and made a list and done some of the other things that time management tells you to do, you’re done. You’re done and no matter what you do you can’t get more than 24 hours in the day. You’re done! But you can get way, way, way more energy. So what are we doing? We’re working on a scarce resource. We should manage our time carefully, there’s no question about that, but we keep thinking it’s going to give us more time – it’s not! So the idea is: can we just increase the amount energy? That’ll solve way more problems because we can do that. We definitely can do that and the example I like to give to folks is okay it’s Christmas time and you’re going to get gifts. You may want to write an old-fashioned thank you note and put a stamp on it and send it in snail mail. So I asked people how long does it take to write a thank you note. Maybe five minutes. How long does it take before you send the thank you note? Days, weeks.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: and the reason for that is, if you think about it, it’s not that you didn’t have the time to write the thank you note. You had five minutes. You didn’t have the energy, and so the idea is to start thinking about your energy and what it allows you to do or or not do if you don’t have it. What I’m trying to do is to convince people to change the paradigm. To shift to the idea that, really, it is about managing your energy and understanding their energy flows in and out. Both for themselves and, you know, it was worked for companies, it works for organizations, it works for teams. When is the energy good and when is the energy not-so-good? All football games last 60 minutes but, just by watching, you can watch the energy ebb and flow over the course of that time. That’s the way life is too. That’s my – haha – quick overview.

Peter: I agree. I’m thinking about, at times, I have a goal to write three thank you cards a day and that would take 15 minutes. I have the energy, but other stuff gets in the way. Are you saying that I just need to maintain that level of energy for a longer period of time in order to get certain things done? When I used to go to an office, I would always get there like an hour or so early. Let’s say the doors open or business begins at 9, I would like to get there about 7:30 because I got that hour-and-a-half that nobody’s really gonna be bothering me. Once the open sign goes up I can’t get anything done because you’ve got all these fires and people and these gnats coming and mosquitoes and you’re just trying to swat them away until it closes the door. Then I can focus. So talk to me about that energy and managing that type of of day.

Greg: Yeah. Peter, I think you’re asking the question just the right way because time managers look at that as you should just manage your time a little better. Energy managers would look at that and say that what you’ve got there, Peter, is you have energy sinks. You have things that happen over the course of the day that will drain your energy away. So the example you gave is a perfect one. 15 minutes to write three thank you notes. No matter how “busy” your day is, 15 minutes? You can do that. Except you have a legion of energy sinks and distractions that are sucking away your energy. In your case, frequently it’s intellectual energy. So your intellectual energy organizes our lives, it focuses, it helps us do what we need to do, and what happens is that there are going to be a million interruptions and every one of those interruptions is an intellectual energy sink, and some of them are interruptions that you create yourself and some of them are ones that come in. In the old old days, back before you and I had gray hair.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: The typical interruption was you were in your office, working away, and a colleague comes in and wants to talk and have an unscheduled meeting. That’s the classic interruption, or there’s a phone call. That’s the classic interruption. Now we have much worse energy sinks. We have technology, we have instant messaging, we have texting, we have constant interruptions and, if that’s not enough, then we’ll go to our cellphones ourselves.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: The time managers say the reason that checking mail is bad is that you’re gonna be gone for a long time and the reason that you’re gone for a long time, the energy managers would say, is that what happens is that that email or that peek into the computer is seductive. There are other things in there that are going to draw your energy away. Yes, your time, yes… but mostly your energy and what’s going on today is people are trading energy, willingly, and missing the whole time component as well. So what would you say the average amount of time a millennial spends on a cellphone, in a day?

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: We’re talking three, four, five hours and then we don’t have any time. Well, the reason you don’t have any time is that your energy is going that way. And notice that, when you look in the cell phone, it’s not just a matter of time. The smartphone and the computer are playing with your energy levels. So here it is, it’s tax season, and ugh another form… but look! There’s a sale on Amazon.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: and what they’re doing is that is stealing the intellectual energy away from working on that tax form and pulling it into the sale on Amazon, which is much more tempting.

Peter: Much more seductive, as you say.

Greg: Much more seductive. If you talk to the people who designed this stuff, it’s not just a bid for your time. It’s a bid for your attention. It’s a big for your energy. We’re living in a society where… the good example that you gave is tax season. I have a wonderful CPA and I would gladly pay her what she charges me if it took her an hour to do my tax returns instead of however many hours it takes her. I’ll gladly pay her the same amount because I’m not paying for her time, I’m paying to get the tax return done. So, if she has energy-saving technology that will cut the amount of processing time in half, I don’t care. I’m happy to do it because I’m buying her intellectual energy. I’m not buying time. I don’t care how much time it takes to do a tax return. So the value that she adds is well worth. Now I know that a lot of people saying “value accounting value accounting” but I can tell you that my accountant has added thousands of dollars worth of value by making a five-minute chance comment. [laughs] She can add more value in five minutes than she can in five hours of doing my tax return. [laughs] And that really is the way this century is going. I mean, if you look at people who are making fabulous amounts of money, they’re making fabulous amounts of money because of the value that they’re adding. Not because of the time they’re spending. So the old model of we’re working on an assembly line… I mean, nobody works on assembly lines anymore, at least not many people. So if we don’t have that kind of job, why do we have that kind of mentality? Let’s look at where we add value. We had value with our energy.

Peter: I’m at a loss for words because that’s profound.

Greg: I don’t know about profound. It’s pretty obvious.

Peter: Well it is, but you put it in a completely different context that I think most people have ever heard. I’ll go back to the time management and all those steps. I don’t think it’s really helped me, but when I sit to think about when do I get the most done it’s when I control those energy suckers or, as you like to say, vampires. Vampires suck the energy away from you.

Greg: Right. Exactly. So we’re looking for the vampires and sinks that suck the energy away. We’re also looking at things that give you more energy. Earlier in my career, I was head of marketing for an investment bank and one of the things that happened while I was head of marketing was Schwab and eTrade and all these online brokers. So, before, you were paying a lot of money to get your broker to execute trade and now it’s like five bucks. So people thought oh wow, that’s the end of brokers. We don’t need any brokers anymore because we can execute a trade in five minutes for five bucks. What do we need a broker for? And the answer is that Schwab and eTrade may have disintermediated a lot of pretty poor brokers… but good brokers? No, that’s somebody who is a friend. He or she understands me, they know what I’m doing, they give me good advice. I don’t mind paying more to do a trade. In fact, I’m happy to. In fact, where most brokers went, where most investment banks have gone, is saying you’ve got X number of dollars were gonna charge one percent a year to manage your money. People do that gladly and that turns out to be much more money than they were paying on a per trade basis. What they did is they shifted the the price to value. Instead of having the price be something people didn’t value. Who cares how long it takes a broker to do a trade? Five minutes? You know I can be there for five minutes, he can be there for five minutes, but where he adds value is in the interaction and he adds value on a number of different levels, but mostly in terms of intellectual energy. I’m working on something and I can’t figure out how to do it. For example, I just sent a note to my accountant. I sent her a quick note, she sent me a quick response. She saved me thousands of dollars. Took her, I don’t know, five minutes. She’s gonna bill me for 5 minutes, or whatever it took her

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: and that’s silly because she added way more value. This is what I’m always telling her but, you know, that the tradition in the industry is to go by the hour. The truth is that a lot of people are getting into an argument over time. Fighting about hours and time and how long did it take you to do this and why’d it take you so long, and that’s not even the point.

Peter: Well put. I mean, I’ve been on a kick that this whole charging a client by the hour is arcane and we need to move to something of a value billing. This is what I’m going to do, this is the scope of the work that we’re going to agree upon, and this is the price we can agree upon, and I’m not gonna charge you for calling me. I’m not gonna nickel and dime you through the whole process. As long as we come to this agreement and anything outside of this then will be a separate separate agreement. I know our friend Jodie Padar of Chicago, she moved long ago into that role, but there’s still some firms out there that still do it like the lawyers do it. You keep telling me you want to add value and the value in in the product that you provide. Like you said, you can get done five minutes or it may take you five days. What’s the difference?

Greg: Yeah, I think it’s good point. I mean you’re much better, and there are lots of people who I’m sure are online listening who are much better, at discussing the merits of a value building. That’s really not what my book is about. I’m not even a CPA. But, for example, Peter, you and I do public speaking gigs and so on and so forth. I understand why you and I don’t get the same amount of money for doing a luncheon speech as Malcolm Gladwell does.

Peter: I agree with you a 100% percent.

Greg: [laughs] because he gets 50 grand!

Peter: Yeah

Greg: So that’s a pretty good hourly rate [laughs]

Peter: Yes that is. I don’t mind that hourly rate. I think I think BLI needs to be booking us at that same price.

Greg: Exactly. But part of the question that you asked earlier, and it’s a question that is going to be on a lot of people’s minds, is okay right now I’m facing tax season. How do I get through this like an energy manager as opposed getting through this like a time manager? My hat goes off to to tax accountants because I think they’re some of the toughest people on earth. When you say to me, “Greg, I don’t know you could ride across the country in 18 days,” I say I don’t know how people get through tax season. That’s, I think, a lot rougher. So my hat comes off to all those who are facing tax season right after the holidays. But part of it is to understand that all hours are not created equal. There are times when you’re able to get a lot of work done and add a lot of value for clients and there are times when you’re not, and a couple of things just, quickly, and one of them is the value of sleep. And of course this makes a big impression on most of the people I talk. They say “What can I do to get more physical energy?” and I say there’s only two things that I suggest. I don’t go for crazy diets, I don’t go for you know Red Bull and Starbucks double espressos and all that. Just get good sleep and drink a fair amount of water. People say “That’s it? That’s it?” The average American sleeps a little more than six hours a night, which is an hour less than 50 years ago, which already was an hour less than a hundred years ago. So what we’re doing is we’re pushing back against the DNA that says you ought to go to bed when the Sun Goes Down, which is human DNA. We’re pushing back against thousands of years of evolution and we think we can do that for free, and the answer is you can’t. I used to think I was a night person.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: But I find that I’m much more efficient in the morning after a good night’s sleep. I get a lot more done than I can grinding away at eleven, twelve o’clock. So part of it is, if I was going to talk to people going into tax season, I would say notice your energy flows. When are you really good? When are you really strong? And I’m gonna argue an extra half an hour sleep is going to pay big dividends the next day. Often, because we’re so focused on time, and I am too because I was a product of the same educational system you were, we’re so focused on time that we think doing this is gonna waste time. Alright. If you’re doing something that recharges your battery, like sleep or anything else that’s enjoyable, you find when you come back that you’re much stronger, much more effective and you can get stuff done that otherwise would take a longer amount of time. Again, since clients just want you to get the return done, I would argue you shouldn’t get points for taking extra long to do the return. You should get points for getting it done effectively and efficiently and with as high a quality as possible. And I know that’s what people want to do and so, looking forward to the tax season, notice there are some times a day that you are more effective than others. None of us are you know at 100% peak all day long. None of us. None of us. So what I want to do is I want to schedule the most intellectually challenging stuff during the times when I’m at my peak. You know, intellectually, and if you look at over the course of the day most people are really good first thing in the morning, and you know most people, first thing in the morning, want to check email, which is a low-energy activity! So, if you’ve got a bunch of stuff to do, take it on first thing in the morning and park the email for a while. Then ,when it comes time for a coffee break, make it a texting break and an email break too, because that doesn’t take any energy at all. Many people are actually very good right before lunch because you’re trying to get stuff out of the way before you go to lunch and not so good after lunch, which is food coma time. If you have a business meeting with a client, it’s probably smarter to meet them at eleven-thirty, talk first, get that all out of the way, then have lunch, rather than trying to deal with a client in the afternoon when you’re both in a food coma. So understanding what are the good times the day, what are the most effective times of the day, and scheduling your work around when you’re most effective, as opposed to the time management type of thing where you just kind of throw the dice. I did spend some time working for an accounting for. I worked for Price Waterhouse for a while, before it was pricewaterhousecoopers. A long time ago.

Peter: So we’re alumni. I worked for Price Waterhouse before it was Coopers too, so we do go back a while.

Greg: Yeah except I was I was a marketing guy, I wasn’t a CPA. And you know, I walk in the door and the first thing they did was hand me a Franklin planner.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: And I soon realized that it took more energy to use the Franklin planner than to do the work that I was planning.

Peter: [Still laughing]

Greg: Don’t get me wrong. The Franklin Planner is a great tool and it’s great for scheduling meetings and other activities, but what a lot of people say is “well, what I do is I schedule my activities, I prioritize them, I rank them,” and if you can do that, if you have to discipline to do that by all means do that, but that takes intellectual energy. I just write stuff down. I just make lists and write stuff down because I don’t want to think about it. That takes intellectual energy, but I’ve got the point where I make lists just like time managers say but I don’t go through and prioritize and everything else consciously because I think that also takes energy and I find that I don’t have the energy to do that.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: And notice different times day different things on the list are more attractive. Like writing thank you notes might be much more attractive when you’re having kind of low-energy than tackling the next chapter of your book because that you’re going to need some high energy for.

Peter: I tell audiences that, at the end of your day, you sit down and you plan out your next day. But every time I come in the next day the fires will be going to different directions. Whatever I had planned out was actually useless because other things came up that it’s like I wasted all that energy the day before trying to prioritize my day in the future, when just making lists and saying okay I’ll take care of this tomorrow and then coming and going I need to do that because I got this fire over here and I’ve got that fire going with this client here. Yeah, I make lots of lists. I mean I’ve got lists everywhere and, as you were talking about prioritizing your day or doing the most intellectual things when you’re at your peak, so basically I should be writing because I have my best energy in the morning. So I should be doing all my writing in the morning and all the other stuff in the afternoon. However, I’ve got that flip-flopped because I’m all the energy suckers – the emails and booking flights and hotel rooms and stuff – and then by the time the afternoon comes I don’t want to write. I don’t have that energy level.

Greg: Yeah yeah yeah yeah that’s that’s exactly it. You put your finger exactly on it. It’s the type of thing where it’s not bad to plan your day – there’s nothing wrong with that. So the discipline of being able to do that is is great but I remember going to my boss and he said “Well, I’ve got 175 things to do, Greg, and you are number 86.”

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: How long did it take you to do that? Haha, how much energy did that take? And how did you decide I was 86 and not 97 or 84? So part of it is that those disciplines are not necessarily bad and it also depends what kind of what kind of work you’re doing, and also your personality. I mean some people are better at this than others but what you just described, for example, is the the life of an early chronotype. Early chronotypes are better in the morning than they are in the afternoon. Most people tend to be better in the morning. Most people, most groups, tend to be better in the morning than in the afternoon and it’s why, in many countries, they just sort of knock off and go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, which is not a bad strategy. There’s been formal studies that show that a 15 to 20-minute nap will improve productivity thirty percent. When I was in graduate school, my professor had worked for Lyndon Johnson and he said that what Johnson would do is get out of bed at five, six o’clock in the morning, work into the afternoon, take an hour nap, get up and then work for several more hours. Essentially, almost two days in one all built around that recharge in the middle of the afternoon. People are not exactly sure why that is the case but it seems to be almost universal that we’re going to have a low-energy ebb in the middle of the afternoon. It’s actually kind of interesting, too, because those of us who have ridden a bicycle for 24 hours a day, which I’ve done many times, there’s also a low-energy ebb in in the wee hours of the morning, like three or four o’clock in the morning, just to let you know, and it’s almost biblical.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: You read the Bible they talk about how dark it is to watch before dawn and how difficult that is, and it seems that there’s sort of a cycle (no pun intended) where those hours, 3 o’clock to three or four o’clock, tend to be a little low and that’s why, for a lot of people, it make sense to take a nap. Now I’m not much of a napper myself but then that often will recharge the batteries, or at least do something that doesn’t require a lot of intellectual juice.

Peter: I was going to ask you about that, about a power nap. There’s a firm in the Baltimore area where I was doing a presentation and I walked back and I noticed the the nameplate on the door said relaxation room.

Greg: Mhm.

Peter: I went [dog sound]. The heck is a… what? I opened the door it was a la-z-boy recliner and some water going in the background and I asked about it. They said yeah, if you need to go take a 15-20 minute power nap, go in the room, close the door and you can do that. And I went wow that’s kind of revolutionary and my wife has aunt who still live in Athens, Greece, and that afternoon nap they swear by it. But they are are also eating dinner at ten o’clock at night. That means the day kind of shifts out when you take that siesta. I guess you still have that energy, they work until maybe seven or eight and then they have dinner and they’re up until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a weird cycle but they swear by taking that nap. Even if you can’t fall asleep, even if you just rest your mind, because my other question to you is we all have very busy lives, we all got a lot of stuff going on, and sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep when I’ve got too much going through my head and I’m thinking about stuff. How do you stop that? Outside of drinking yourself to sleep.

Greg: [laughs] I don’t recommend that.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: I actually don’t recommend it for a couple reasons because, as you know, and people who do that will tell you, that gets you to sleep but then in the middle of the night you wake up. Often there’s that kind of alcohol balance. Again, I’m not a physician, but there is a sort of phenomenon where, if you do that, you don’t sleep all that well all that long. But part of it is it is a discipline, but it’s not much of a discipline. But if I’ve had a busy day, when I’m going to go to bed, I try to come up with something that is not particularly intellectually challenging. That’s the time of day to watch the YouTube video. That’s the time of day to read a book or something that doesn’t take a lot of juice. The danger is, of course, a lot of people say “well I’ll just check Facebook.” Well, what happens is A) you’re going to see something on there that’s gonna give you a shot of energy, either positive or negative, and that’s gonna get you cranked, and then you’re into the night. And I mean there are lots and lots of people awake in the middle of the night and they check email. And boy I’ll tell you: what that does is it just sucks you into the machine for 30-45 minutes. It charges you up even more so it’s worthwhile having a little discipline about what you’re putting into your head just before you go to bed. Now part of it also is, as a writer and I know you are too, often times I will tell myself that I really need to work out how I’m going to say something and I can’t quite get there so I’m gonna just sleep on it.

Peter: Yeah.

Greg: And I’ll wake up in the morning with the answer. So the brain scientists tell us that the mind is it working on stuff all night long and so part of what I do an energy manager is I let my brain do a little bit of work for me when I’m asleep because that thing that I’m struggling to do at eleven o’clock at night – boy, if I if I just park it at ten, do something mindless that lets me go to sleep, then I’ll wake up in the morning with the answer and there’s solid brain science behind that. The story that I think is fascinating is they’ve done research with rats where they take the rat and they run it through the maze and the rat runs the maze, and then of course because it’s a rat they have these electrodes in his brain and they can see what maze behavior looks like in a rat’s brain on a functional MRI and what they discovered is, when the rat goes to sleep, it actually replays the maze over and over and over again in its head, hundreds of times, while it’s asleep and the next morning it knows how to do the maze. But, if you wake up the rat every time that pattern hits the head. You know, the equivalent of an all-nighter at tax season. When the rat tries to do the maze the next morning you can’t do. It hasn’t learned the maze. So a lot of the learning and a lot of the stuff that’s been enormously powerful to be smarter and better at our job comes out of sleep. The scariest stuff is they’ve discovered that a lot of the cleaning out of the waste products that the brain generates over the course of the day – doing tax returns – gets cleaned out while you sleep. So if you don’t sleep, you don’t clean that stuff out, which is why you’re so fuzzy after an all-nighter. You literally have not cleaned the waste products out of your brain and that only occurs while you sleep. The long-term scary thing is that lack of sleep, lack of clearing out those waste products, seems to be related in some way, shape or form to Alzheimer’s. So we want to know why are so many people getting Alzheimer’s, and we’re sleeping two hours less than we used to. I wonder if there’s any connection. So part of it is the main advice for tax season is, I know it seems weird, but if you get more sleep you get more done, and much more effectively. And this is from a guy who races bikes 200 or more miles a day and when you’re doing that, especially over several days, main thing you need is you need to get sleep and if you don’t get sleep then you’re not nearly as effective. I mean one time I was working to qualify for Race Across America, which is the equivalent of a marathon or qualifying for boston, and in order to do that you had to be able to ride 500 miles in two days.

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: And so when I was doing that I had lots of friends saying Greg don’t sleep, you won’t have time to sleep, don’t sleep. You have to ride 250 miles a day, on average, I said that’s not gonna happen. I’m going to sleep. Now do I sleep eight hours? No, I mean it’s a race, but right in the middle of the race I’d stop, check in to a hotel, take a shower, go to bed, get a real real three four five hours worth of sleep and then race again. And, you know, even though I was an old fart I was still able to do 500 miles in 40 hours and a lot of guys who decided not to sleep didn’t make it because they absolutely just ran out of juice on the bike. So even on the long road you can learn stuff that you can use during tax season or during your day job.

Peter: Okay, so how long does it take to ride 150 miles a day? How many hours is that?

Greg: Well it depends on the terrain, how hot it is. To ride 150 miles in the mountains? You know, that’s going to take you 15 hours or so. To ride 150 miles across Kansas? Ten, maybe less. With a tail wind?

Peter: [laughs]

Greg: You’re asking the right question in the right way. It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of energy. Over that 100 miles, 150 miles, 200 miles, how are you going to spend your energy? What I like to say is that life imitates long-distance bike riding because know every morning you got to get up and do life and you have to make decisions about how hard you’re going to work, when you’re going to work, how much we’re going to eat, how much more sleep, who you’re gonna ride with and how you’re going to think and what jobs you’re going to do and so on. So you look at the ride you say is it desert? Mountains? Plains? Is the wind blowing? Is it raining? And those are the same things that you face everyday. Your point that you made earlier is a good one. How long does it take you to get something done? Well, in a day with no interruptions and no fire drills and no crises? Okay, I can get this all done in the morning. In a day with a lot else going on? Maybe a little longer. But then you’re watching where my energy flow is going. When I do a ride, I look at the profile of the ride. Where are the mountains? Is this gonna be all uphill for 75 miles and then all downhill for the rest? Well, hey, I know how to behave and I know what to do with my energy. I know when the demand is going to be and that at the end of the first 75 miles I’m gonna be pretty tired, but I know that the next 75 is downhill so I’m not worried about being tired halfway through. I’m not ready to quit because I know the terrain and I know the kind of demand and I’ve done this before. And same thing: people have gone through tax season many times before, so the question is how am I going to make it different this time through? How will I make it so that I’m really thinking about my energy and not just my time? I mean I’ve been in firms where managing partner stands up before tax season and says all right now just allow 60 hours a week. It’s just going to be 60 hours a week. How do you know? I mean. if I was on his staff doing returns I would have to be working 100 hours to get done what a good CPA can do in 30. So how do you decide that? And I think a lot of people go on into tax season just assuming it’s gonna take what it’s going to take because it will if you do it the way you’ve always done it, but maybe it’ll be different.

Peter: Wow, yeah. I really have enjoyed this conversation because it’s got me thinking about how I need to restructure my day. Obviously, for me, I’ve got a few gigs in January then my business tails off and that’s the time that I work on new programs. I’m going to start a new book. I’ve got I got a lot of different writing to do and I will get up and I will tackle that stuff first thing in the morning and just concentrate on that that until like 11-11:30, then worry about everything else in the other part of the day because that’s what I’m at my peak energy and being able to see that landscape out there and adjust to it… yeah. For those of you who are listening to this, put it to work! Put Greg’s words to work and share this podcast with anybody who you see needs a little extra boost in energy because I think these are these are real strong suggestions and it starts with sleep. When my wife listens to this episode she’s going to say, “Pete, you tell me all the time that sleep’s overrated. You can sleep when you’re dead.” Yeah, I’m gonna be eating serious crow now. Greg, I can’t thank you enough for taking time. Just so everybody knows, he is dressed right now in his cycling attire: bright, bright orange with some bright blue going through it. How many miles you ride today Greg? I don’t know. It’s gonna be a pretty nice day. It’s going to be in the 40s. Probably 30-40. You know, just to keep the legs loose.

Peter: [laughs] Just to keep the legs loose… wow. Greg, thank you so very much for taking time out of your day and sharing this wonderful knowledge with with my audience. It’s gonna make a huge impact on their productivity, it’s going to make a huge impact on my productivity and I look forward to a future conversation with you my friend.

Greg: Great, we have a lot to talk about. Talk to you soon.

Production & Development for Improv Is No Joke by Podcast Masters