If you had to pick one priority in your life, could you do it? That's an important question because focusing on the wrong priority would get you a bad result, and having multiple priorities isn't practical. For example, if health is your top priority, you might make choices that are good for your health and bad for your career, such as saying no to having a few drinks after work with your boss.

We humans want lots of things: good health, financial freedom, success in whatever matters to us, a great social life, love, sex, recreation, travel, family, career and more. The problem is that the time you spend maximizing one of those dimensions usually comes at the expense of time you could have spent on another. So how do you organize your time to get the best result?

The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main goal: energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities.

Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps. But it also means having something in my life that makes me excited to wake up.  When I get my personal energy right, the quality of my work is better, and I can complete it faster. That keeps my career on track. And when all of that is working, and I feel relaxed and energetic, my personal life is better too.

At this point in my post, I must invoke the Dog Whisperer analogy. The Dog Whisperer is a TV show in which dog expert Cesar Millan helps people get their seemingly insane dogs under control. Cesar's main trick involves training the humans to control their own emotional states because dogs can pick up crazy vibes from the owners. When the owners learn to control themselves, the dogs calm down too. I think this same method applies to humans interacting with other humans. You've seen for yourself that when a sad person enters a room, the mood in the room drops. And when you talk to a cheerful person who is full of energy, you automatically feel a boost. I'm suggesting that by becoming a person with good energy, you lift the people around you. That positive change will improve your social life, you love life, your family life, and your career.

When I talk about high energy, I don't mean the frenetic, caffeine-fueled, bounce-off-the-walls type. I'm talking about a calm, focused energy. To others, it will simply appear that you are in a good mood. And you will be.

Before I was a cartoonist, I worked in a number of energy-sucking corporate jobs, in energy-sucking cubicles. But I enjoyed going to work, partly because I exercised most evenings, and usually woke up feeling good, and partly because I always had one or two side projects going on that had the potential to set me free. Cartooning was just one of a dozen entrepreneurial ideas I tried out during my corporate days. For several years, the prospect of becoming a professional cartoonist, and leaving my cubicle behind, gave me an enormous amount of energy.

The main reason I blog is because it energizes me. I could rationalize my blogging by telling you it increases traffic on Dilbert.com by 10%, or that it keeps my mind sharp, or that I think the world is a better place when there are more ideas in it. But the main truth is that blogging charges me up. It gets me going. I don't need another reason.

As soon as I publish this post, I'll feel a boost of energy from the minor accomplishment of having written something that other people will read. Then I'll get a second cup of coffee and think happy thoughts about my tennis match that is scheduled for after lunch. With my energy cranked up to maximum, I'll wade into my main job of cartooning for the next four hours. And it will seem easy.

Manage your energy first.
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Feb 3, 2012
So what you're really saying is that you like what you do, and don't have any commitments that keep you from doing what you like to do. It's a nice life.
Feb 3, 2012
I'm just jealous you got to play tennis on a weekday afternoon...

in all seriousness, retaking up tennis 3 1/2 yrs ago is one of the best things I ever did! raises overall energy level which pays dividends everywhere else...
Feb 2, 2012
Very Oprah, Scott: Take care of yourself first. (I've never actually watched Oprah, but I'm told she shares your mantra - using different words.)

It's a bit like the airlines tell you: Put on your own oxygen mask first, then assist your child. One sign of an emotionally healthy person is someone who is able to make choices based on what makes them happy - instead of what other people claim they need. When I figured out that I had control over whether or not I spend time with !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ people, my life improved many times over.

I also figured out I don't have to spend my life doing soul-killing drudge work - and everyone in my family is actually better off as a result. Yes, I do sometimes get resentful looks from my kids as they trudge downstairs to do their own laundry or as they make their lunches while I read the paper in the morning. They have friends whose mothers are still vying for the June Cleaver award.

On the other hand, any one of my kids could plan, shop and pack food and supplies for ten days in the backcountry - on foot or in a kayak - without adult supervision. (That kind of planning stresses me out, so they had to figure it out on their own or suffer. They did some of the latter before mastering the former.) June Cleaver's offspring? Not so much. My kids have all turned into remarkably self-sufficient and self-motivated teenagers. I tell them, "My laziness is my gift to you. You are welcome."
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 2, 2012
thanks for this post scott.
Feb 2, 2012
Are there any cartoonists who have become successful despite a drinking problem? Sort of like the "Hemmingway of cartoonists"? That "Pearls Before Swine" guy has to be a huge drinker, right?
Feb 2, 2012
Scott, You're spot on.

And I say this as a person who had been suffering from some sort of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for some time.

Some time ago, I simply did not have the energy to do anything. I went about life in a daze. It took immense effort to even raise my arm to wave out to a friend I met on the street, to even hold a conversation with somebody or simply to smile. All I wanted to do was sleep all the time. I used to doze off at the office for a few hours in the afternoon. Entire Sundays were spent asleep. I started losing friends who thought I was intentionally insulting them in some way. And the worst part was that neither myself nor my doctors could understand what was happening. I was hospitalised a couple of times for high blood pressure, but the doctors could find nothing wrong with me. They simply put me on tablets to lower my blood pressure - which worked for some time but then the problem used to reoccur. I also used to keep on burping all the time. I was also diagnosed with type two diabetes around the same time.

Ultimately, by a stroke of luck, one night I took a capsule (which contained some digestive enzymes) to hopefully cure my indigestion. As if by a miracle, I was cured. I woke up next morning feeling a new man. The heaviness in my head had disappeared. I was bouncing on my feet with a energy I had not felt for years. I was smiling for the first time in years. In short, my entire personality changed simply because my energy levels increased as my digestion improved. I have a feeling that excess sugar was clogging up my intestines and taking the pill released the sugar, which gave me a 'sugar high' for a couple of days and then taking a pill every few days kept things in check by not allowing the sugar to accumulate.

I write this to emphasise that not only does a person feel better with more energy but increased energy can change a person's entire personality dramatically - effectively changing his entire life.
Feb 2, 2012
Wasn't it the *horse* whisperer?
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Feb 2, 2012

That's a funny insight into the working of your sense of humor.

1. You are able to regulate your emotional intelligence for engineering humor. I hope that is not a rule. That might confound some guys like me who prefer humor that is essentially instinctive or spontaneous.

2. You are admitting that managing your energy has a role in the quality of humor you generate. I don't think it is true. There is no humorist true to himself who can deny that he doesn't see a lighter side of everything.

Recall the consternation of the British psyche when P G Wodehouse, the legendary humorist, laughed off his brief tenure in a Nazi camp. I'm sure his 'energy' level could not have been too high on dog biscuits and unfiltered coffee, but the way he expressed himself on the radio show was outrageously hilarious.

I'm sure he was not measuring his 'energy' against the bruised ego of the British empire. I believe he was just being true to himself; and he spent the next 25 years in the US, away from his homeland, in order to preserve that part of himself.

As he had said, "There are two ways of writing humor. One is mine - a sort of musical comedy without music - the other is to go deep down into life and not care a damn." I think 'managing energy' or engineered attitudes are reserved for the latter.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2012
It is like - If a genie granted me one wish, I will ask for three more wishes.
Feb 1, 2012
Balance is key to everything. But Ofcoarse balance is easier said than done. I had a job at an engineering firm that required a hell, of alot of travel, and the occasional 90 hour work week. No time for anything. So talk about soul killing job...

Now I have time and some money. But I also have a hard time working with the time I have. I have no problem making time for my research... But making time for fun is tough, when you never had time for fun to begin with...

And finding people to have fun with is also tough too, considering No one understands me....

It's like i'm some 200 karat diamond, that nobody knows what to do with...

Eventually I'll figure it out...

And in regards to energy, I totally understand what you mean.

Most people think of the typical, earth, wind, hippie doofus who's to stoned to understand what their saying, when they hear people talk about energy.

What zen is; is physics... In english.

Not many people understand that.
Feb 1, 2012
Agreed on this. In fact, in many cases, I'd say that consistent "positive" energy is the most important factor to success (not that I'm as successful as you, but I'm working on it). But the key to THAT, as you say, is learning how to put yourself in a state where you can get that.
Feb 1, 2012
Hopefully that's what most people do. Do stuff that makes you motivated. :)
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Feb 1, 2012
You're welcome!
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2012
I usually comment to disagree but this post is spot on. A lack of energy can cloud your entire life. Whole armies of people have !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ jobs. To deal with it, compensation is sought. It often comes in the form of poor eating, caffeine, cigarettes, drinking or other habits that only decrease energy even further. This status quo is maintained as a survival tactic for years, if not decades.

If the same person would be full of energy (due to a better lifestyle), the work becomes easier, the social life improves, and if you'd still hate your work, you'd have the energy to plan an escape route.

The theory is spot on. The practice is hard.
+31 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2012
One of your best posts in awhile. Thanks for taking the time.
Feb 1, 2012
So, our comments are a form of caffeine to you? Glad to help you get your day going!!!
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