Many recent articles are promoting the benefits of energy management over and above time management.
After all, as they rightly say, even if your diary is properly prioritised and organised if you’re exhausted and don’t have the energy to do the work then it’s pointless.
Our view is that there is some truth to their point but they’re creating a false either-or choice.
We see the planning for and prioritisation of activities that build or help to maintain your energy as an integral part of your time management process.
In this article, we want to take a look at some ideas for how best to manage your energy and how that might be fed into your time management thinking.
1. Organise Your Schedule To Match Your Energy Levels
If you’re a morning person you know that your time of highest energy and best focus is probably before 11am.
If you’re an evening person your time of highest energy will probably be much later in the day.
Focus on organising your most important activities for the time in the day when you are at your best.
Few of us have complete control over our schedules. However, most of us have some autonomy over our schedule, and so can work to protect some of this most productive time for focusing on our most important tasks, rather than wasting it on less important tasks.
2. Turn Off Your Phone Where Possible
Mindless use of mobile phones will sap your energy quickly. Phones are great but they’re designed to be addictive and so you need to be disciplined and thoughtful about your phone use.
For example, quickly checking your work email in the evening will increase your stress and reduce the value of your downtime without creating any valuable output. Where possible avoid this. Opening emails without actioning the emails you read is wasted time.
Try to use your phone as you would any other tool. Something you pick up and use to achieve a specific outcome and then, crucially, put down / put away once the task is finished.
3. Plan And Take Proper Breaks
Energy and time are both finite resources. When you work hard you tire yourself out.
Not matter how much you might wish to be able to work 12 hours straight you can’t.
You can sit at a desk working for that long but you can’t produce high-quality work without breaks. Your brain simply isn’t designed to do that.
You need to plan and take proper breaks. This will ensure that you are always working with high intensity and producing high-quality work.
It is far better to work in a very focused way for 8 hours than it is to slog for 12 hours straight with ever-decreasing energy and focus. This is especially true if you are focusing on important tasks that require your highest quality creative input.
The research on breaks varies but seems to show that a 15-minute break away from your computer is the minimum needed to give you brain time to recover.
4. Reward Yourself
If you’re working on a long project and feel like you’ve been working hard for months with no visible output it is easy to lose motivation.
Conversely, there are few things more motivating and energising than hitting goals and targets.
This is why you need to take time to review the progress that you are making and reward yourself.
Many people don’t take 15 minutes at the end of each week to review what they’ve achieved. This means that work becomes one long undifferentiated slog.
Take 15 minutes to review your week and remind yourself of the progress that you’ve made. Where something has gone particularly well reward yourself with a small reward.
The feeling of progress and the virtuous cycle of progress and reward that you set up will help to maintain your energy and enthusiasm. This is especially true when working on a large project.
A weekly review can also be a very useful part of understanding how you are spending your time currently which is another crucial piece of time management.
As we said at the start we believe that energy management and time management are intrinsically linked.
Learning to manage your energy is part of learning to manage your time.
Medium: How to better manage your energy
Harvard Business Review: Why you should tell your team to take a break and go outside