Manage your Energy to maximise your daily productivity
You hear it all the time: time management is key to being productive in business.
On the surface of it, it seems like it makes sense. But here’s the thing: time is a finite resource. No matter how well you manage it, eventually, you run out.
Energy, on the other hand, is renewable; regardless of how much you use, there’s always more to be had, as long as you take the time to recharge along the way.
For most of us, our day-to-day and even our hour-by-hour energy levels vary wildly. Some days, you wake up in the morning amped and ready to take on the world, other days, not so much. And even on those go-get-’em days, three-o’clock-itis can still strike and leave you flagging and feeling like a nap.
Humans are part of the natural world, and like the rest of that world, we’re cyclical creatures. Our capacity fluctuates throughout the day; we have high-energy times, and low-energy ones too.
Looking at it in that light, wouldn’t it make more sense to build our workdays around the concept of energy management, rather than time management? If we could work during our high-energy “on” times and recharge during our low-energy “off” times, wouldn’t that make for better results and be so much better for our overall health?
The answer is yes. Research done at the USC Center for Effective Organizations shows that holistic energy management hugely improves productivity; happy, well-rested employees achieve more, and everybody wins.
So how do you manage your energy?
The first thing you need to gain awareness of is how you work. Are you a high-energy person, a low-energy person, or does your energy fluctuate throughout the day? Each style has its own unique advantages and its own pitfalls, so it’s important to make sure you understand your personal approach and fit your workday strategy around it.
If you’re not sure exactly what your working style is, you can keep a diary for a week to track your hourly energy levels. Set an alarm and note down the time, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling and what might have affected your energy levels in the past hour.
Once you know what your working style is, you can start tailoring your workday to better suit you.
If you’re a high-energy person, your most likely pitfall is overworking, so the key to managing your energy is to build in regular breaks throughout the day and set a maximum achievement goal. Set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to take a break every 90-120 minutes and when it goes off, step away and do something completely unrelated to work.
Fill your break times with cup-filling activities: read a book, take a walk, chat with a friend, dance, or sit in the sun. Whatever brings you joy! Alternate short breaks (ten minutes) with longer ones (half an hour to an hour) so you recharge properly, and when you reach your maximum achievement target for the day, stop. It’s time to slow down and rest properly.
Don’t forget to build in rest time during your personal time, too: high-energy people are prone to over scheduling their personal time with back-to-back hobbies and appointments. Allow yourself the time to just be!
For a person who generally has low energy levels, the key is to set a minimum achievement target for the day. Focus on achieving this target before allowing yourself to take a longer break.
When you feel like all you want to do is curl up under your desk and sleep for a week, the absolute worst thing you can do is force yourself to work through it. You’ll take three times as long to deliver work that’s half as good as what you’re capable of. Take a longer break at those times instead; leave the office and recharge properly, doing something that fills your cup.
You don’t have to be a slave to your low energy levels, of course; you can take stock of your sleep, nutrition, water intake, alcohol intake and so on, and tweak wherever you think there is room for improvement. But while your energy is low, it’s important to work with your energy levels, not against them; push yourself during your highs and rest during your lows.
Many of us have energy levels that fluctuate throughout the day. If this is you, the best strategy is to plan your high-focus work for your high-drive times. If you’re someone who has lots of energy in the morning, that’s the time to put your phone on Do Not Disturb (or hide it in a drawer, like I do) and knuckle down to get your most challenging work out of the way.
When focus is hard to come by, that’s the time to get your email and other low-pressure activities out of the way.
No matter what your energy peaks and troughs look like throughout the day, it’s important to disconnect from work completely every 90-120 minutes to reset and recharge. There’s only one of you and you’re no good to anyone burnt out and miserable, so make finding balance in your life a priority.
When all is said and done, life is too short to spend it feeling stressed and exhausted. And a happy you is a more productive you.
So, what can you do to enjoy your life a little more?