It’s a popular refrain that you can’t manage time. And honestly, it’s true. We all get the same 24 hours in a day, but getting the most out of our time is the cornerstone of the productivity movement, and rightfully so. Working smarter is how we make progress in all the areas of our lives that need focus, but the best way to get things done is to increase work capacity. By managing our energy along with our time, we can get more done in less time with greater engagement and an increased ability to repeat our efforts day after day and week after week.
Time is a finite resource, but energy can be increased. For each of us as individuals, there are activities that drain energy and activities that create energy. The trick is to identify which activities fall into each bucket, shift perspective on the energy draining activities and set boundaries so each day includes activities that create energy.
Energy comes in four primary forms: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. Taking inventory of your daily and weekly tasks that drain energy in any of these categories is a great way to raise awareness of what may be bringing down your focus and effectiveness. Grab a piece of paper and let’s get started listing them out.
Start by focusing on the work week. Write out the Monday through Friday activities, and include work and personal activities. Think about recurring meetings, reports, project work, email, kids’ activities, homework, etc.
Once you’ve filled out the work week, add in the weekends. Your list of “drainers” is likely to be a bit shorter, but make sure you list everything.
Now for the fun part, with the energy draining list complete, turn to the activities that give you energy. Some of these probably popped into your head while you were thinking of the draining activities, but here’s your chance to really focus on them with one caveat. Make sure to list things you actual do regularly. We’ll address activities you want to add later.
We all have energy drainers. Paradoxically, they are also often the activities that we tend to throw hours at. We dread them, so we allow ourselves to get distracted while doing them. We want to escape and before long, it’s an hour staring at the screen, a trip to the water cooler, an extra long hallway chat, a foray into cleaning up email or a peek at social media. Hours pass and the real productive work is still incomplete. The next thing you know you’re stuck working late or you get home to the family, but you’re not really present and connecting with them because work is still on your mind and calling you to your smartphone.
Two strategies to avoid the time and energy drain of these activities are to
- Schedule them for the part of the day where you have or can create more energy
- Cultivate a curiosity about them that casts them in a different light
Let’s say there’s a regular meeting that is one of your energy drainers. Can you schedule an energy building activity before or after the meeting? A short walk? A minute to stretch and take some deep breaths?
Spend some time being curious about how to change the energy you bring to the meeting and what you take away from it. Maybe you decide that your goal for each meeting is to listen for and learn two things that you can use in your own work, something you can implement immediately or something you can research further that would improve your team’s results. Cultivating this curiosity about what you can learn and use in your work will change how you show up in the meeting and may even move it off the energy drainers list in time.
There are long-term costs of long hours without adequate time dedicated to resetting. After getting a hold on the time drainers and understanding the activities in your week that give you energy, it’s critical to make sure you have strategies for increasing each of the four areas of energy, particularly physical and emotional because they can be catalysts for increasing mental and spiritual energy.
Set non-negotiable time blocks for energy creating activities. Was your inventory list too short? If so, add more. Here are some ideas:
- Start your day with mind-body practices – meditate or practice Daily Mind Gym, exercise, fuel your cells with nutrition
- Schedule singular-focus time blocks – no texts, emails, calls or instant messages
- Take breaks – play a power song, repeat an affirmation or even yawn to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest)
- Prioritize sleep – TV, drinks, and extra work can wait
Armed with your lists and these strategies, you’ll be ready to be your best at work and at home. Take action now so you can be focused, engaged and energized in all you do.
Not sure where to start with daily mind-body practices to set everything in motion? Sign up to for my Daily Mind Gym course. You’ll receive less than 10 minute practices you can do to start your day off rested and energized.
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