Want to be more productive?
Manage your energy, not your time.
You probably can tell me how long you work on average each day, but can you tell me how much energy you have available to use each day? It’s a lot harder to measure than time.
Time might be a constant, but your available energy isn’t.
I have come to realize the secret to personal freedom is accepting yourself and aligning your personal energy needs with the purpose of your work.
It isn’t necessarily about making more money or working for yourself (although those do help).
The more and more I have learned how to manage my energy, the more my anxiety has decreased and the more my satisfaction with my life has increased. I just feel happier and calmer.
My personal productivity has also increased the more and more I focus on the management of my energy instead of managing my time.
You know what else I discovered (or finally admitted to myself)? I have less energy than I have time every day!
That thought blew my mind and transformed how I worked! You really only have 3 to 4 hours a day when you are highly energized and sharply focused to create your best work. That’s it.
The trick isn’t how to extend that period of high energy, but how to make the best use of it.
Your life is the sum of your thoughts. Your thoughts guide your habits. Your habits create the lifestyle you are living. Your available energy is the fuel for your habit development.
The quality and availability of your energy have more influence over the development of your habits than the thoughts that guide their development.
Here are some reasons to seriously think about why you might want to manage your energy and not your time.
#1 Your energy is not a constant like time.
Your energy is the fuel that propels you through time, but it is inconsistent.
Our energy levels go up and down throughout the day (in approximately 90-minute cycles called ultradian rhythms).
There are several factors influencing our available energy:
- How much sleep
- What we eat
- How often we take breaks
- Who we spend time with
- What we are thinking about
- How we move (or don’t move)
- Our emotions
- Our purpose (or lack of one)
Those fluctuating energy levels influence how much time we use to get something done.
When you are more energized and focused, you probably perform a task more quickly and with fewer mistakes than when you are feeling tired.
Imagine driving a car. As you drive, your car uses more gas as it climbs big hills and less gas as it coasts downhill. That’s what our available energy is like every day: it’s constantly going up and down.
Instead of using the principles of time management to organize your entire day, imagine organizing your tasks by your level of energy.
Start becoming aware of your “peak performance periods,” when you have the maximum energy to do your best work. Try only using those periods for your most important work.
#2 Your purpose is the core of your energy.
You might believe you have all the time in the world to work, but if you aren’t focused on what motivates you, you are wasting both your time and your energy.
The purpose of your work is the core of your personal energy. It compels you to take action. It replenishes and sustains the rest of your energy sources.
When you gain clarity about your “why” in your work or life, you will feel a boost of energy (I know I did!). Your “why” will also help sustain your momentum as you continue the long journey toward your purpose.
#3 Habits take a lot of energy, but can also save you time.
If you want to design your lifestyle around the work you’ve always wanted to do, you are going to need to change some of your habits.
Habits are the foundation of lifestyle design.
Habits initially take a lot of energy to develop because you have to consciously think about developing them. Focused thought requires a lot of energy.
Once a habit is established, however, it will save you a lot of energy and time because those particular routines will now be automatic, not requiring any thought.
Evolutionary biologists believe the brain conserves valuable energy through the creation of habits. Approximately 40% of the actions you take every day are habits and require no thought.
Time management is about cranking through a “to do list” as fast as you can.
Energy management is about developing a core set of habits around your most important work.
Every wonder why “to-do lists” can be so exhausting? It’s because each task becomes a decision, requiring energy. Habits have the potential to drastically reduce your “to-do list” and save your energy by turning common work tasks into habits.
#4 Make fewer decisions.
In the 9-to-5 lifestyle, our status is enhanced the more responsibility we acquire. The more responsibility we have, the more decisions we have to make.
Yet this increase in status comes with a hidden cost. The more decisions we have to make, the more decision fatigue sets in and saps our energy.
Decisions eat up a lot of time and energy because our brain has to focus on making a new choice.
When you work for yourself, you must reduce the number of decisions you have to make in order to conserve your energy for your most important work.
Reduce decisions through elimination, automation, and delegation, so you can use your limited energy on your most important decisions.
#5 Monotask, don’t multitask.
There is plenty of research debunking the productivity effectiveness of multitasking. Trying to get a variety of tasks done in less time leads to mistakes, reduced quality, and wasted time to fix the mistakes that were made.
From an energy management perspective, a more productive method of working is “monotasking.” Monotasking means grouping related work tasks together. Examples include making phone calls, writing proposals, updating your website, creating marketing materials, etc.
Monotasking or working on one type of task at a time reduces the number of times your brain needs to switch between different connections, reducing the amount of energy required to get more work done.