I am constantly looking to be more productive. I don’t know where to draw the line. I haven’t figured out what that threshold is for me to lean back and say that I have made enough progress for the day! No matter how hard I try to manage my time, some of it always tends to slip through my fingers. To keep my sanity intact, of late, I have ditched time management and actually started practicing energy management. In fact, I am beginning to think the best way to manage time, is to manage our energy.
It is 11 PM as I start writing this article. Most days, it is quite a task to keep my eyes open by this time in the night. On most days, I am drifting away to sleep wishing for more time to do some of the things that will now have to be crossed off of my list tomorrow. Today, however, has been a different story. I not only accomplished what I had set out to do but some more! There wasnt anything that I did differently when it came to managing my time but what was different is how judiciously I expend my energy.
I slept well.
I ate small meals and managed to do that on time!
I even exercised!
Our bodies are machines that constantly produce and use energy. Some of us get tired easily while others take longer. Different people hit peak performance at different times. For me, it is usually right after I get up from a nap. Unfortunately, the work that I do today, isn’t designed for me to be able to take naps every few hours and then come back to give my best.
More time doesn’t necessarily mean higher productivity levels if we are exhausted. I have tried getting up early in the morning and I have tried staying up late. The result was the same. I was tired and exhausted throughout the day and I barely got any work done. Lets just say I crawled through those days and somehow managed to tell the tale.
Productivity has more to do with the amount of rest we have than the number of hours we work. Being busy has become a proxy for being productive in the 21st century. I have caught myself being guilty of the same. At that moment, it feels like I am busy. But when I look back, I really have nothing to show for those ‘productive hours’. On any given day, we have more time to spend, than energy to dole out, which makes it vital for us to schedule our days around our peak performance times. Imagine the quality of work we can produce if we are only working when we have very high levels of energy and focus?
We only have 3–4 hours in a day where we are primed for peak performance and how we utilize those hours, determine how productive we are on that day. The most successful people in the world manage their energy and not time. Ask a marathon runner and they will tell you the key to winning a long distance race is managing your energy. Actors/performers often take naps in between shows. Athletes sleep on flights to be able to have enough energy to give their best.
Our personal energy is renewable which is why for the last couple of months, I have been on a journey to figure out what drains me versus what sustains me. I am trying to be mindful of ways to re-energize myself and integrate those into my day. Energy management for me is about developing a core set of habits around my most important work.
Here are five habits that I have recognized which are moving the needle for me in terms of higher productivity:
Taking a nap whenever I am sleepy regardless of the time during the day. Naps usually recharge me the most. It feels a lot like rebooting my computer! Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher were all big advocates of taking naps during the day.
Eating small meals. Heavy meals make me sleepy, sluggish and bloated while small meals usually have the opposite effect.
Eating a properly balanced meal. Incorporating superfoods and having a balanced diet also helps me restore my energy.
Watching Standup comedy. This is my favorite one because I love to laugh.
Exercising. Whenever I feel low and down, a session in the gym (no matter what type of workout it is) helps bring my energy levels back. It does sound counter-intuitive when you think about it but it is a proven fact. Just ask Google.
The Pareto principle is at work here as well. Twenty percent of our work is going to take up eighty percent of our time, which is why I am trying my best to stack my work around these habits. Time is finite but energy isn’t and life is a marathon that we are running. Therefore, it becomes critical to manage our energies so that we can do our best work possible in the short time that we are here on this planet. The easiest way to start down this path will be to figure out what sucks your energy. Make a list and then try to steer away from those activities. Alternatively, make a list of the activities that give you high energy and whenever you are feeling low, take a break and do one of those activities.
If we focus on managing our energy, the time will take care of itself. Energy management is not about being a morning or an evening person but more about self-discovery: knowing your peak hours from the non-peak hours and then planning your work/life accordingly. So try managing energy instead of time and I promise your time will end up managing itself!