To-do lists are fine, and setting time limits for tasks at work is a good idea. But what if you’ve been approaching the whole productivity boost business the wrong way? Never mind time management. How about energy management?
This isn’t the next big buzzword trick from business psychology and human resource management labs. It’s simply pointing out that you can do better than just chasing down deadlines and getting stressed and tired in the process. If you perpetually divide your attention between your tasks and the clock that times it, you’ll eventually get worn out.
However, if you’re careful about harnessing your energies and deploying them to tasks as priority dictates, you’ll find that you’re able to produce quality and do so consistently.
Unless time management strategies incorporate steps that help workers stay energized, they will fail to raise productivity in the medium to long term.
What it means to manage energy
The reference to energy here encompasses a whole range of potential human strengths: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. They are considered finite resources because they’re a vital part of the productive process, and can be depleted and replenished. Its their finite nature that makes managing them a meaningful thing to do.
The approach taken to energy management depends on the type of energy being conserved, and the unique characteristics of the people who want to manage their energy. Some people may begin the day full of zeal and determination, and then descend the slope as the hours pass. Others may start off not feeling pumped up at all, but then build up to energetic highs as they progress. Harnessing your emotional energy may require you to cut out negativity and other energy draining thought patterns. Intellectual strength is also built by learning things from books, professional courses, seminars, etc.
The goal of managing energy is to have enough of it to enable consistently high performance, while ensuring that well being isn’t sacrificed as a result.
How to manage your energies for work
Here are a few ways to keep yourself in top shape for maximum productivity.
Know what saps your energy, and what replenishes it
Somethings are universal energy drainers. Activities that demand high intensity focus and physical exertions will squeeze all the energy out of anybody if they’re engaged in long enough. Some other things are energizing for some and enthusiasm killers for others. Extroverts get ‘the buzz’ when they’re in very public, loud situations, but introverts may feel hollow and dizzy in those instances. On the other hand, introverts often come alive as they take long walks alone or binge on books in self-imposed solitary confinement; extroverts could get ‘the blues’ if they go without chit-chat for a long while.
Identifying your energy loss triggers could help you plan your activities and save yourself useful energy. You don’t have to jump into things that’ll steal the energy you should put into several other equally important tasks. Make time for engagements that will help you regain your mental strength. Set time aside for rest too.
This is a productivity hack. You’ll get more done if you put your energies into the most important tasks first. This makes sense for many reasons. First, you’ll be achieving things that are most crucial to the growth of your business. You will also avoid piling urgent work for later and setting yourself up for a stressful race to the deadline.
Plan work and recovery routines
The time factor rears its head here, but not in the unrealistic way that it does in badly prepared to-do lists.
A widely circulated work routine advice is that you pace your work to accommodate recovery times. For example, you could devote twenty minutes of laser sharp, uninterrupted attention to the task you’re dealing with, then take a five minute break to refill your energy tank. A ‘refill’ in this sense could mean chatting with coworkers or taking a walk. This approach to work tends to produce consistent quality output.
After you’re done with the day’s or week’s work (or a project that’s taken you a long time to complete), you can also treat yourself to pre-planned activities or rest that’ll help you regain your energy. Apart from the different preferences for recreational activity that people might have (like those of the extroverts and introverts alluded to previously), spending time with family and friends is a good way to unwind and reset your physical and psychological power systems. Create time to delve into your passion and indulge your curiosity and creativity. This has a way of invoking those inner juices that fire you up.
Many people get burnt out because they’re trying to be something or someone they aren’t cut out to be. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. While its important for us to strive to be better at what we do, we should always remember that being the best we can be is more healthy (and potentially more productive) than being the best there is. If you’re determined to do the best you possibly can, you’re more likely to find ways to be more productive without stressing yourself out. On the other hand, competing in a rat race with others could wear you out and cause you to operate below your actual potential – especially if your abilities in certain areas are inadequate in comparison to those of the people you’re competing against.
Handle your work in a disciplined and confident way. You’re will never be confident enough if you know that you’re not being authentic. Sustaining the false self image you might be putting up at work could be energy consuming. Why not just be you? You’ll be physically and emotionally better off.