Why should you manage your energy and not your time and how are they actually different? Really, the answer revolves around mindset and perspective.
Managing time and energy are both important, but there has been a large shift from the former to the latter. This is because traditional time management tips and techniques do not account for other factors and nuances like emotional stability or burnout.
So without further ado, learn why you should manage your energy, not your time, and how to do so effectively.
Problems with Time Management
The most common excuse for nearly every shortfall is, "there is just not enough time in the day." Most (probably all) of us have said this at one point or another.
But here is the thing: All of us possess the same amount of 'time' each day. Provided we are achieving quality sleep, we consistently get 12-16 hours to accomplish our long list of 'to-do's'. So, why is it that so many of us rarely accomplish all we set out to do that day or week or month?
Perhaps it is because we have been managing the wrong variable. Time is essentially an arbitrary illusion and dedicating a certain amount of time to a specific activity activates subconscious signals that encourage us to "use" the allotted amount of time towards that activity regardless of additional factors. Ever wonder how you can put on a full face of makeup and do your hair whether the special event is in 30 minutes or two hours?
Nonetheless, this is not the only problem with time tracking and managing. Whether time management skills and techniques include time blocking, organizing the day by the hour, or any other method, this does not account for nuance in individual productivity, motivation, ability to focus and concentrate, or mental and emotional states - which are all partially dictated by genetics and environmental and lifestyle factors.
Time does not care how you are naturally wired or how you are feeling but energy certainly does.
Why Manage Energy?
Energy is quite the unique "entity". It is not well qualified or quantified because it is essentially infinite and there is no standard measuring tool, unlike time, which is (arbitrarily) finite and constantly measured by the clock. However, this infinite uniqueness of energy is what makes it a more viable variable to manage.
Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy is derived from four main areas in humans – the physical body, emotions, mind, and spirit.
Within each of these facets, energy can be systematically expanded and renewed via establishing certain habits and behaviors. In this way, behaviors are repeatedly and intentionally practiced and specifically scheduled with the goal of developing them into autonomic, unconscious habits or duties.
As examples, managing physical energy might look like scheduling exercise during the most motivated times of the day. For one person, this might be upon waking, while for others it might be during a lunch break or an hour after work is complete.
Managing mental energy could look like scheduling important meetings during your most focused times of the day or not doing the most difficult daily tasks after lunch when a nap sounds nice. Moreover, managing emotional energy could look like setting boundaries for the number of social events you attend per week.
Time management does not account for energetic differences and strengths through the day, weeks, or months. However, energy management accounts for these nuances, which can lead to more efficiency, optimization of productivity, and, ultimately, a more connected, aligned life.
How to Manage Energy
Managing energy levels largely involves getting to know yourself and your tendencies. Knowing if you are more of a morning or evening person, when you enjoy being around others most, and your ability to deal with emotional stressors are all helpful when first beginning energy management.
To start, consider these questions:
1. Do I wake up feeling energized and ready to tackle the day or do I hit my highest energy around noon or late in the evening?
2. When do I enjoy socializing or having productive conversations with others versus when do I feel depleted?
3. How many social events do I want to partake in each week to remain collected and not stressed?
4. What is my most productive and unproductive time of day?
5. When do I feel most clear-headed and when do I get most distracted?
6. What triggers productivity versus what triggers loss of focus or rumination of unhelpful thoughts?
7. How much energy do I want to dedicate to certain activities (even work!)?
8. What areas of life are most important to me (i.e. physical health, emotional connection, career, etc.)?
9. What kind of people encourages me to be the best version of myself?
10. What type of activities or tasks makes me feel most alive and present?
Writing down quick answers to these questions will make managing each facet of energy that much easier!
Managing Physical Energy
Managing physical energy mostly involves caring for your physical body and optimizing health. This is arguably the most important area to improve and enhance because it sets the foundation for the remaining areas.
Piggybacking off the laws of physics, did you know using energy creates more energy?
Indeed, this is why using energy to exercise actually creates more usable energy to use for other activities. For this reason, some people like to begin their day with exercise – to create more energy and vitality for the remainder of the day. However, not everyone is a "morning person" and perhaps working on more mental tasks early in the day creates energy for them to work out later in the day.
Once again, the beauty of energy management is being able to cater daily activities to your unique energetic strengths. Bioindividuality at its finest!
Nonetheless, managing physical energy also involves physical rest and recovery, nutrition, and sleep hygiene.
Consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods creates pure energy in the form of ATP but also a potent environment for cells to function at their peak. This ultimately translates into a high-functioning metabolism. Thus, choosing to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, lean animal protein, and plenty of healthy fats is an excellent way to create and regulate vital energy.
Sleep and sleep hygiene are also important because this allows the body to rest and recover sufficiently. The magic of healing, growing and repairing muscle, improving metabolism, and maintaining brain function all occur at night while sleeping!
Thus, it is wise to create an individualized wind-down routine and prioritize 7-9 hours of quality sleep nightly. Also avoid factors that disrupt sleep such as heavy alcohol consumption, blue light from screens, or exercising within the hours beforehand.
In summary, helpful ways to manage physical energy include:
• Determining the best time of day to exercise/get physical activity based on when you feel most motivated, agile, and perhaps social if you want to take group classes or work out with a buddy. Also, consider when you are most likely to accomplish activities such as daily chores and walking the dog.
• Decide how you enjoy moving your body without societal or other external pressure.
• Create goals for including wholesome, real foods (i.e. 7-9 servings of veggies per day, 80-90 grams of lean protein per day, cooking X amount of meals at home per week, etc.)
• Develop boundaries around processed, packaged, and inflammatory foods (i.e. less than 3 packaged foods per day, eating out less than x times per week, etc.)
• Create a nightly sleep routine that involves specific activities that calm you such as drinking chamomile tea, using lavender essential oils, reading, wearing blue lights, and not eating with a couple of hours of bedtime.
• Sacrifice sleep last. Meaning, prioritize sleep over nearly everything else to ensure the body has sufficient time to rest and rejuvenate.
Managing Mental Energy
This area largely involves how to best manage time at work and considers factors such as when you are most focused, creative and productive, and least distracted. Of course, this area also involves identifying and actively removing typical distractors like phone calls, social media, television, and chatty coworkers. In fact, studies show that multitasking greatly decreases the capacity to work and therefore, productivity.
To effectively manage mental energy, consider the following:
• What habits or distractions impede your focus and concentration?
• How many computer tabs can you keep open and still say sane?
• What points in the day do you feel your sharpest? Can you schedule the most important tasks during those times?
• When do you feel most lethargic or low energy? Can you complete less important tasks during then?
• How many tasks can you realistically complete during the workday?
• When do you have the greatest capacity to have meaningful/important conversations?
• Are you checking your phone every time you receive a notification?
• Can you pencil in time to take short walks or stretch breaks, knowing using physical energy actually creates more necessary energy?
• Does caffeine actually fuel me or make me crash shortly after?
• What foods make my mind feel sharpest? - Yes, the areas of energy management certainly overlap!
Managing Emotional and Spiritual Energy
Finally, learning to manage emotional and spiritual energy is like the icing on the cake. Physical energy sets the foundation for optimizing the 'meat' of the cake, aka mental energy, emotional and spiritual energy enhance vitality and longevity that much more.
Research shows that wandering and ruminating minds can lead to unhappiness and lower performance. Moreover, stress and obsessive thoughts like guilt, regret, and depression ultimately drain available energy and make it harder to create that vital energy.
Therefore, learning how to appropriately feel negative emotions without getting stuck in them allows you to focus on the present and then move on. This inevitably leads to higher efficiency and productivity.
And while spiritual energy is the least understood and least harnessed type, it is also a powerful one. Spiritual energy involves tapping into the values and activities that nourish your soul.
Although spirituality can involve religious practices, it can also include things like meditation, nature, chakra rituals, energy healing like reiki, using crystals, skincare, reading, or doing yoga to name a few. Doing enjoyable activities will also trickle down and positively affect physical and mental energy.
Guide your emotional and spiritual energy by:
• Identifying your deep values and understanding their uniqueness.
• Reaching out to close friends, family, or a therapist when overwhelmed.
• Developing healthy coping mechanisms.
• Regularly engaging in enjoyable activities.
• Creating boundaries around tasks and activities you do not enjoy/that drain your energy.
• Developing some meaningful spiritual practices (does not need to be religious)!
• Understanding which activities and practices create further useful, positive energy.
• Discover your stance on a higher power and how to connect to it to create meaning in life.
• Regularly taking breaks and vacations to replenish and rejuvenate energy stores.
The Bottom Line
Managing energy is likely a better practice than managing time because it accounts for nuance and individuality. Not everyone functions the same on a day-to-day basis, and energy management accounts for these unique differences whereas time does not.
Your energy is truly your greatest gift. Learning how to optimize it to be the most productive, efficient, and highest version of yourself will ultimately create a pleasant, abundant, and deeply aligned life.
Switch your mindset and perspective from tick-tocking time to extraordinary energy and watch as your life transforms!
Kabir H. Why Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to Productivity. Happify. https://www.happify.com/hd/why-managing-energy-not-time-is-the-key-to-productivity/.