A New Way to Look at ‘Time Management’

According to Wikipedia, Time Management is “The act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.” But that seems too simple an explanation. It doesn’t seem to take into account when our emotional engagement and motivation is highest for certain projects.

A few months ago, I heard the term “energy management” and now, I greatly prefer this term when it comes to discussing productivity. Maybe this is because I’m an introvert, and I find that I have a limited amount of social energy reserves that I can expend each day. I also know that I have a few solid hours of great writing energy every day, and certain factors can drastically after that energy. For instance, if I schedule a hectic day of work, classes and socializing, even I get home at 6pm, it’s impossible for me to write at night, even though I technically have the “time.” I can’t do the writing effectively because my energy resources have been drained.

I do most of my best writing in the morning because that is when my energy/motivation leaks are at their peak (after coffee, of course). It’s also because I don’t have any pent up stimuli from the day weighing down on me. I come to the page (or the cursor rather) with a fresh mindset. Personally, I know that if I have a big project coming up, it’s best for me to chunk it out over several mornings.

This is a fascinating deep-dive article in the Harvard Business Review by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy about this subject that’s worth a read: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. I think this is one of the best pieces of advice in the article (do your most important work early in the day).

Another way to mobilize mental energy is to focus systematically on activities that have the most long-term leverage. Unless people intentionally schedule time for more challenging work, they tend not to get to it at all or rush through it at the last minute. Perhaps the most effective focus ritual the executives we work with have adopted is to identify each night the most important challenge for the next day and make it their very first priority when they arrive in the morning. Jean Luc Duquesne, a vice president for Sony Europe in Paris, used to answer his e-mail as soon as he got to the office, just as many people do. He now tries to concentrate the first hour of every day on the most important topic. He finds that he often emerges at 10 am feeling as if he’s already had a productive day.

How can we take better control of our energy? Well, we can start by identifying when our energy is at its’ peak and utilizing that time for our most important life goals. Also, we can be very cognizant of what activities/people drain us energetically and emotionally.

A great way to start is to make a list of times in your average week when you feel particularly low energy. What energy depleting activities do you have in your life? Are they unhealthy addictions, eating poorly, seeing ‘toxic’ people who drain your spirit?  What can you eliminate from your life?

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One response

  1. I have to get on this ‘most important task in the first hour’ bandwagon. Sometimes I really do feel like I rush through what might be the most important thing in the day…mainly because I’m a night owl.

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