That’s just a fact.
No matter how many emails you reply to, no matter how many blog posts you write, no matter how many projects you complete…there will ALWAYS be more to do. And there will never be enough time to get it all done.
Think about it this way: when was the last time you checked off every item on your to-do list, wiped your hands clean, sat back and said, “Fantastic! Now I have absolutely NOTHING left to do!”
I’m sorry, but that has never happened to me. (And that’s okay!)
Once one project ends, it’s onto the next. One I reply to one email, another one filters in. And so on and so on.
Productivity books, blog posts, articles and experts talk about the importance of time management. And yes, managing your time effectively is important, but for me, it has come down to one thing:
To me, energy management means maximizing my energy and the times of the day I am most alert and creative to get my most pressing work done. It means prioritizing my day based on when my body and mind work best. (Like this idea? Tweet it)
Here are a few examples of how I manage my energy:
-I do my very best creative thinking and writing very early in the morning. That’s why I wake up at 5 a.m. each day to work on blog posts, writing projects and freelance work. During this period of time, I very rarely respond to emails, I try to avoid social media distractions and I find that I am able to zero in on the task at hand. That’s because I’m well-rested, energized and completely focused. Similarly, that productivity and energy carries into my work day; I focus on my biggest, most challenging or detail-oriented projects during the hours of 9 a.m. until around 12:30 p.m. That’s when I’m in the zone.
-I find myself in a creative lull in the mid-late afternoon; you know the one…after lunch, right around 3 p.m. (my VERY LEAST favorite time of day). Because I know that my body and mind are often worn out by 3 p.m., I try to schedule meetings or phone calls at work around this time. These activities force me to stay alert by interacting with others. I also spend this time taking care of more administrative work tasks like replying to emails, updating media spreadsheets, filing media clips, expense reports, etc. The tasks that don’t take a lot of brain power. Yes, I could power through and complete challenging writing assignments (and at times, I definitely have had to) but for the most part, I know that I could complete those difficult tasks more efficiently and better by doing them at a time that I have more energy.
-When it comes to working out, I also have the most energy for exercise in the early mornings. In fact, before I ramped up my blogging and freelancing, I went to the gym at 5 a.m. most days of the week. However, now that I know for a fact that I NEED to write in the early mornings, I’m slowly training my body to exercise at different times. For example, since I took up yoga, I find that I have my best practices during evening classes. Class starts at 7:45 p.m. and lasts until about 9:15 p.m. It’s the perfect way to wind down my busy day and prepare mentally for bed and storing up energy for the following day. The whole running thing is still a work in progress- I’m slowly trying to figure out how to make time for both that and writing in the early mornings.
Tips For Making Energy Management Work For You
Experiment to discover the times you’re most productive. Listen. If you told me four years ago that I’d be an extreme early bird, setting my alarm for 4:45 a.m. each day to get 2-3 hours of work done before heading to my full-time job, I’d tell you that you are seriously crazy. I was always the girl who could easily sleep until noon and dreaded rolling out of bed to go to class in college. But I experimented- after I started working full-time, I realized that I could no longer stay up into the wee hours of the night writing. I was simply drained, physically, mentally and emotionally, by the end of the day. That’s when I tried setting my alarm a little earlier and slowly began to develop it into a habit. Play around with different times of day and note how your body and mind feel. Don’t be afraid to try a time completely out of your comfort zone.
Accept that you only have so much energy in a given day. The other day, my friend Lindsay and I were talking about how we truly only have so much energy that can last for one day. Yes, find the zones in your day when you can be most productive, but also recognize that you still will not be able to achieve everything in the span of 24 hours. Do I wish that I could churn out blog posts, be a rockstar at work, run five times a week and still have time to spend with loved ones? Absolutely. But I know that’s not possible. Life is about give and take; energy management also means knowing when to take a break and knowing that another day, another week or another month are always around the corner. Everything does not need to get done today. Be realistic and most importantly, be kind to yourself (believe me, I’m still working on this one).
Learn to say no and be strict with your calendar. Saying no is never easy whether it’s to a new project or a social outing. Since I’ve discovered the times that I’m most productive, I have learned to be very strict with my calendar to protect those times. For example, when making social plans with friends after work, I keep at least 2-3 nights of the week on my calendar empty to ensure I have time to go to yoga. Yoga is an important part of my life, so I block time for it. Similarly, since I’m most creative in the morning, I try not to schedule phone calls or meetings when possible to carve out large chunks of time to write. Of course, when it comes to your job, sometimes you obviously can’t say no and that’s fine, but the areas you do have control over? Be strict with yourself.
What do you think? Time management or energy management? Share your best tips and tricks in the comments below.