There are very few people in this world who succeed in mastering the art of time management. Project managers, CEOs, and executive assistants may make time management look easy, but it’s a lot more challenging than we openly discuss.
We tend to disregard how much trial and error it takes to become a super time manager. Don’t get down on yourself if you’re not quite there yet; it literally takes time to learn how to manage time.
Despite our varying goals, lifestyles, wants, and needs, we all have 24 hours a day to work with. With these 24 hours, there are so many possibilities. With our time, it’s easy to block off our minutes and hours in an attempt to organize our responsibilities, hobbies, and basic necessities, but things don’t always go as planned.
It’s impossible to live every day “on schedule.” You might have a 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm slot for lunch, but 12:00 pm rolls around, and your appetite’s not quite up to speed. Keeping up with your life is much easier when you stop thinking about it in blocks of time and start thinking about it in buckets of energy.
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
To accomplish all you want to in a day, you need to have energy. Most don’t realize that energy management goes deeper than just sleeping enough.
There are different types of energy, and they all need to be tended to. Some of us have loads of physical energy, but on the other hand, our social energy stores are lacking. The bottom line is that we have to manage our energy in combination with the physical 24 hours we have to work with.
Types of Energy
You might not have realized this, but there are different kinds of energy: physical, creative, social, and emotional. Have you ever been ecstatic to stay at home and work on a puzzle but the thought of putting together that Ikea bookshelf sounds almost miserable? Well, that’s because different tasks require different kinds of energy out of you.
Physical energy: Used for tasks like cleaning, exercising, and traveling. When you’re filled with physical energy, you can do more with your body before feeling drained. When you don’t have much physical energy, it’s hard to move and get up from wherever you’re settled.
Creative energy: Used for tasks like drawing, sculpting, playing, and writing. When your creative energy stores are high, you can create beautiful and intricate art pieces. When your creative energy stores are low, it’s hard to produce anything new or innovative.
Social energy: Used for putting yourself out there in social settings, such as collaborating with colleagues, going to parties, and participating in events. When you have the energy to socialize, you can enjoy the company of others and add to a social atmosphere. When your social energy levels are low, it’s harder to be around others, and you’ll find that alone time feels particularly comfortable.
Emotional energy: Used for feeling things and expressing yourself. When you have lots of emotional energy, you’ll notice that feeling and expressing happiness, sadness, or even anger comes easily. If you’re not feeling emotionally energized, you can walk through life in a more numb state without the energy to respond to emotional triggers.
All of us naturally have different energy capacities across these four categories. Extroverts are the poster children for social energy, and creatives base their lives around creative energy. Having a better grasp of our strengths and weaknesses helps us manage all of our energy better.
With that being said about energy, we can better understand time management and why it hasn’t been working out how you imagined it would.
How To Navigate Time and Energy Management
Managing your energy means recognizing how your energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. Once you have thorough awareness, you can arrange the rest of your productivity systems around that rather than the clock or calendar.
This may not be the answer you were looking for today, but energy levels are only semi-predictable. There’s no way to ensure your tanks will be full and ready to fuel you for completing those important tasks, even if you really want to.
We love the idea of time blocking because it feels definitive and secure. However, arranging your to-do list around the clock isn’t realistic given how unforeseeable energy levels are.
You can push through not having the energy to complete a specific task, but there’s no escaping the fact that it will take you longer to accomplish something without energy. Running on ‘E’ in everything you do can also be a sign of burnout approaching.
Burnout is NOT something that you want to experience. Burnout is when your energy levels have been completely depleted, to the point where you might not be able to replenish them for weeks or even months.
Rather than thinking your time management techniques aren’t working, consider the idea that you’re utilizing one form of energy too often.
Energy Management Techniques
It’s particularly common to experience burnout at work because our jobs become repetitive. If you work as an artist or writer, you might be pulling from your creative energy stores way more often than is sustainable. So, even when you have your time management skills down-packed and prioritize the tasks you need to, your energy might not be there to get everything done.
If traditional time management hasn’t worked for you, it’s time to try something new. Work Brighter has helped us understand the first steps to implement energy management into your life:
Step 1: Conduct an Energy Audit
The first step is to conduct an energy audit by tracking your energy throughout the day for a week or two.
Step 2: Identify Rhythms and Patterns
Once you've conducted an energy audit, you want to analyze the info you tracked and look for your natural rhythms and patterns. The idea here is to discover your body's natural cycles throughout the day and where you might be fighting against them.
Step 3: Make Adjustments as Needed
Finally, once you've done steps one and two, you can tweak your habits and routines to make adjustments that take better advantage of your natural rhythms.
Energy and time management work hand in hand. Without energy management, you just don't know how completing a task will go. Although energy levels are unpredictable, taking the time to understand how your energy works can help you better accomplish your goals.
It All Comes Down To Health Management
If time management depends on energy management, and energy management deals with self-awareness, presence, habits, and routines, then its foundation is your health.
To be fully present each and every day, we have to take care of our physical and mental well-being. Your physical, creative, social, and emotional energy levels can be optimized by properly fueling your body with the nutrients your body needs.
In Soylent, we make nutrition less complicated and more accessible, leaving you with one less thing to worry about when trying to organize your life. Keeping your health in check will help you better regulate your energy, track your ups and downs, and avoid crippling burnout.
Life is better when you can accomplish your goals without the symptoms of burnout. Take care of your body, get to know yourself, and manage your energy wisely.