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Why every leader should manage their energy and not time

10 July 2023


When life gets busy and we have a never ending to do list, we often turn to time management hacks to become more productive. While time management strategies are often thought of as a solution to help us achieve our goals and meet deadlines, these traditional approaches have proven to be ineffective for many people, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Managing our energy (and sustaining it), rather than just our time, is the key to unlocking productivity and well-being.


According to research from Harvard, traditional time management strategies are limited because they focus on increasing productivity rather than improving the quality of the work being done. These strategies often involve creating to-do lists, scheduling tasks, and breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. While these techniques can be helpful, they do not address the root causes of time management problems, such as procrastination, distractions, and burnout.


The traditional time management strategies also do not take into account the fact that time is a finite resource. Regardless of how well time is managed, there will always be limits to what can be achieved in a day, leading to unrealistic expectations and a sense of failure.


While we all have the same 24 hours in a day, some individuals appear to accomplish far more. However, this is not due to some secret time-management superpower; rather, they have mastered the art of managing their energy.


Energy management involves identifying peak energy periods and dedicating them to tasks requiring concentration. It also emphasises taking breaks to recharge and prevent burnout. To manage your energy, focus on how you feel and making sure you have the energy you need to be productive and effective. Here are a few tips and strategies to help you get started:


Prioritise self-care

It’s impossible to be productive if you’re running on empty. That’s why it’s important to prioritise self-care. Ensure you get sufficient sleep, consume nutritious food, and take breaks when needed. Physical exercise is also an excellent way to boost energy levels.


Set boundaries

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly checking your email or answering work-related calls even when you’re not supposed to be working. Establish clear boundaries with colleagues and clients, and stick to them as much as possible.


Use your energy wisely

Determine your peak energy times during the day and schedule important tasks accordingly. For some people, it’s early in the morning, while others feel more productive in the afternoon. Figure out when your peak energy times are and schedule your most important tasks for those times.


Take breaks

Taking breaks throughout the day can actually help you be more productive. When you’re feeling drained or stuck, take a break and do something that energises you, whether that’s taking a walk outside or chatting with a friend. You’ll come back to your work feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your tasks.


Stay mindful

Practice mindfulness to be present and aware of your thoughts and emotions. Recognise when you feel drained or overwhelmed and take steps to address those feelings. Incorporate mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing into your routine to manage energy levels effectively.


Managing your energy isn’t always easy, but it’s essential is for productivity and well-being. While time management strategies have their place, they often fall short in addressing underlying issues that impede effective work. Time management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to experiment with different approaches and find what works best for you.


References

Covey, S. R. (1994). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. Simon and Schuster.


Allen, D. (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. Penguin.


Vanderkam, L. (2016). What the most successful people do before breakfast: And two other short guides to achieving more at work and at home. Penguin.


Additional Resources:

Harvard Business Review: Time management won't save you

Harvard Business Review: Manage your energy, not your time


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