Time and energy are two highly valuable resources for any living human being. We are constantly looking for strategies to get more of both. But instead of looking for ways to increase the minutes in our day and increase the power we have to give, what if we just shift our mindset?
What if I told you that you already have ALL the time and energy you need? You have every capability to get great things done and feel amazing doing it. I’m going to tell you how to manage your time without draining your energy.
Before we dive in, let’s redefine Time Management.
Time is a resource much like money. It has value, and we get to choose where we spend it. Sometimes we spend it well and get a lot of bang for our buck. (These are the times we feel ultra-productive, moving through our to-do lists with ease.)
Sometimes we spend a lot on something that we could’ve “found elsewhere for a lot cheaper.” (An example of this would be attending a two-hour-long meeting where everything discussed could have been addressed in a simple email.) Are you with me?
Time is like money, but it is still time.
You do not get it back. There is a set amount, and it’s doled out evenly to everyone. So yes, we do need specific strategies for budgeting our time if we really want to make the most of it.
Now let’s talk about the energy component. Your energy is tied to your Efficiency, which is dictionary-defined as the “ability to accomplish a job with minimum expenditure of time and effort.” Efficiency has nothing to do with perfection. In fact, it’s more about how we budget that energy (along with the time). I’m sensing a theme here!
And I think we’re ready to dive into the real strategies, don’t you? Here are six ways to budget your time without depleting all your energy.
1. Don’t give 100% when you are only asked for 50%
The perfectionist in me is DYING as I type this. But it’s absolutely crucial to managing your time and energy well. If you give your all to everything, all day long, you are going to burn out so quickly you won’t know what hit you. You will end up with 0% to give, and oftentimes that negatively impacts your health and your relationships with the people you love. So learn how to tell the difference between a task that needs you to be your very best and tasks that just need you to be okay.
Does that sound radical to you? It’s not really. Some things only need to be checked off the list. Be extra clear about the expectations for a task before you dive into it. And this is the perfect place for a personal story that drives this point home hard.
I once had a job where I created promotional materials for a musical entertainment duo — text, graphics, websites, flyers, etc. An agent asked me to submit a bio for the duo. I spent HOURS not just writing the perfect bio, but formatting it into a stunning one-sheet with bulleted points and gorgeous graphics.
I agonized over layout decisions and finally submitted a PDF of the perfect promotional sheet. Her response? “Thanks for this sheet, but I just need a Word .doc with text only.” I gave 100% (or more), and she only needed (and wanted) 50%. If I had sought out clarity from the start, I would not have drained so much time and energy for nothing.
2. Stop multitasking already!
Have you heard the news? There is no such thing as multitasking. When you try to do two or more things at once, your brain is actually just switching from one thing to the other repeatedly, which takes more time and also results in lower-quality work.
You are much better off in terms of time AND energy if you simply focus on one thing at a time. Easier said than done, I know. But it’s worth the effort. Turn off all the beeps and buzzes from your smart devices, and stop checking your email every five minutes. We are so very connected these days that it has actually disconnected us from things that matter.
3. Match the right tasks to the right times of day
Sometimes we are inefficient simply because we are trying to do a task at the wrong time of the day. We respond to email first thing in the morning when our energy is highest, and yet checking email doesn’t require or even benefit from all that energy. We try to focus on a thought-heavy task right after lunch, when that is the worst possible time to dive in.
As a general rule, you should focus on your top-priority at the start of the day. And this should be a task that requires your attention and clarity. You will be able to put in your best effort at this time. You are (hopefully) well-rested and in good spirits, and you have the optimism of the day ahead of you. Most people are most sluggish right after lunch, so save things like email or other tasks that don’t require deep thought for these times. If you have a flexible schedule, this might be a good place to fit in your workout or take a walk because this is when you’ll benefit most from the energy boost.
Most importantly, know that everyone doesn’t fit into the same mold. If you are most creative at 9 PM, then by all means, do creative work at 9 PM. We’ve all got different patterns, different schedules, and different jobs. The important thing is to tune in to your own flow during the day so that you can schedule your tasks appropriately.
4. Stop saying yes to everything
Maybe you are a people-pleaser or maybe you are just afraid to say no. Either way, this habit will eat up your time and energy in big ways. First off, you have to be able to distinguish what matters from what doesn’t. When someone asks something of you — before you say yes — ask yourself how much of those two valuable resources it will take. And what is the payoff? Is it something truly important that will have a lasting impact? Or will it take from you more than it gives?
Saying no to someone doesn’t have to be rude or selfish. You can politely decline, letting them know you aren’t able to give their project the attention it deserves. They will find another option, and you will be much happier knowing you didn’t give away your prized time and energy.
5. Don’t let your tank get empty
When you neglect rest and rejuvenation, it ends up costing you a lot more than if you had just taken a break in the first place. We need rest to be able to perform at our best, make solid decisions, and solve problems creatively. Throughout the day, it’s normal that your energy will wane.
We can’t keep it on full for 16 hours straight — or even eight. It’s just a biological fact of being human. But you can take actions to restore it. Going for a walk, having lunch with a friend, or taking a quick power-nap will help boost your levels back up so you can continue to be efficient for the remainder of the day.
Your tank also empties and fills on a bigger scale. How do you spend your free time outside of work? Are you doing things that you enjoy? Are you going places that recharge you? Are you socializing with people that inspire you? While the original source is unknown, I love the quote that says: “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
6. Know the facts
By this I mean the facts about the time you have, where it’s actually going, and where it’s being wasted. Everything you spend time on is ultimately a choice. Technically, you don’t have to spend your time paying bills. But you choose to do it because the alternative is the power being shut off or your cell phone being disconnected. It’s important to you to have electricity and phone service.
To get a better understanding of the choices you are making, do an audit of your time. Write it down. Keep track of it for three days. How much time do you spend in meetings, on calls, watching TV, engaging with family, or commuting to your job? Notice where you seem to be least productive. Notice where time is wasted (or poorly budgeted), and where you seem to get the best return on your time-investment. What tasks do you spend way too much time on and where should you be spending more?
Bottom line, you can’t put time on a credit card. It’s cash only. Let the things you choose to put your time into align with what your goals are. Knowing where the time goes allows you to see where you can make changes.
It’s okay to be picky
Take control of your time and energy. Be selective about who and what you give it to. It’s quite valuable, and if you don’t make a choice about it, someone else will make the choice for you.
If you want to learn how to better manage your time without draining your energy, try one of these six sure-fire strategies today.