Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

Just like managing the time you use your phone is useless once the battery is dead, so too is managing your time once your batter is dead. So, if you’re trying to improve your productivity, and time management isn’t working, try energy management. How? Observe what drains or sustains you. Alternate those tasks. Re-observe.


Good day, bakers, writers, and rock stars. This week in the vlog we’re talking about productivity, and in particular this is a new thing for me. It’s not a new idea by any stretch but I’ve only just recently heard of it. Which is this idea of managing your energy not your time.

So, much of productivity, the fundamental productivity stuff talks about time management. I’ve seen more and more recently like I said. It’s discovery for me. People talking about managing energy not time. When I did a quick Google search, there are articles about managing energy rather than time in the early 2000s. So, like I said, this isn’t a new idea but it’s new to me. So, I thought I’d share it with you. So much of what we said is like and even me. You know, talk about managing your calendar. Managing your meetings. All of that kind of stuff. But what might be a better way to think about things is what’s my energy level like, and what do I have the capacity to do? What kinds of things increase my energy, and what kind of things decrease my energy? If we use the analogy of a phone, you can manage the time that you are on your phone. But once it runs out of power, no amount of time management is going to help. You’re going to have to plug it back in or put it to charge in order to be able to use it again. Whereas, if you manage its energy not the time that you use it, you’ll actually better use it much more. So, for example, if you leave it plugged in while you use it i.e., you give it energy as you’re using it, then the amount that you use it is irrelevant. I think for people it can be very similar.

So, what are the things that give you energy? What are the things that sustain you versus what are the things that drain you, and how can you make use of that to your advantage? The first thing is to kind of notices these things. So, I reckon for academics, a lot of the time you might get into a state of flow or where you’re writing a paper or writing a certain section of a grant or conducting an experiment. Those things are probably things that give you energy, and so that’s a good thing to notice. Then you need to notice things that take away your energy where it feels really long and drawn out. So, those things are probably energy draining rather than sustaining. So, those could be meetings. It could be writing emails, responding to emails, writing budgets, I don’t know. So, do an observation exercise that’s the first step.

The 2nd step is once you’ve done the observation stuff is to do a trial. What are some other things that I could do that might be particularly energy sustaining? So, I think what as academics we tend not to focus on the sustaining part of things, we kind of think about jobs being awesome. So, that gives us energy, but I’d like you to try different things. So, I’d like you to try not work-related things, so whether exercise, diet, sleep, and other activities. Whether that be art, music. It could be social media. Whatever it is so try a few different things. So, now you’ve got two lists. Sorry, one big list. A list of things that you’ve tried or done, and whether they are energy sapping or energy building.

The 3rd then is to go and implement a strategy that makes use of this. So, rather than thinking about managing your time, now start thinking about managing your energy. So, let’s say you wake up and you’re at 100 energy what’s the first thing that you should do? Well arguably, you could say, “I’ll do an energy sapping thing because I have heaps of energy” or you could do argue, “I’ll do an energy sustaining thing so that I can start the day off really positively”. I don’t really care what you do or how you do it, but now think about managing your energy rather than managing your time. And that might be a better way for you to get things done.

The final thing that I’d say in all of this is that it’s not a once-off thing. I’ve certainly found that as I reflect on my life journey, my career journey that certain things were energy sustaining, they are now energy draining. And certain things that I would have said previously would have been energy draining and now energy sustaining. So, examples I didn’t used to like going to the gym and lifting weights but now I find it really useful. I used to find what did I used to enjoy that now I really find it hard to sit down and force myself through things. Whereas, before I used to be able to do that. So, now I really need to do manage my energy rather than my time. I used to run and listen to podcasts a lot, now I don’t. I find that listening to the podcast while I run actually makes the run far less enjoyable.

So, there you go. Some things that you might try to manage your time and productivity; and ultimately help you become more productive.