Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

Have you got a problem with productivity?

A lot of academics focus a lot on being productive. Maximising the use of an hour, day, week or holiday.

And that’s fine. A lot of self-management and productivity improvement focuses on managing time.

Using calendar entries to have meetings with yourself or others.

Using calendar to keep your schedule clear of meetings.

But more important than time management is energy management. Take a smart phone. You can manage your time on it all you like. But once it runs out of battery no amount of time management will work. It needs to recharge. The same is true of you.

Thus, our energy is more related to our productivity than our use of time.

Think about a time when you got in flow. Wrote for ages. Really made progress on a grant or journal article. It wasn’t because you managed your time well. It was because you had good energy levels.

Thus, your productivity problem is probably an energy problem, not a time management one.

So, how do you manage energy?

That, unfortunately, is the hard bit.

First it is a self-observation exercise. Do stuff, then note the impact on your energy levels. For example:

  • Email – Energy sapping.
  • Meetings – Energy sapping.
  • Data collection – Energy building.
  • Sleeping – Energy building.
  • Intellectual discussion – Energy building.
  • Student supervision – Energy sapping.
  • Writing grants – Energy building.
  • Writing budgets – Energy sapping.
  • Writing papers – Energy building.
  • Reviewing papers – Energy sapping.

Second it is a trial and error exercise. Do DIFFERENT stuff, then note the impact on your energy levels. For example:

  • Running – Energy building.
  • Weights – Energy sapping.
  • Creative writing – Energy building.
  • Painting – Energy sapping.
  • Playing board games – Energy building.
  • Scrolling social media – Energy sapping.
  • Producing social media – Energy building.

Third, it is an implementation exercise. Do stuff that gives you energy, and then the work you need to do. Repeat. For example:

  • Write budgets.
  • Produce social media.
  • Write grants.
  • Review papers.
  • Collect data.

Finally, you’ll need to come back to step 1 – observation. Why? Because things change. You change. And so, what gives or takes your energy will change.

Can’t be bothered with all this? Cool. Do this, and let me know what happens:

  • Work in short bursts (25 minutes work, 5 minutes rest).
  • Cluster meetings at the end of each day, rather than the start.
  • Sleep 8 hours a night.
  • Lift weights twice a week.
  • Run twice a week.
  • Work 5 days out of 7: No more than 60 hours in a week.
  • Take a week off every 12 weeks.

“This was an excellent session, with everyone actively participating. I found it very useful and informative I really was impressed!”
Dr. Catherine Haigh, Associate Professor

Dr Richard Huysmans is passionate about working smarter, not harder. Since 2008, Richard has been helping PhD students and academics improve their productivity without increasing their work hours. He’s tried various productivity approaches so that you don’t have to. He knows what works in academic and student research settings. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality.

To find out more, call 0412 606 178, visit his shop, email ([email protected]) or subscribe to the newsletter. You can find him on LinkedInTwitterInstagramFacebookResearchGateGoogle ScholarSpotifyYouTube, and Medium.