Why manage your energy instead of your time? Time is a finite resource, while energy is not.
Always feeling rushed, like time is slipping away from you? You might think that you need better time management. But the problem with time is that it is a finite resource. You cannot create more of it at will, even if you have all the discipline in the world. There will always be new things that will take up more of our time as we progress through life. There will always be new milestones to achieve, be it growing our business, landing a promotion, welcoming a new baby, or moving to a new country.
Energy, however, is a different story. Wrote Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCartney in Harvard Business Review:
“Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals—behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.To recharge themselves, individuals need to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and then take responsibility for changing them, regardless of the circumstances they’re facing.“
Devoting longer hours to our jobs, families, and goals without thinking about the quality of how we spend our time will lead to burnout. But we can put in place rituals that will allow us to feel more energized. This includes going to bed on time, eating at regular intervals, and meditating and exercising. An hour of energized work can produce more results than five hours of exhausted work.
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Why should you manage your energy instead of time, and what happens when you begin to do so? Here are five things that will change when you manage your energy instead of time.
#1 You find that while the number of hours in your day does not change, it feels like you have more time. This is called time affluence.
In the 1990s, the term “time famine” was first coined to describe the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time. The Boston Globe describes this as a “serious problem”. It quoted research in which middle-class Americans said they would rather have more time than money.
In recent years, positive psychologists have begun using the term “time affluence”. This describes the opposite of time poverty. To feel “time affluence”, it requires “tweaking our busy lives to allow space for big emotions, like awe, or little tasks, like helping a neighbour.”
#2 You start having a rhythm to your days, organizing your day around when your energy peaks and falls.
Some people are natural early risers, while others are night owls. Instead of forcing yourself to fit into an artificial mould, why not plan your day around your natural rhythm? This can lead to feeling less tired and more energized. For some, working out in the morning is a must to get the blood pumping before they sit down to work. For others, the quiet time in the morning at their desk is when they do their best thinking. If you’re an early riser, you can always clock off early to recharge when your energy starts to dip, and have more time for rest and family in the evenings.
Find what works best for you, and then stick to it. Building that routine and pattern is important for our bodies to function at optimal level. Additionally, it helps us regulate our emotions and avoid extreme mood swings as well.
#3 You teach other people how best to work with you, and when to expect what kinds of work from you.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you might find that you do your best creative work in the morning. If so, you might create a personal daily schedule with time carved our for solo work in the mornings. You can schedule meetings in the afternoon, and respond to emails in the evenings. When you have this kind of consistent routine, people start to know what to expect from you. They know when is best to schedule meetings with you or expect an email reply.
If you think about it, you’ll find that most tasks and emails are actually not that urgent. People can wait a few hours for your reply. If you always reply clients within 24 hours, mostly in the evenings, that will be much more appreciated than instant replies on some days, and delayed replies on other days.
#4 You find yourself in a greater state of flow.
In positive psychology, “flow” is a state of being you experience when you are so immersed in what you’re doing that time seems to stop.
Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined this term. He described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
When your mind is clear, and you are able to plan your days more thoughtfully, you’ll find that the experience of “flow” comes more frequently.
#5 It’s easier to decide intuitively whether to take on new projects based not just on what your calendar says. Instead, you also think about whether this project is going to energize you or leave you feeling drained.
When you’re just starting out in your business or a new job, you tend to want to make a good impression. As a result, it’s tempting to say yes to everything and take on too much. This leaves you feeling overstretched, exhausted, and irritable.
As you become more aware of what energizes you and what gives you a sense of purpose, you’ll weigh new projects more carefully. You’ll think not only in terms of how much time they will take or money they will make. You’ll also consider how much it will cost you in terms of energy. And you’ll find that not everything is worth taking on. Some things are just not worth the high energy cost. You become better and saying no to things that don’t fulfill you, which leaves more room to do things that does.