You're not alone. So many of my friends, clients and prospects say "there just isn't enough time in the day." Or they ask me "Where do you find the time?" "How can I manage my time better?" "Do you teach time management skills?
The truth of the matter is time is a fixed resource and no matter what you do, you can’t change that. If you are following the most common calendar you have 52 weeks in a year, 7 days in a week, 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. Period. There is nothing you can do that will alter that.
Yet, I'm guessing like most of us you probably have an ever growing to do list of things you want to do with your time. And the reality probably is that you will never get it all done.
What if instead of trying to manage your time you made a 10 degree shift and considered managing your energy rather than your time. Just by shifting your question from "How can I manage my time better?" to "How can I manage my energy better?" will start you looking for alternative solutions.
Really when you think about it, you simply can't manage time. What you can manage is your energy. So often when we feel we don't have time, we need to consider that actually we don't have the energy bandwidth to get something done. If we manage energy, more often than not we have more than enough time. We start to think about, how can I better manage my focus? What routines could I use to support my productivity? Where am I rushing too much and burning out my energy too fast? What boundaries do I need around my energy in order to support my use of time better?
“The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not,” Tony Schwartz, Jim Loehr in The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.
One of the most important lessons therefore that managers and leaders can learn is to manage their energy, as opposed to their time. Think about it for a moment, do you have the energy to be fully present with your team? Are you undertaking daily practices to renew your energy? Are you managing your energy through sleep, meditation and reflection in order to recover energy and be fully present with your team?
One idea to better manage our energy is to rank the importance of each task on our to do lists. If we spend a few moments determine the energy required to do each task and focus on prioritising high energy tasks earlier in the day when we are well rested and energetic, the medium ones second and low energy tasks for when our natural biorhythm is slower and lower, we may find we get more done by the end of the day.
Another approach is the popular Pomodoro Technique which involves a mix of bursts of concentrated work with short breaks to maximise productivity much like interval training.
One way you can use the Pomodoro Technique is to select a task from your To Do list. Set a timer and become absorbed in the task for 25 minutes, blocking out all distractions. If anything comes along to interrupt you, jot down a quick post-it-note and deal with it later.
Once the 25 minutes are up, take a short break, go for a walk, make your calls or something that restores your energy like 5-10 deep breaths. This break is important as it gives your brain a chance to rest.
Once your break is over you can then move back into another 25-minute work session, either on the same task or the next on your To Do list, followed by a further break.
In this Harvard Business Review article they state a great point:
The core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story.
What then can you do to better manage your energy?
First become aware of your energy levels, every person is unique so become more mindful around when you feel energised or depleted, what tasks or activities create friction in your day and which ones stimulate flow? Are there certain people who drain and deplete your energy or those that give you a lovely boost? Can you create some stronger boundaries around the drainers?
Personally I have found my rituals including a daily personal practice (DPP) of walking, yoga, breathwork and meditation in the morning and implementing the boundary of slow mornings - no meetings before 10am have greatly supported me to better manage my energy and I would go as far as saying transformed my life. I know on any given days I miss these rituals and head straight into an early morning meeting or need to catch an early flight and miss my DPP I end up feeling more anxious, rushed and under the pump.
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Establishing simple rituals and 10 degree shifts like these can create a lot of momentum, a shift in culture and in productivity across an entire organisation over time too. Through my 10 degree shift and masterful managers programs I measure the brain patterns and brain activity of participants at the start and at the end of their 90 day program (using a MUSE device). In every instance where they have implemented and stuck to their 10 degree shift contract, the participants shared that they found substantial improvements in their productivity, their engagement with work, how they felt they managed and led others and how content and satisfied they felt in general. Testing them at the end of the program showed much higher levels of meditative and calm brain states, an ability to focus and concentrate better and lower levels of stress and anxiety.
Finally, similar to the findings of Tony Schwartz if the work people are doing work or activities that really matters to them, they typically feel more positive energy, focus better, and demonstrate greater perseverance. So doing what we love gives us more energy, even more reason for leaders and managers to understand their people's strengths and preferences and to play to them.
In research outlined in The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations, authors Rob Cross and Andrew Parker share that found that people who energize others are higher performers themselves. This doesn't mean you have to become some energiser bunny, phoney high five king or queen, rather that you bring yourself fully into each interaction.
It's only when managers and leaders begin to invest in their people across all dimensions of their lives that they can begin to bring their energy to work every day. Managing your energy rather than your time means being authentic at work and encouraging others to do the same. Discover and play to your signature strengths, make room for your people to play to theirs, create and practice rituals that renew and support your energy and as a result, you’ll be able to unleash greater performance for yourself and your team.