How to manage your energy instead of your time

We all get the same 24 hours per day, every day. But no matter how well we plan our time, very often we end up with unfinished to-do lists. Managing your energy levels instead of focusing on your time management skills could just be the answer to your struggles.

As a business owner you need to focus on a variety of roles whilst exceeding your clients’ expectations as well as being constantly on a lookout for new business. To balance all the different aspects of working for yourself and to reduce stress levels that come with it, being mindful of your working habits can make a significant difference.

It’s very easy to get distracted and get into a routine that is draining instead of focusing on what drives us and boosts our motivation and productivity. Low energy levels, caused by internal and external factors can have a negative impact on multiple levels and can leave us demotivated and frustrated. Although most of the time we can control our energy supply, we often continue with our habits that leave us drained rather than being focused on energy boosting activities.

Here are a few ways to boost your energy and make the most out of your working days:

1. Stop switching between tasks

Contrary to a popular belief, multi-tasking is not an effective way to get things done. A study found that people suffer from something like a writer’s block each time they switch from one activity to another, requiring them to take time to “reset” their minds. The more complex the task being switched to or from, the higher the time cost involved in switching. Even very brief distractions add up. An effective way to overcome this issue is to stop doing activities that don’t generate a return on investment. Estimate how long it will take to accomplish an activity and block dedicated periods of time for it in your calendar and train yourself to focus on the task at hand during time-blocked periods.

2. Set yourself clear goals without conflicting priorities

A lot of work gets done without the benefit of clearly defined goals and objectives. But, without clarity, it is difficult to know whether the right work is getting done and without a clear focus on goals and objectives priorities easily conflict. To get more focus, list your goals and objectives as you understand them and highlight conflicts among them. Then make yourself reminders – post your business and personal goals and objectives in a place where you can see them, or choose representative artwork or other objects to place in your office space as a reminder.

3. Say no

People over commit for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to disappoint others by saying no, they feel they have no choice but to commit, they have an unrealistic idea of current commitments or of what is involved in the new commitment – just to name a few. Being over committed can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling. Rather, it communicates that you are responsible and take your commitments seriously. Avoid the automatic yes when asked to make another commitment. State that you need to check your other commitments and time frames before you can give an answer. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

4. Eliminate distractions

We are constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions in the workplace. Think of these events as forcing the mind into a multi-tasking mode, with each event either preventing or breaking concentration. The result is time lost to constant task switching. To eliminate distractions, find a quiet place to work on projects that require concentration, set aside specific time periods for specific activities, discourage interruptions and save e-mail and voicemail checking for the transition time between other tasks.

5. Organise yourself in a way that makes sense to you

“Everything in its place and a place for everything” is a good energy-boosting adage. For some people, organisation means files, drawers, neat stacks or no stacks at all, and a complete lack of clutter. For others, organisation simply means knowing where to look and being able to find what they need right away – for them a neat desk is alien. The point of organisation is not to fit someone else’s definition of “organised,” but to have what you need in an easily accessible place.

6. Set aside some reflection time

Failing to reflect is a vicious cycle that leads to less time for reflection, because without reflection time, it is difficult to know whether you are working on the right activities – it may even be difficult to have a clear idea of what your goals and objectives really are. A lack of time to reflect, refresh, and rest can also lead to stress and work overload. Use an existing activity such as regular workouts, walks, gardening, or another hobby as an opportunity for reflection or find a coach or mentor.

7. Avoid perfectionism 

The drive for perfection can be very draining. Perfection is an indefinable and unobtainable goal that while it can increase the quality of one’s output, also increases workload. Establish objective quality measures; ask others to help you define “good enough” and identify the point of diminishing returns – that point when you stop adding measurable value by continuing to work on something. Before you “make it better,” ask yourself whether a person whose opinion you respect would notice a meaningful qualitative difference if you invest more time and effort.

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