The idea of managing energy rather than time isn’t a new one. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz highlighted the importance of energy management in their seminal paper, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete”.
More recently Flip Brown, author of Balanced Effectiveness at Work: How to enjoy the fruits of your labor without driving yourself nuts, recommends tracking energy levels at regular times during a workday to help set your own schedule for doing your best work. Ideally we want to schedule our more difficult or complex work for times when our energy levels are higher and the more routine or less demanding tasks for lower energy times.
Another strategy that has originated from mindfulness research, is to pay attention during the day to tasks you find energy enhancing versus tasks you find energy depleting. It can be useful to record this on a piece of paper or spreadsheet. Once you know which tasks fall into which category, you can plan which times of day to tackle them. For example, you might schedule energising tasks for times of the day when your energy levels tend to drop, perhaps after lunch or later in the day. It can also be helpful to plan recovery time before or after tasks that are energy depleting for you. See previous posts for recovery ideas.
Managing our focus of attention is also a key strategy for managing energy. Choosing where to focus our attention is critical and this means reducing activities that interrupt attention:
- When concentrating on a piece of work, turn off email or limit access to email and social media, e.g. check only at specific points in the day
- Manage your work environment to control distractions related to open plan working, e.g. go to a quiet room regularly
- Avoid the urge to multi-task.
It is also possible to develop better concentration and focus skills. Mindfulness or meditation practice is one effective way to do this. Here are some ideas for simple mindfulness exercises at work.
We encourage an experimental approach to improving energy management. Try out these strategies and discover what works best for you. Share ideas with colleagues and, if you are leading teams, facilitate conversations and experiments with your team members to support them in the most effective strategies.