How do we manage our energy in business?
When are you and I the most distracted? Often, it's right after you've finished one task and on your way to start another. You've planned your day well, but you lose your momentum and before you know it, you're in a big doom loop.
How do you avoid this in between distraction so that you get tasks done and cross off all those boxes on the to-do list?
1. Energy black holes (and why they exist)
What's the difference between 4 am and 4 pm?
If you ask me, personally, it's a world of difference. At 4 am, I'm raring to go. I can write an article, draw cartoons, or write “War and Peace”, if I put my mind to it. At 4 pm, I'm a shadow of my 4 am self. I'm distracted, bored, and bouncing from Facebook to Pinterest and randomly checking e-mail in between. You know exactly where I'm going with this example, don't you?
When we look at our world, we treat every hour exactly the same—and it's not.
I'm like a vegetable right after lunch. Which means that from around noon to well past 4 pm, I'm better off going to the cafe, taking a nap or doing something that most people would consider to be unproductive. Yet, the reason why those unproductive hours can exist is because they're energy black holes.
You and I need to know our energy black holes so that we can waste time effectively
Wasting time randomly doesn't bring us joy and warmth. But if we've diligently go out for a coffee, or take a nap, that's pure strategy. Learning to recognise when you're hopeless at doing stuff is the key to getting stuff done and switching back to high gear.
And most of your day is going to consist of terrible energy hours, not-so-terrible and finally, those hours when you're like Mick Jagger prancing on the stage.
Which are your Mick Jagger moments?
Do you have zones every single day that work well for you? We all do, don't we? My 4 am is Renuka's 8 am, and yours maybe 11 pm. But we all know when we can be superduperfragillisticexpealidocous.
This means that we have to get most of our work done in those zones. Whether it's creating a new presentation or writing an article, we need a full charge for those activities as they're far more power-hungry.
Yet, we struggle and get distracted, even when we're in the right zone and ready to go.
A big chunk of the blame must go to a lack of preparation. If you're about to write an article, you've got to have the outline in place. Do you have the opening story ready? What about any research you need to put in the piece? If the prep work isn't in place, it's natural to start digging for a story or doing slightly pointless research.
Your energy level is now steadily burning out on a low energy task. All of the mind-numbing stuff should have been kept for the times when your energy is low, and you couldn't care less if you found the right information or not. When you use high-quality octane to drive a bullock cart process, you're not making the bullock cart faster. But you sure are wasting the octane.
Time management is a slightly stupid concept
Time management works well if every hour were identical in terms of energy. The way to work with your energy is to make sure you know your black holes of energy. Use them to recharge, either by napping, or taking a walk or simply doing low level, mindless tasks.
The middle ground is where your energy is not so great and you can handle tasks that don't suck up all that octane. And that leaves us with the high energy zones, which if you waste, are just lost. And it makes you feel crappy, which creates its own doom loop of lower energy.
Be aware that at the core of all of these energy zones lies a planning strategy
I spend a good chunk of my time in planning. Maybe I'm planning for a webinar, or a podcast series, or just the strategy for our business. I have to fit in all that, as well as make sure I get my watercolours done, cook breakfast and lunch and upload my photos to the photo book I'm creating. I like to wing my way through the day, and sometimes that randomness works.
However, if I'm going to get real work—and play done—I have to plan. Most of the planning is done usually at the cafe, in my low energy zone. The black holes of energy, it seems, aren't as bad for productivity. They're just different.
As a first step, however, get to know your black holes.
Even if you nap, or whittle away the time it's a good use of time. However, it's in the black hole zone that you can also put together the plan and do the preparation work. And then when your high energy kicks in, you're off like a rocket, finishing work in a fraction of the time.
And now, you have time to waste.