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How to go from running out of time to running our time

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

In our increasingly fast-paced world, we are beginning to realise the significance of energy management over time management – and for the permanently time-pressed, this could prove revolutionary…

For many of us, productivity and time management go hand in hand. But all too often, despite our best efforts to fine-tune our schedules and allocate time for each and every task on our to-do lists, we find ourselves falling short. Either we never quite make it to the bottom of those lists, or we end up dissatisfied at our efforts, feeling like Jack of all trades but master of none – and this is no way to live the life we deserve!

This constant struggle to achieve more in less time and to somehow make more time when we are already stretched to capacity, is not only demoralising, but detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing in the long run. Permanently feeling short of time is stressful and demotivating – neither of which are conducive to productivity or success.

The fact is, however, most of us do actually have enough time in the day, but a combination of unrealistic expectations and poor management of our energy leave us feeling as though we need more. What we really need to do is turn this concept around and take control of how we run our days, rather than allowing time to dictate our lives – and effective energy management is the secret to optimising our productivity without sacrificing our quality of life.

By reframing our perspective on productivity and placing emphasis on a better understanding of our daily energy levels, we will be able to achieve more without overloading ourselves.

Here are our top 4 ways to ensure we maximise our days and stop worrying about time:

1. Figure out which tasks energise us and which ones drain us

The importance of developing a comprehensive understanding of our personal energy levels cannot be stressed enough! We often make the mistake of looking at tasks in terms of time required, but actually we should be considering their energy consumption. Have you ever struggled to summon the motivation to complete a simple job, which ought to only take a few minutes? Conversely, have you ever felt that uncontrollable drive to jump right into a big project, because it has captured your imagination and you are raring to go? A small and unappealing task, at the wrong moment, can feel disproportionately difficult, whereas a complicated and important task can be enjoyable and fulfilling, under the right circumstances! It’s the same with people – time spent with some leaves us feeling depleted and drained; with others we come away feeling on top of the world. This is all down to the fact that some things drain our energy and others fuel it. Try keeping an energy diary for a while, to gain a clearer understanding of how daily working life affects you and then consider how you can work with your energy flow, rather than against it.

We often make the mistake of looking at tasks in terms of time required, but actually we should be considering their energy consumption.

2. Arrange your schedule to suit your energy

Once we have identified the tasks which energise us and those which drain us, the next step is to plan our schedules accordingly. It’s important to consider physical and mental energy levels here because, to achieve optimum productivity, we need to feel both physically energised and mentally focused. Highlight the times in your day when you feel most motivated and energetic – these are your key windows and should be dedicated to completing tasks which require the most thought. We might love to knock out the easy jobs first to enjoy a sense of achievement, but this is favouring quantity over quality and can eat into prime productivity time. We recommend identifying the tasks which can be knocked out quickly and saving these for times in our schedules when our energy levels are lower, reserving our “power zones” for the bigger issues. First thing in the morning is an optimum time for many of us, whereas a mid-afternoon energy dip is a common occurrence too. However, energy patterns are unique to each of us and embracing our personal ebbs and flows is key to unlocking our productivity potential.

It’s important to consider physical and mental energy levels here because, to achieve optimum productivity, we need to feel both physically energised and mentally focused.

3. Focus

Let’s be honest. We are all guilty of interrupting work to check our phones, or allowing our attention to stray when we should be focussed. Our world is full of distractions and these have a significant impact upon on productivity – is that task taking a long time out of necessity or because we are only half present? Concentration and focus are crucial to both efficiency and quality of work and for that to occur, we need to be fully present and free from interruptions. Get rid of those distractions to optimise your focus and maximise productivity.

4. Recharge your batteries

We all know how great we feel after a brilliant night’s sleep, we have 100% battery and life seems easy. Adequate, quality sleep is definitely something we should all be aiming for, because this is when we replenish the energy supplies needed for optimum productivity. Being realistic however, we know that’s not always possible – whether it’s children, working late or dinner/drinks that go on longer than expected – life happens and sleep sometimes suffers! In these circumstances, it’s important to find other ways to recharge – at least enough to achieve the bare necessities and make it through the day! Finding time for a power nap, prioritising a little meditation or even some exercise or a walk amongst nature, can help clear our heads and invigorate us when we need it most.

When we gain a clear understanding of exactly how our energy levels flow throughout the day and by recognising what depletes and replenishes them, we are able to start taking control of our schedules, tailoring them to work in harmony with our natural rhythms. By changing our mindset to focus on energy rather than time, we will optimise our productivity and preserve our quality of life. No longer will we measure our achievements by time spent, instead we will think in terms of tasks completed, which is far better for morale and boosts our ability to thrive!

By Gemma Coldwell - Contributing editor


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