Do you feel that you never seem to get enough done? Have you tried all sorts of time management techniques only to discover that none of them seem to work for you? If so, you’re not alone.
Many people feel the same way and the conclusion they come to is that there must be something wrong with them. They don’t have enough willpower or are simply not organized enough to accomplish all the things they need to.
If time management is difficult for you, try managing your energy instead. This helps you to go with your natural rhythms, making you more effective for dealing with life’s challenges. Time management alone will not work for everyone. Let these tips help you:
1. Know your energy highs and lows
Do you have more energy in the morning, afternoon or evening? If you can, schedule your tasks around your best energy times. If you have more mental energy in the morning, do the tasks that require more brain power then. If you are more physically active later in the day, perhaps that’s when you should schedule meetings or carry out your organizational tasks.
Don’t worry about what works for other people – figure out what works for you. For example, if everyone tells you that working-out first thing in the morning is the best thing to do, but you find that you have more energy to work out in the evening, then trust what your body is telling you.
When you know your own personal energy rhythms, you will be able to use your energy much more effectively.
2. Go with the flow
Once you understand how your personal energy levels work, you’ll be able to go with your natural energy flow – and, when you go with your natural energy flow, you’ll find you get much more done. It’s like floating downstream instead of fighting your way upstream.
If you start to do something and are finding it difficult, you are trying to go upstream. Move on to something else that feels better and more ‘downstream’. Then go back to the other task when your energy feels right for that task – this is what is meant by going with the flow.
3. Take regular breaks
Research shows that when you take regular breaks you actually get more done. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s worth a try. Find an amount of time that works for you (20, 30 or 40 minutes), set a timer, and then take a short break whenever the timer goes off. Try the Pomodoro technique; it trains your brain to focus intensively for short periods and, over time, can help you improve your attention span and concentration.
It can be difficult to take a break when you have a long list of things to accomplish but, if you’re willing to give it a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Taking regular breaks means that, when you come back to a task, you have more energy and focus.
4. Find what works for you
You may try different techniques and strategies and, if you find one that works for you, that’s great. But feel free to tweak things or combine different methods until you find what does. For example, the recommended amount of time for the Pomodoro technique is 25 minutes, but find what amount of time works best for you. I like 40 minutes.
The only way to find what works best for you is to try different things. Take advice from others and try what they say works for them, but don’t feel you’ve failed if it doesn’t work for you. Everybody is different and it’s important for you to find your own methods.
5. Create routines
Set yourself up for success by creating routines that work to give you the most energy each day. For example, first thing in the morning you might do some form of exercise or stretching, followed by a shower, followed by breakfast and meditation. You might benefit from listening to motivational recordings or podcasts on the way to work also.
It’s also helpful to create a routine for the end of the day to help you unwind, such as a few minutes of yoga, prayer or meditation, or perhaps some journaling. Writing out your thoughts from the day can be very therapeutic and affirming.
6. Don’t force it
If you are struggling to get something done or to figure something out, the best option can be to walk away from it and do something else. Often you’ll find that, when you come back to where you left off, you are able to accomplish what you couldn’t before.
Again, try to visualize whether you are going upstream or downstream. When something feels difficult, you’re fighting your way upstream. This is a sign that you should stop and take a break or do something else. You’ll accomplish far more when you stop fighting your way upstream.
7. Do what you enjoy
Make a list of all the things you do, then rate each one on a scale of 1–5 (1 = I can’t stand doing this; 5 = I absolutely love doing this). This will give you valuable information about your energy expenditure. If you find that the majority of the things you are doing are between 1–3, then you’ll understand why you want to procrastinate or why you struggle to get things done.
Give yourself permission to do more things that you enjoy. This will energize you and you’ll look forward to each day, making it easier to be efficient and productive.
8. Master the art of delegation
Once you know what you love to do and what you don’t, find ways to delegate the things you don’t enjoy so that you can do more of what you do love. This is energy management at its best and most effective.
Remember, any time you’re trying to force something there is resistance. It may be because you don’t have the energy for it at that time, or it may be because it’s not something you really want to do. Think of it in terms of the energy you have and the energy you bring to what you’re doing. When you learn how to manage your energy rather than your time, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish – and feel good doing it.
What have you done to stay productive?