It’s an ongoing joke in my business mastermind group that for me, energy management is the answer to every question.
Now, that’s definitely an exaggeration…it can’t answer, “how can I get my curls to behave?”
Otherwise my haircare would be way easier. 🤣
But when it comes to productivity problems? To-do list problems? Overwhelm and burnout problems?
Those are the kind energy management can make easy.
And since a question I hear about energy management frequently is, “what can I actually use it for?” I thought I’d run through a few examples with you. 😀
These are a few of the concrete problems that energy management has solved in my own life, specific questions that it’s answered for me.
When to Practice a Writing Habit
As a writer, it was always drilled into me that I should write in the mornings. So for the first few years of my writing career, that’s what I did.
At my day job, I went in at 8am and was writing by 8:15. And I’d pretty much keep going until I was done with everything I needed to write that day.
Sure, it got done, but it was rough.
I’d be exhausted the whole afternoon, never finishing all the admin and non-writing work needed to do. And by the time I got home from work, I would have zero mental energy for anything other than watching TV in a psuedo-fugue state.
After five days in a row of that, I would fall asleep around 7pm on Friday and sleep most of the weekend. I’m talking 12 hours of sleep each night with an afternoon nap as well.
But once I learned about energy management in 2014, I began experimenting more.
First it was a shorter writing block in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Then once I could control my own schedule, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
It turned out late nights, after everyone else has gone to bed, are my FAVORITE times to write. It’s when I’m most productive, creative, and happy.
And now I can write just as much without it taking up ALL the energy I have. I’m not too tired to go for an after work walk or dinner with my partner.
But I never would have figured that out without energy management.
If you’re also trying to build a writing habit, you can use energy management as well to figure out your best time to fit it in.
When to Work Out
Working out is another thing societal norm tell us we should do in the morning.
But as I always like to say about norms, “normal for who?” 🤔
Unlike writing, I never personally experimented with working out first thing on a regular basis. That’s not for lack of trying, though!
For a period in college, as well as another when I first became self-employed, I tried to regularly work out before noon. But try as I did, it never happened frequently enough to become a habit (I didn’t have Tiny Habits or Atomic Habits yet 😉).
It just does NOT work for me.
Between the delayed sleep phase syndrome that’s impacted me my whole life (like so many other neurodivergent people), the brain fog that comes with my chronic fatigue, and the weakness that comes with my disability, working out in the morning is a recipe for disaster.
My body moves more slowly, making the workout less intense.
But more importantly, my brain does too, making morning workouts riskier in terms of injuries. And I’ve already had enough of those!
And finally, I’m frequently exhausted for several hours after working out, so doing it with the whole day ahead of me makes it hard to get anything else done.
So instead, I protect and manage my physical energy throughout the day, so there’s enough of it left for a good cardio sesh come evening.
How to Schedule Meetings
Energy management has also helped me figure out the best way for me to work meetings into my calendar.
As an introvert in a job where meetings are a secondary task instead of a primary one, I struggled with meetings a lot early in my career.
A quick meeting would frequently take up my energy for the whole day. So then I figured, “if I’m not going to write or do creative work on meeting days anyway, I might as well get more meetings out of the way then.”
Batching meetings or calls as an autistic introvert completely overwhelmed me, to the point I wouldn’t be able to write for days afterwards. I was so drained, the exhaustion rolled over for days.
That’s even worse than losing just a few hours to a socializing hangover.
So after tracking my energy on meeting days of different kinds, I eventually found the best way to schedule meetings for my own energetic capacities. While batching and meeting days may work for some people, I operate best when I only have 1 or 2 social engagements per day.
Going even further, I also figured out that the best time to schedule meetings for myself was early afternoon.
My creative energy is low then, so it’s not time better spent writing. But I am mentally and physically energetic enough to engage in conversation (unlike mornings, when my creative energy is low but I’m also a silent zombie).
What and When to Batch
In reality, batching needs to be handled carefully.
For example, I already explained how batching meetings and calls burnt me out from too much socializing.
Batching too much writing at once can do the same thing to me. I have a bad habit of going HAM on my content calendar on Mondays, getting excited thinking I’ll be able to keep up that productivity all week, only to struggle to put any words on the page by Wednesday morning.
Energy management should be one of the most important things you consider when deciding what, when, and how to batch tasks.
Think about how long you can work on that specific type of task before feeling tired or bored, along with what time of day is best to complete that work during.
How Much to Work
Finally, energy management also helps you find the answers to really big, important questions around work. Bigger than the hours on your daily schedule.
For me, it’s been things like:
- How much am I actually capable of working per week before my productivity starts decreasing? (30 hours)
- How long can I write in a single session without a 5-minute break? (45 minutes)
- How should I schedule and structure my workdays? (I do better with more, but shorter workdays, ie splitting up a 30-hour week into six 5-hour days instead of five 6-hour ones)
And this all leads up to the big, existential question that energy management helps answer:
How do we get everything done that we need to with as much rest and as little stress as possible? 😬
Manage Your Energy, Manage Your Life
We don’t always have control over what’s on our to-do list, or when we do certain things, but we do have more control than we realize.
So often, though, we haven’t stopped to question the default setting society’s on for something.
I like to say that energy management is as much of a mindset practice as a productivity or self-care one.
Because it forces you to pause and reflect more frequently.
And that magic cannot be fully encapsulated in one quick blog post.