Manage Your Energy – Not Your Time!

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of all the articles out there that beat the principles of time management into the ground without even once referring to the importance of proper energy management!

Here’s the deal…

Too many time management practices treat time as if it’s an infinitely manageable resource – as if, by simply scheduling your allotted hours more effectively, you’ll be able to maximize your productivity and get more done than ever before.  But as anybody who’s ever tried to implement a rigorous new schedule just because some nameless, faceless productivity guru recommended it knows, it just isn’t that simple!

If you don’t have the energy needed to stick to your meticulously-constructed time management plan, there’s no way you’re going to succeed at becoming more productive!  Really, it isn’t the scheduling that’s the issue (even though that’s the focus of many time management plans).  Instead, it’s crucial that you address your energy levels before trying to corral your working hours into some semblance of a time management system.

To understand how your energy levels affect your overall productivity, consider how each of the following elements plays a role in your life:

Your Diet

Now, I’m not going to use this article to tell you about any one particular eating strategy that you must follow in order to boost your energy levels.  Really, we’re all different – and that means that there’s plenty of room for different dietary approaches when it comes to energy management.  I’ve known people who feel great eating a Paleo style, people who feel best as vegans and pretty much everything in between.

(If you want to find out more about the eating style that makes the biggest difference for me, check out my post on how I lost 40 pounds.)

However, what I can say when it comes to eating for energy is that a diet that’s based on processed foods is a universally bad choice.  Eating processed foods deprives you of the valuable vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your body needs to run effectively.  Without these vital elements, your energy levels will be lower, your immune system will be weaker and your mental focus will decline – all of which are important parts of your ability to be more productive.

To maximize the energy impact of your diet, give any of the following tips a try:

  • Cut out soda, coffee and other caffeine sources – It sounds counterintuitive, but these sources of caffeine aren’t really giving you energy.  They’re artificially propping up a system that would function more effectively if it was given proper nutrition and rest.  Instead of resulting on these beverages to power your days, cut them out entirely and use the following tips to maintain your energy levels.
  • Eliminate processed sugars – The processed sugars found in cakes, cookies, snack foods and hundreds of other products spike your blood sugar levels artificially, resulting in the inevitable crash that comes after your pancreas is forced to overcompensate by producing higher levels of insulin.  It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s one you should avoid if you want to naturally improve your overall energy.
  • Add one fruit and one vegetable to each meal – Eating better doesn’t have to be complicated.  Adding single servings of fruits and vegetables to each meal is a simple way to boost your dietary nutrient intake without the stress of revamping your entire diet.  Just be sure your vegetables of choice aren’t smothered in cheese, cream sauce or other calorie-laden topping!

Your Exercise Habits

Again, I’m not writing this article to tell you that you need to follow a specific exercise plan in order to maximize your energy levels.  I’ve already told you about some of the things that have worked for me (including rock climbing, kick boxing and other high-intensity activities), but if starting that intense of an exercise routine sounds overwhelming to you – don’t worry!

Really, you don’t need to go all-out, every day with an exercise routine in order to feel more energetic.  Instead, you just need to get moving more!  Here are a few tips on how anybody can take advantage of the natural energy that comes from exercising:

  • Be consistent – It’s far better to do 10-15 minutes of regular exercise each day than to put off exercising and try to make up for a week’s worth of missed workouts with one marathon gym session (at least, as far as your energy levels are concerned).
  • Start small – If you’re out of shape, be aware that something as simple as a short walk or a gentle yoga session can give you powerful energy benefits.  Not that there’s anything wrong with aspiring towards more vigorous workouts, but if you aren’t in good enough condition for intense workouts, don’t let that discourage you!
  • Exercise with energy in mind – Many peoples’ hang-ups about exercise come from failed weight loss plans.  So instead of thinking about exercise as a tool for slimming down your waist line, look at physical activity as a way to improve your energy levels.  It’s a major mental shift that can make a huge difference in your ability to set and stick with an exercise routine.

Your Sleep Schedule

It isn’t exactly a secret, but the amount of sleep you get plays a major role in your ability to wake up the next morning and be productive.  Of course, on the other hand, if you’re a busy entrepreneur like me, compromising on the length and quality of your sleep cycles might seem like a necessary trade-off to make in order to give your growing business the best possible chances of success.

Here’s the thing, though – entrepreneurship isn’t a sprint.  Sure, there will be times when you need to push extra hard to clear a new business hurdle.  But it’s also important that you be concerned with your ability to sustain yourself through the long-game of business ownership – and that type of long haul requires proper sleep in order to maintain the consistently high energy levels needed for success.

Consider the following tips when it comes to maximizing your sleep schedule from an energy management standpoint:

  • Determine how much sleep you need to be productive – Newsflash: we don’t all function best with exactly eight hours of sleep!  Using the process of lifestyle optimization, I’ve determined that I need only 5-6 hours of sleep to be productive, which enables me to both manage my energy levels appropriately and free up extra time for business work.
  • Identify your sleep distractions – Today’s digital world presents plenty of distractions that prevent us from getting to bed on time.  Check your personal habits for things like late night TV watching, video gaming or mobile internet browsing to find and eliminate the activities that are interfering with your ideal sleep schedule.
  • Optimize your sleeping space – Remember, though, that sleep isn’t just about time – it’s about quality as well.  If you have the money to do so, invest in a great mattress, curtains that eliminate light entirely and a white noise generator to ensure that your sleep is as restorative as possible.

Your Stress Level

Obviously, business owners and other professionals can’t simply wave their magic wands and *poof* away their stress levels.  However, the way that you do handle the stress you can’t avoid plays a big role in how effectively you’re able to modulate your energy levels.  Stress is often referred to as the “silent killer” – and even if it isn’t affecting your physical health, you can bet that unresolved stress plays a big role in your ability to remain productive.

So since you can’t get rid of stress entirely, check out the following tips on how to manage it appropriately:

  • Learn to pick your battles – Worrying about problems that you aren’t directly responsible for and which you can’t directly control only leads to unnecessarily high stress levels.  If you find yourself getting carried away, take a few minutes to remind yourself that you’re worrying about something that doesn’t need to cause you stress.
  • Delegate more – If, on the other hand, you’re feeling truly overwhelmed, delegating tasks to others or simply saying “No” to projects that you don’t need to be involved in can go a long way towards helping to minimize stress and its deleterious effects on your energy levels.
  • Engage in stress-relieving activities – Finally, for the stress you can’t get rid of, try to find activities like yoga, meditation or massage therapy that can help ensure that your stress doesn’t lead to physical and energy-related consequences.

Your Down Time

One last consideration when it comes to energy management is the amount of down time you give yourself.  It’s absolutely a myth to believe that we can all be productive 100% of the time.  The truth is that business building is an inherently creative process – and that creativity requires down time to let our brains relax and our minds wander.

So if you’ve filled every single one of your days with business priorities and self-improvement activities, you simply aren’t allowing yourself the down time needed to work effectively!  Here are a few tips on how to build more down time into your schedule:

  • Turn off your devices – Time spent “relaxing” isn’t all that restorative if you’ve got the TV going, your smartphone in hand and the stereo blasting in the background.  Instead, try to spend at least a small chunk of time each day with all of your devices turned off in order to shield your brain from the constant information input we’re usually surrounded by.
  • Find a hobby – One of the things I love about learning to race cars is that it gives me a chance to use a different part of my brain than I do in my business life.  Weirdly, though, I’m often surprised by how many of the insights I have while engaging in this hobby help me to improve my business in some concrete way – likely because I’m giving other areas of my brain the chance to take a break and run in the background for a while.  You don’t have to take up racing cars, but do find some sort of hobby that helps give your mind a break!
  • Spend time with friends and family – Really, there’s nothing more relaxing for me than spending time with members of my personal circle.  Not only is it important for me to keep these relationships strong, making these people a priority in my life helps me to turn off the business side of my brain for a while – resulting in new insights and greater focus when I do hit the computer later on.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to make all of these improvements at once.  For example, you could choose to focus on your diet or exercise habits at first – moving on to stress management or down time once you feel confident in the changes you’ve already made.

But however you decide to progress through these different considerations, pay careful attention to how your changes are affecting your energy levels.  Once you start to notice a consistent increase in your overall feelings of energy, go back and start applying popular time management practices to your most productive periods.

By addressing your energy levels before your time management priorities, you’ll ensure that you have the energy needed to stick to your new schedule – resulting in higher productivity and greater work/life satisfaction overall.

Now, I want to hear from you.  Do you worry about your energy levels?  If so, share the techniques you use to guarantee that you’ll be focused and productive during the day in the comments section below:

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About Sujan

Sujan Patel is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work & Wage Base. Previously Sujan founded Single Grain, one of the top Digital Marketing agencies in San Francisco, CA. With more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force,…