Manage your energy, not your time

If you focus on how to manage your energy, your time will manage itself.

Do you believe that?

A few weeks ago, I had a meltdown. And not a pretty one.Is there such a thing as a pretty meltdown? I don’t think so, but suffice it to say that I didn’t act much better than my toddler.

The cause? I pushed myself to work on a project well past my bedtime. I’m not a night owl, and I know this about myself. I was on the brink of exhaustion and incoherency when I sat down, and yet I still convinced myself that this task absolutely had to be done right then.

It didn’t.

What happened is that I spent an hour working on something that likely would have taken me 20 minutes if I had done it at 6am and not 11pm.

This also led to a minor panic attack at work the following day when I was overwhelmed with so many different tasks I needed to work on that I didn’t even know where to start. I had more work and was getting less done in a given time frame than I would have if I had gotten a decent night’s sleep.

As professional working women, we’ve all been there at one point or another. It’s easy to convince ourselves that pushing through is the answer, when it’s not. The answer is to manage your energy.

There’s nothing more inefficient than pushing through and continuing to attempt to work when you’re not at your best.

When you’ve hit a wall, it’s time to hit reset. Here’s how:

This has been a game-changer for my afternoons! I'm so much more productive when I manage my energy and don't try to just power through the slump. #workingmom #manageyourenergy #timemanagement

4 Ways to Hit the Energy Management Reset Button

1. Take a breather. If it’s not late or you absolutely can’t go to sleep, take 5 minutes for a breather.  It’s wise to use this time to literally breather, taking big, deep, belly breaths. Meditation can work wonders. So can getting up and moving. If at all possible, go for a walk.

2. Skip non-critical work. In my meltdown scenario, I had a non-critical meeting on my calendar that I skipped in order to have the time to take a breather, vent and reset.

3. Have a mini-vent session. Done strategically, letting off some steam can be a great way to let it all out so that you can refocus. If you have a trusted co-worker or friend, a mini-vent session can be a great way to get what’s frustrating you off your chest and refocus back on what needs to be done. Caveat: Be careful that a strategic mini-vent session doesn’t become an regular habit that distracts both you and your co-worker from your work on an ongoing basis. 

4. Pick a task that requires a different part of your brain and get back to work. If you’re stalled out on a heavy thinking task or project, take the time to catch up on more mindless, repetitive tasks that tend to get put on the back burner. Even if the heavy-thinking project is critical, you’ll feel better and be able to dive back in quicker if you feel accomplished with your “down time” rather than staring into space, getting even more frustrated.

RELATED: 11 must-do productively non-productive tasks

In my case, I did all of these. I took a breather, skipped a non-critical meeting, had a mini-vent-my-overwhelm session with a trusted co-worker, and was able to pick a critical task and make good progress, as well as finish out the rest of my day.

Note: This has nothing to do with being a morning person or a night person, or with getting a recommended number of hours of sleep per night (although getting enough sleep is also highly important). It has everything to do with knowing yourself well enough to know when you are at your peak and when you aren’t, and planning tasks accordingly.

What’s the cost?

If you’re still thinking that you don’t have time to step away from the task, consider these statistics:

If one poor energy management decision per day costs an average of 45 minutes, that’s almost 4 hours per week, almost 16 hours per month and a whopping 200 hours per year. That’s the equivalent of five 40-hour work weeks.

Even if it takes 15 minutes to reset and get back on track, that’s still a time savings of 30 minutes per day, 2.5 hours per week, over 10 hours per month and 130 hours per year. That’s the equivalent of over three weeks per year.

Say what?! If I had an extra three to five weeks per year, I’d certainly be much farther ahead on my goals. Or heck, how about an extra three to five weeks of vacation?!

What could you accomplish with an extra three to five weeks of working time per year?

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