Everything you were told about productivity is not the whole story. Productivity isn’t about managing time, it’s about managing your energy. These are some hacks that you need to know in order to save your energy and use it to enhance your productivity.
One of the most common challenges that I hear from adult athletes is that they don’t have time to train for their sport. Many adult athletes find it difficult to find time to train for their sport (or do anything, really) because they have so many other conflicting priorities. Things like full-time jobs, side-hustles, caretaking responsibilities, paying bills, and social obligations can make it difficult to juggle a packed schedule AND dedicate time to training. Because of a long list of responsibilities, busy athletes also face high levels of overwhelm and time management seems impossible. It may seem difficult to find the balance between improving athletic performance and being a responsible adult but with the right strategies, they can both be possible.
In addition to training, there are other important aspects of an athlete’s training regimen that tend to fall to the bottom of the list when time is limited such as nutrition, recovery and mindset work. Getting to the gym and following a workout takes time. Meal planning takes time. Mobility exercises, ice baths, and post-workout stretching take time. Sitting still and doing nothing also takes time. But time isn’t the only currency spent on these things. They also take energy.
Time management isn’t really about management at all. A better phrase to use is “energy management”. Time is a finite resource and can be measured in seconds, minutes and hours. Energy is not a resource, it’s about the capacity to get shit done. It can be expanded. It can be renewed. It’s a form of currency that can be spent on habits and behaviors.
In order to optimize our time, and therefore our energy, the majority of the actions that we choose to spend our energy on should be intentional and scheduled, rather than mindless and unplanned. In other words, if we think about tasks in terms of how we are spending our energy rather than how we are spending our time, we’ll find a lot of opportunities to be efficient and productive.
Here are my favorite energy management strategies that help me balance it all and still have some time left in the day to watch Netflix and get into bed early.
1. Know what you're training for.
The secret to replacing distraction with focus is dedication. Having a goal and a customized game plan for achieving that goal will increase your drive to succeed and therefore you’ll make this goal a priority. If something is important and meaningful to you, you’ll do it. If it’s not important, you’ll find excuses NOT to do it. If you know what you’re training for, you’re more likely to get energized about working toward it rather than dread it.
This is one of my favorite techniques as it focuses all my energy towards my goal and helps me manage my energy and time a lot more easily.
2. Find a system for prioritizing that works for you.
The most successful people and the most elite athletes are really great at prioritizing their responsibilities. They don’t just have a mile-long to-do list. These people have a system for identifying the tasks that are important versus the ones that aren’t. There is nothing like prioritizing your work. This will work wonders for your energy and time management. Find your work-life-athlete balance by using one of these prioritization systems:
The Eisenhower Matrix.
Group tasks by their level of importance and urgency. The important and urgent tasks are the ones that you will do as soon as possible. Important, but not urgent tasks can be planned for later. Tasks that are urgent, but not important can be delegated by someone else or automated. And, tasks that are not important and not urgent can be eliminated.
Use the Eisenhower Matrix method and you yourself will see that you are getting better at managing your time and energy.
The Big 3 Method.
Pick 3 areas of your life that are the most important for you to spend time and energy on. Write them down and display them somewhere that you’ll see them every day and/or add them to your vision board. With these 3 areas in mind, you can narrow down the number and type of commitments that you make. Do this by saying no to any commitment that does not support one of these 3 areas.
The Ivey Lee Method.
At the end of every day, write a list of 6 things that you need to accomplish tomorrow. Then, prioritize those 6 things in order of importance. Once you arrive to work the next day, do those tasks in the order that you prioritize them. Any unfinished items that you have at the end of the day will carry over to your next list of 6 for the following day.
The 3×5 Index Card Method.
This is the one that I use for all my work tasks and find it to be incredibly helpful for working a full-time job and having a side-hustle. Essentially, I have a stack of blank white index cards on my desk and write down one task that I need to do on each one. Then, I categorize them into different work-related projects using colored index cards.
Every morning when I arrive at my desk, I go through my cards and pull out the ones that I need to do that day or want to work on and set that pile of cards next to my computer. I name these my MITs or my Most Important Tasks. Having one task displayed at a time keeps me from getting overwhelmed and keeps me focused on that task until it’s done. Once the task is done, I cross it off and re-use or toss the card. I have one stack for my business-related tasks and one for my full-time job related-tasks. This hack will help you a lot in managing your energy as it has helped me personally and that is why I am passing it on to you guys.
Self-discipline is the key here in reaching your goals and getting the work done on time.
3. Get more tasks done earlier in the day.
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a morning person. I’ve personally found that my morning routine is what determines my energy levels throughout the day. I also know that because energy is depleted throughout the day, willpower is also depleted throughout the day. This means that if I don’t complete something early in the day, then I’m less likely to finish it later in the day. And, as it turns out, this is true for most elite athletes. They train in the morning because that’s when they have the most energy.
The things you do (or don’t do) at the start of the day can either set you up for a successful day or can completely derail you for the remainder of that day. If you start your morning with small wins, then you’re more likely to have more wins throughout the day. Plus, willpower fades as the day goes on so you’re more likely to follow through with something if you commit to it in the morning.
Wake up a few minutes earlier so that you can get more things done at the beginning of the day or find opportunities to upgrade your morning routine so that you are using and replenishing your energy more effectively. Here are some highly effective tips to upgrade your sleep.
4. Focus on quality, not quantity.
When it comes to spending time on a task, it’s not the amount of time that you are spending that determines the quality of the result. It’s how you show up to do it. Showing up is a reflection of the energy that you bring to the task. Are you present, positive and engaged? Or are you angry, annoyed and distracted?
When you’re working on a task, I challenge you to be completely present and focus on spending your energy only on that one thing. The brain is actually not capable of focusing on more than one thing at a time. So, when you think you’re multi-tasking you’re actually just switching from one task to another quickly. Instead of trying to do multiple tasks at the same time (which is impossible), focus on being present for one of them at a time. I love the quote “where energy flows, the focus goes” and it fits with this blog post perfectly. You are actually more efficient and productive at completing tasks when your energy is more focused.
Nothing speaks “Manage Your Time Not Your Energy” louder than this hack. This gives a complete rational argument to why managing energy is much more important than time.
5. Avoid the vampires and embrace the joy.
One of the most important aspects of energy management is to ensure that you are protecting the energy you have and replenishing the energy that you deplete.
An energy vampire is a person that unnecessarily (and often unintentionally) depletes your energy. They feed off of your energy and leave you feeling drained. These people complain a lot, never have anything positive to say, are quick to blame other people or things, and looooove drama. They feel entitled to your time, fish for compliments, and have no sense of personal boundaries. My advice: avoid them as much as possible.
Avoiding energy vampires is often difficult especially in the workplace or even within your own family. There are some strategies for protecting your energy stores from being depleted when you’re around. This is a really great article that shares how to deal with energy vampires at work.
While you’re avoiding the energy drainers, you’ll also want to recharge the energy that you naturally deplete through the day. The best way to do this is to do things that bring you joy. These things will reduce stress, rewire destructive habits, and keep you energized. All work and no play is not a great energy management strategy!
These are some hacks that you can use to increase your productivity ten folds. When you start managing your energy the time follows.
If you loved this article or have a question just write down a comment and I will get back to you ASAP!