We all have a finite number of hours in our day. In order to get more done, we can’t really add any more hours and time management techniques will only get us so much further. What we need to do to maximise our personal productivity is to manage our energy properly throughout the day.
If you’re tired, hungry, thirsty, not motivated, or in any other low energy state, you will not get a lot done, no matter how many hours you put in. You will be much more productive during hours when you’re fully present, wide awake and feel on top of the world, even if those hours are just a few.
So how can you improve on those few productive hours?
Here are 5 tips that will help you to manage your energy so that it lasts longer, and you can get more done during your workday.
1. Stay fuelled and well hydrated
In order to give us peak performance, our bodies need to be well fuelled. This means nutritious food and enough water throughout the day. Skipping breakfast and/or lunch will do nothing to help improve your performance. It’s time to stop living in the 80s (“Lunch is for wimps” – Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street) and get wise that food is fuel and that’s what our mind and body need to keep going. Your brain will also work a lot better if you keep your fluids topped up throughout the day, so keep that water bottle handy.
2. Build in breaks to re-energise
When we use up a lot of energy it is important to take regular breaks to refuel our strength. Make sure you take breaks in between meetings (whether they’re online or in person). Do some breathing exercises, go for a short walk, review your notes, prepare for the next meeting, whatever it is, simply give your mind some downtime, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. You will be better able to focus throughout the day if you do.
If your work requires a lot of concentration, build in some breaks so you don’t run out of steam or start making mistakes. You could take a power nap mid-afternoon, add a bit of playtime, listen to some music, or do a bit of exercise (chair yoga, anyone?).
This takes us straight to the next point.
3. Work in sprints rather than marathons
Working in focus sprints can do wonders for your productivity. Instead of working on your projects for hours on end, why not set yourself a timer? You could use the Pomodoro Technique, for instance: set a timer for 25 minutes, work uninterrupted until it goes off, then set it for 5 minutes and take a mini break. You have just completed one Pomodoro. Do four of them, then take a longer break, maybe 15 minutes. You can of course adjust the timings to your needs, such as longer work-sprints.
These types of sprints keep us focussed for longer, as the brain gets the breaks it needs. You’d probably not be able to work non-stop for 2 hours without starting to lose focus. Doing four 25-minute sprints, however, is absolutely doable and you’ll want to do another lot after your longer break.
4. What drains and what energises you? Rearrange it!
Find out which activities drain you and which energise you. If at all possible, eliminate the ones that drain you. You could delegate them, for instance. Some people find spreadsheets draining, while others thrive on this kind of work; you might be helping someone else in the process. If that’s not an option, try to move your day around so that do your energising tasks first and keep the more draining ones for the end of the day. You don’t want to drain yourself first thing in the morning.
5. Are you a morning person or a night owl (or something inbetween)
When are you at your most productive? That is the time you want to schedule important meetings, do creative work and work on challenging tasks. When you’re in low energy mode, work on easier tasks and try and tick more mundane and routine things off your list.
This way you make the most of your available energy.
It’s important to realise that we’re all different.
That’s why not all time management techniques and productivity hacks will work for everyone. We have to take our personalities into account and how we are wired.
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