energy management, mental health, productive systems, productivity, time management

Time vs Energy: Creating a Productivity Mindset

A YouTuber that I love to watch is Rowena Tsai. I found her through Beauty Within when I was in my skin care fanatic phase a few years ago. Her videos are aesthetically pleasing to me and she seems very approachable and relatable. When I came across her channel, I figured it would be mostly about skin care. I quickly found out that her content has more to do with product management and creating healthy habits. One video of hers that I came across was titled “The One Productivity System You Need: Time vs Energy Management”. It really resonated with me when I first watched it, but as I thought of productivity and how to maximize my time I thought I would check out her video again to gain some more insights. Here’s what I learned:

Time or Energy Management?

Rowena quoted Tony Schwartz saying “It’s not how many hours you put in that determines how productive you are. It’s how much energy you’re able to invest during the hours you work” (Tony Schwartz, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working). I really sat with that idea for a moment. I think to how yesterday, I set aside time to write this blog post. But when it came down to it, I truly didn’t have the energy to do so. So though I set that time aside as my “productive” time, was I? Did it matter that I had set aside that time to write this exact post knowing I didn’t have the energy for it? In my mind, I would say no. Granted, I used that time to rest which I do beleive is “productive” and a good use of my time. However that “productive blogging” time I set aside wasn’t used for blogging simply since I didn’t have the energy for it.

Time is constricting. There are only a certain amount of hours in the day. Along with that comes the idea that time is finite and something we cannot control. Look at the flipside of that coin, energy. It’s flexible because we can renew our energy; we control replenishing our energy and sometimes choose what we know will drain our energy.

Energy Audit

Now that we know that energy is something far easier to manage than time, we must figure out when your energy levels fluctuate. Rowena has two tools or prompts to help you figure it out. One is to make a chart tracking your energy levels. On the y-axis you have the energy level and on the x-axis you have the time of day. You can look at the image below to see how I charted my day. By doing this you become aware of when you have the most or least energy.

graphing my energy levels

If that doesn’t float your rootbeer, you could do make up a habit scorecard made by James Clear. You write down every single little thing you do that day from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. At the end of the day, you put a + by what gives you energy, – by what drains your energy, and = by what doesn’t really affect your energy levels either way. When you do this keep in mind that this isn’t the end all be all of your energy levels for the rest of eternity. Your energy levels will fluctuate because you’re human (I assume; any extraterrestials leave a comment below) and humans change by nature! So it’s okay if you have a spike of energy one morning but not the next.

The next step in the process is to figure out what to do when your energy dips but you need energy to complete a task. It’s handy to have a list of tools and strategies that you know will help you get the energy that you need. For me my “energy-replenishers” are:

  • Yoga
  • A short nap
  • Eating a snack
  • Playing a little bit of Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Going for a walk (when weather allows)
  • Making a warm cup of tea
  • Journaling
  • Drawing

When you’re feeling low or that your energy levels are dipping try one of these strategies. Whichever comes naturally in that situation. A combination of them might be okay but no need to force it. Sometimes, it’s okay to just walk away from the project or task if circumstances allow! Your brain may need a break from thinking and having that “productive” switch on.

For 2021, I want to apply this energy management vs time management mentality to how I get work done without burning out. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea. Do you like to manage time or energy? You can comment below or go to the contact page to share your thoughts!

Until next time, Drew.

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