When starting a new job, with new tasks and responsibilities, one could easily start thinking: How do I organize my new work? What are the priorities of this new role? How do I get up to speed? How to excel at these new tasks?
By literally typing these questions, you can easily find information and advice available on the web on how to be more productive (especially now amid a pandemic). Make to-do lists, track your time, reduce distractions, identify urgent tasks, and important ones.
But following these methods be a way to increase your performance and/or productivity at work? Is there another way to do it?
A different approach would be thinking about how much energy each activity requires (from low to high), and how much impact on the job it has (low to high).
Why think about energy instead of time?
Well, Tony Schartz and Catherine McCarthy said in this article that:
“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance”.
Time is a limited resource, and that’s the challenge. But energy is not limited, it can be renewed, and it can be cultivated from different sources. And focusing on energy could be key to a transformative relationship to time as well.
The energy “wellsprings”
Think about different practices and how they affect your energy level. Schartz and McCarthy mentioned four main wellsprings of energy in our lives:
Body – responsible for the physical energy, so sleep, nutrition, oxygen (for real), exercise.
Emotions – the emotional energy. A great example is how introvert people usually have to take a rest after spending time gathering around.
Mind – or mental energy. How do you usually feel after completing a complex task? Drained?
Spirit – our spiritual energy is closely related to how we find meaning in what we do.
Think about all the factors and practices related to these wellsprings, and how they affect your energy levels.
For example, for the physical energy, besides sleep (excess, deprivation, a great night of sleep), think about a certain period of the day or the week (for people who menstruate, I’d also say of the month), certain stimulant food, such as caffeine and energy drinks.
You could also think about metabolism, mental or physical factors that could affect your energy.
Think about activities or behaviors that are associated with when you feel energized, or tired. How do activities that give you joy make you feel (in terms of energy)? When you’re feeling energized, do you feel you could do a lot of things?
Energy management assessment
To have a better understanding of how to apply this energy knowledge in your workday, I suggest the following exercise:
1 – identify the different activities you have to typically perform in your job.
2 – identify how much energy each activity requires
3 – Identify the best period of the day and the week/month to each activity
3.1 – prior to that, I’d recommend an additional step. Think about your energy levels throughout a workday, from the beginning to the end of it, and take notes. How’s your energy level at the beginning of the day? Are there factors that influence, such as having breakfast, traffic, etc.? How about the period in between the beginning till lunch break, is your energy usually high or low? Do this for the whole workday period, and for the week/month.
3.2 – Now that you know your energy balance throughout the workday, think about each activity you wrote down, and what would be the best period of the day and the week/month. For example, if answering emails is a task that doesn’t require too much energy from you, try to do it at a time of the day when you have lower energy, or at least when you don’t have your energy peak.
4 – consider other factors that could affect such activity. For example, if it’s an activity that demands attention to details, you could put that it’d be better performed in silence/focus mode, with no distractions.
Your energy planning table could look like this:
5 – After completing the table, you can start organizing your routine based on that. You could even go further, by adding how much impact or importance each activity has on your work.
In addition to that
Speaking from personal experience, I’d complement this exercise with other advice.
Minimize distractions, and if you haven’t done yet, create the work environment. Specific attire to work, set proper office space, keep the policy of not checking social media during office hours, following the Pomodoro method. Whatever works best for you.
Maintain work-life balance and think beyond that. What are some rituals and practices you could cultivate on your routine, such as respecting meal and office hours, do meditation or mindful exercises, have a get-to-know-chat with a colleague?
Take and respect breaks. It doesn’t really count if you’re away from the computer but are with your phone with work notifications on. Truly take these moments to rewind the mind. Taking a break is a privilege we usually neglect.
Figure out activities/practices that boost your energy, and others that help you decelerate when you’re not working.
For me, it has been about discovering new things and cultivating my well-being. So, I’m balancing the time and energy by trying different things on the weekend or after the workday, such as going to a park/area nearby that I haven’t been to yet, trying a new or a favorite recipe, rediscovering childhood hobbies, and interests, growing new vegetables.
And last but not least, embrace your self-assessment. It’s okay if you want to binge-watch a whole season of your favorite tv series after an exhausting day to not have to think about anything; it’s okay if the routine you set didn’t work; it’s okay if you missed your alarm in the morning. Don’t let one slip take over all your energy. Try again.