To all of you task-oriented people out there, who have been trying to figure out how to jam more into a day, and can’t believe that sometimes, albeit all the planning, you just can’t seem to get it all done, and to be honest, sometimes you have the time but just can’t find the gumption.
As I grow older, and begin to listen to my body more, I realize that managing my energy is a much better solution than managing my time. I've wished endlessly that I had more "discipline" or was one of those stringent routine people. That hasn't happened yet, but managing my energy has helped me to embrace who I am and be more productive! When I manage my energy, discipline seems to follow. This includes paying attention to what I put into my body and how it makes me feel, when my peak times of day are, and just what routines work for me (because some things that work for others do not work for me).
Learning about yourself can be a process. About a year ago or so, I started jotting down notes in my phone under a note titled “Things I’ve learned about myself.” One of the things that I noted was that -once I start winding down at night I get really tired and lose motivation. So, if I leave things to be done, like cleaning up the kitchen or finishing a project, for right before I go to bed, this is often what happens. I procrastinate, because I don’t feel like doing it, which wastes time, and end up taking twice as long to get it done, and stay up later in result. Doing those tasks like cleaning up the kitchen right after dinner, making sure my projects are tied up and I’m prepped for the next day, and even putting my pj’s on and washing my face before I sit down for the evening is a game changer for me. I can relax better knowing that I have nothing else on my mind for the rest of the evening and don’t waste precious sleep-time procrastinating.
The opposite is true for me as well; I have the most energy in the morning. First thing in the morning, especially an hour or two before sunrise, is when I have the most focus and concentration. I may not have the gumption to start running a marathon then, but I have a lot of focus. So, starting my work (research and writing) then multiplies my time during the day by a ton!
It’s little things like this that I have learned about myself over time that have helped me tremendously. I will share with you some basic ways for you to manage your own energy as well as my daily schedule as an example. I hope you enjoy!
Take note of when you do your best work, when you are most focused, when you are most motivated, and when you have the most energy. You could keep a time card for a week noting your tasks hour by hour to observe, or jot notes down on your phone. Also note when you waste the most time, what tasks take the most focus, and how what you eat/ drink affects you.
WORK AROUND YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
Once you have identified your peak hours during the day schedule around that time (Hence, scheduling is still very important to productivity!). If that means getting up an hour or two earlier to work on the things that need your focus or that you usually procrastinate on during the day, do that and then go to bed earlier (or perhaps the opposite if evening is your time). The resulting extra time in the afternoon you will have to work on personal projects or do whatever you want will be motivating!
FUEL YOUR ENERGY! (FOOD & EXERCISE)
Our energy levels have so much to do with the fuel that we give our bodies, a.k.a food! Often what we crave (insert coffee and donuts for me), is not what our bodies need (insert protein and water). For many, it is important to eat breakfast in the morning as to not have a blood sugar drop and then a spike of adrenaline (which, helpful fact, causes poor digestion when unused). I try to avoid sugar and stimulants until after lunch as to avoid the mid-morning or after-lunch slump, which can be a killer to productivity! Not eating after 7 or 8pm can lead to a more restful sleep. If I’m getting a run in, it is important to have plenty of hydration and nutritious food to get me out the door and fuel a better run! Exercise in turn, gives us more energy and better sleep as well!
I have read this before and vouch that it is true, taking regular breaks leads to better focus! I start to lose focus if I am working on the same project for more than two hours, so I try to take a 10-15 minute break (even a 5 minute one will help) in between. For me, taking a walk outside, around the yard or to get the mail, does a world of difference! I get away from my computer or just out of the house (surroundings) and breathe in some fresh air. If you can, walk away from your desk or workspace and focus on something different. If you have a mental job, do something stimulating to your senses that gives your brain a break, and perhaps the opposite if you have a creative or laborious job. I don’t recommend staring into your phone.
RELAX/ HAVE FUN EVERYDAY
I had a lot more energy when I was a teenager and up until I was about 23 I think, haha, and could run ALL DAY! I’d get up at 5 and work out, work all day, with meetings during lunch and dinner, run a program in the evening and stay up talking to someone until late into the night EVERYDAY! Ha.. not any more. I don’t think it’s healthy either. Now, I enjoy and protect my evenings (or for some of you it may be a different time of day) as a time to relax a little everyday. For me this is time to spend with my family, rest my mind, invest into something I love, and have a little fun everyday! Of course there are times when life is busy, or perhaps your children keep you running, but I would recommend doing this if possible; it will in turn increase your productivity!
You’ve all heard it - you need sleep! It’s one of the best ways to prepare for the next day. Don’t think that you can get your best performance on tomorrow if you are getting less than a hand’s count of sleep tonight. I’ve heard the magic number is 7. That is what I strive for (though one of the hardest things to protect for me). I can get by on 6, but I feel drowsy. I know some who require 8! Get what you need. Try hard to protect your sleep. I set an alarm on my phone to start getting ready for bed an hour before I want to be asleep, so I can turn all my devices off, do the things I need to before bed and crawl into bed and start reading or winding down.
For those of you who learn better by example, here is my “ideal” schedule, which works around my energy level. This could look very different for many of you, especially if you are a parent or have a heavy responsibility load, however I hope that the principles will be helpful!
| MY DAILY ROUTINE |
5:00 a | Wake Up + Meditation Somewhere between 5 and 5:30 I aim to roll out of bed. I choose to make spending time with God the first thing that I do because it is the most important thing for my day and my heart and I want to give it the most focused time. Plus rolling out of bed to go downstairs to the recliner is an easy transition. :) (I leave my phone upstairs during this time).
6:00 a | Work The next thing I do is go to the desk and start working. I may get a cup of tea before this, but nothing else. This is important to me because this is my most focused time of my day and the least amount of distractions at this point protect that. The world is quiet, my phone is still upstairs, I have ignored most other things in the house and around me and often I can accomplish twice as much in these two hours as I could any other time of the day.
8:00 a | Get Dressed + Breakfast Now the morning has officially started for me! The sun is up, I have a good start on my work and I am ready for the day! I get dressed (whether I’m going out or not), put my makeup on and check my phone. Then I make breakfast, usually some form of eggs, because I know that healthy protein will give me the energy I need and hold me over until lunch. I enjoy the little break in the morning, which is one of my favorite times of day, being in the kitchen, and usually read something while I’m eating (a periodical or flower book).
9:00 a | Work Back to work
10:30-10:45 a | Break Get the mail and take a little walk outside.
12:00 p | Lunch + Break I try to eat a wholesome lunch and don’t introduce any stimulants or sweets until after lunch because afternoon slumps are the worst! I take time to do whatever I want during my lunch break, to relieve my mind and have a bit of fun. Since my work is on my computer I don’t use leisure time to be there, because I need a break from it.
1:00-2:00 or 4:00 p | Work Finish out my afternoon at work. Sometimes I finish my work by 2, sometimes by 4, and the occasional day by 5. If I get done early I can make time for a personal project, which I usually try to plan ahead for so that I can use the time purposefully, or have a coffee date with a friend!
2:00 p | Break + Snack If I work through the afternoon, I take another break in between and usually have a snack to fuel up for my run. An orange, nuts or fruit and peanut butter.
4:00 p | Take a run I schedule a run in three days a week, usually M, W, F. I LOVE this time. Having it at the end of the day has worked for me; I can let go of work and start winding down for the evening.
5:30 p | Dinner + Relax After I shower it’s time to get dinner ready and eat with my family! At this point I have said goodbye to work and am enjoying my evening. I make a point of not working in the evening if possible because it is important to my mind and body to have a rest everyday and to do something fun, even if that means sitting on the couch reading or watching a show. (Also noting, that this is my lowest energy point of the day as far as brain-power, my best work is not accomplished during this time of day).
9:00 p | Get ready for bed In order to get up at 5, I have to be pretty disciplined with getting a good nights sleep (and discipline is a toughy for me). So, I set a reminder on my phone to start getting ready for bed at 9 and turn off all of my devices (TV, phone, computer). I get my pjs on, wash my face, make any preparations for the next day, and read a bit in bed before falling asleep.
10:00 p | Sleep It’s my goal to be asleep by this time, hence the importance of the routine before. I aim for 7 hours of sleep a night.
Ok, so to debunk your idea that I am super-disciplined- this does not always happen! This routine is an example of when my best energy points are during the day and what works for me! It is an “ideal” schedule that I strive towards however changes with the different demands of life and my own occasional rebellion towards discipline ;). I think that it’s important to know how to make adjustments when your plan does not fall into place, because it will inevitably happen! So perhaps, if I have a late night and I don’t wake up until 7am the next day, I could have a 15-minute meditation time and aim to eat breakfast and get dressed before 8 when I will start work.
When are your highest energy levels and what do you do to be more productive? I hope this was inspiring and helpful to you! If it was, I’d love if you leave me a comment below or share this with your friends!
UPCOMING | I have been thinking and pondering on the beauty of friendship lately and am excited to share some of it with you soon.
April will be here NEXT WEEK!
Have a wonderful week!