zen habits : breathe

Productivity Boost: Increase and Manage Your Energy

This is a guest post written by fellow PBN blogger Scott H. Young, who writes about creating habits, achieving goals, being productive, and other good stuff on his blog. If you like this article, I highly recommend you go and take a look at his site.

How well do you manage your time? Even if you aren’t exactly a member of the cult of Getting Things Done, you probably have a schedule, calendar and a couple lists of things to do. If you are particularly busy you might own a day-planner where you schedule in tasks and work to be done.

Now here’s a better question: how well do you manage your energy? If you answered, “Huh?” to that question, that isn’t a good sign. While there may only be twenty four hours in the day, your capacity for energy isn’t a fixed quantity. Organization and time-management play a role, but it will be your ability to manage energy that makes the difference.

If you were going to run a triathlon, you would spend more time improving your endurance and pacing yourself then sitting on the bench writing out the timing for your swimming, running and biking. Athletes understand that effective training comes from a combination of exercise and rest. By getting better control over your own energy cycles and capacity you can do far more for your productivity than writing a to-do list will.

Increasing Your Capacity
How do you train for a marathon? You start by running 5 km, move up to a 10 km, then a half marathon. In other words, it’s a gradual increase of your endurance. Your energy functions exactly the same way. You build increased energy capacity slowly through progressive training.

Physical, mental, emotional, and social are all different dimensions of energy. For all of these dimensions you should strive for increasing your endurance and your strength. Endurance is the ability to maintain energy levels for longer periods of time and strength is your ability to sustain a short burst of energy. Marathons and sprints.

Managing That Capacity
Increasing your capacity for energy may take time and effort, but it is relatively straightforward. The real key to productivity is being able to manage the energy you already have. You probably know athletic jocks or creative artists that don’t seem to get a lot done. Having a large capacity for energy is good, but just like time, it is an easy thing to waste.

You manage your energy in cycles that vary between work and rest. Your energy is like a muscle. You stress your muscles during a workout, and follow it with a period of rest so they can recover. Working constantly and resting constantly are both suboptimal. Balancing the cycles is the core of managing energy.

Here are some ways you can manage your energy cycles:

  1. Set Periodic Goals – To-do lists are never-ending. Set daily and weekly goals so you can chunk out a specific amount of work for a period of time. I keep a daily goals list that allows me to plan the amount of work for each day. Using this technique helps you oscillate between hard work days and lighter work days to build your capacity and manage your cycles.
  2. Timebox – Within the span of a day, set 30-90 minute timeboxes of activity followed by a short break. You might decide to spend the next hour working on a report before taking a short breather. This method is far more effective than simply expecting to work constantly for the entire day.
  3. Smart Recovery – To be productive you need to focus on what is the best way to use your energy, right? Well an almost equally important aspect is to focus on what the best way to recover your energy is. Figure out what will truly replenish your energy and do that. I’ve found television watching to be a really poor way for me to recover energy compared with socializing or going for a walk.

Effective time-management doesn’t give you more time. You still end up with a 24 hour day. But effective energy-management can create more energy. Properly training your capacity and working within energy cycles will increase your energy. Use both time and energy management to achieve peak productivity.

About Scott H Young:

Scott Young is a University student who writes about personal development, productivity and goal setting. Scott is currently writing his first book, Personal Evolution, which will be available in the fall. You can learn more about Scott or read hundreds of other articles at his website.

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