For many years I told my Clients with absolute passion that they are their time. My belief was quite simply that how we spend our time dictates the impact we create and the legacy that we leave behind.
It was a very neat and pithy thing and it resonated well with those high up the tree. But I was wrong. Time is certainly important, but it's only part of the equation. Energy is now what I focus on. The challenge with time is that we believe that one hour in the morning is equal to one hour in the afternoon. As an hour consists of 60 minutes, or indeed 3600 seconds, mathematically they are identical and yet the quality of them is anything but.
Tell me that the moment you got married, or scaled a mountain, is equal to that of waiting to board a plane or indeed the dentist. We aren't robots who function at peak performance all day long. We are designed to energetically ebb and flow, as did our ancestors as hunter gatherers. Exertion was followed by rest. It’s a part of our very nature. Our attention also varies very much throughout the day.
Recent research suggests that we have a maximum of 90 -120 minutes of deep focus a day and yet most people I know squander it on emails and other people’s meetings. It's a terrible waste of talent and it's one of the reasons that people find work so hard. A useful exercise is to note how your energy changes throughout a working day - if you track it over a week, you will find amazing consistencies. If you then zone your workload to correlate with how your energy flows, you will be surfing the waves rather than paddling through them.
I know that my sweet spot for thinking is early in the day and therefore I protect that time for when I have a proper nut to crack. It’s precious and not to be frittered away on social media or the weekly shop. My afternoons are great for collaboration, conversations, and exploring. As then I have butterfly energy. I find focus a proper challenge, but can connect with others beautifully.
I therefore design my days to make sure my energy and my work are In Sync. When we learn to manage our energy, we also realise there are certain things that just help us get extra bounce. We can’t focus for more than 90 minutes on one thing and therefore short, sharp, shocks deliver a more useful cadence. Not daylong meetings delivered in monotone. We then need to rest for 20 minutes which means doing something different somewhere different. We also need to bake in movement throughout our day. One post-work beasting in the gym is not enough to keep our motor running and therefore, we need to design frequent activity that is more integrated. A nap can be the best route to a productive afternoon but we must stop thinking of it as a waste of 20 valuable minutes and instead as an investment into the next 5 hours. When we manage our energy and not just our time, we achieve a rhythm that makes each day much more enjoyable.
We flow rather than sweat. And that is a thing of beauty.
So if it feels hard, change it and you will begin to ride those energetic waves.
Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash