I’ve had a number of new 1-2-1 clients come to me recently and all mention not being able to manage their time effectively. As I’ve introduced them to focusing on managing their energy instead, they’ve had some big lightbulb moments, Aha moments and made some quick changes for themselves.
No matter how much they try to plan their day and time more effectively, they are seen as successful but don’t always feel it, as they don’t think they have enough time to get everything done. They know they are lacking boundaries and this lack of boundaries is impacting how they spend their time. They spend a lot of time people pleasing and giving more time to others than themselves. They are spinning far too many plates at once. They are exhausted and their focus and energy is decreasing by the day.
All of these things are impacting all areas of their lives. When we focus instead on energy management, things can start to change. When we try to manage time, the most obvious thing is that time happens regardless of what we are doing and how much we have to get done. We all have 24 hours in a day and while some people seem to manage their time more effectively, what they are actually doing is managing their energy in the hours they have. They have the same 24 hours as you and I.
I also want to caveat that I am fully aware that when we talk about having the same 24 hours, the reality is we don’t have the exact same as each other. I no longer have small children like some of you do, I no longer have a corporate job like some of you do, I no longer have a huge team to manage like some of you do.
But the premise of managing our energy still remains the same, regardless of our circumstance.
We cannot control time and it’s useless trying to manage something out of our control.
When we instead start managing our energy, we can become calmer, more effective, more efficient and more energised. I’ve tried all the time-management techniques like diary blocking, pomodoro, diary detox etc and it hasn’t really helped me manage my time, they have helped me realise where I’m spending my time though.
In 2014 when I was asked to write my first book, I wrote about purpose driven time management and how and when we are living and leading a purposeful life, we can manage time more effectively. I’ve now tweaked that messaging and I’m now more about being core-led and managing energy.
The most effective are the techniques that help me manage my energy, such as; Ayurveda, managing my cycles and understanding what happens to my energy through the cycle of the day, week and month.
Too much or too little time spent on areas of our lives can either energise us, or deplete us from energy. When we are out of balance in one of our four core-ners this can impact the rest. So if we can manage our energy within these four core-ners the time will start to manage itself.
Energy angels and energy vampires - what’s the magic ratio?
We need a ratio of 3:1 of angels to vampires.
Energy angels are anything that give us energy.
Energy vampires are things that suck the energy out of us.
This can include: people, tasks, music, films, food, drink, activities, meetings, conversations etc.
A big vampire for me is spreadsheets. Thankfully I’m able to delegate these now. But if I’m looking at a spreadsheet for say 30 mins, that’s enough to drain me. So if I’m doing half an hour of those, I need an hour and a half of something else to bring up my energy levels. In my corporate days there was a meeting at 9am every Monday without fail. It was the worst way to start a week. And yet we continued to have them (even after feedback). So after that meeting I would go and have a chat with my team to try and counteract that drain on my energy.
What are your angels and vampires?
3 ways we can manage our energy effectively is:
Live and lead from our core
Putting our boundaries in place
Time for ourselves is not selfish, it’s a necessity. Whether that’s just snatching a few minutes at a time, or giving yourself a few hours a day. Whatever works for you. You will only be able to manage your energy effectively if you take regular time for yourself. If not, you are at risk of burning out.
We have 7 types of rest that can help you manage your energy and you should focus on different rests at different times that suit you.
With many women I speak to it feels like we beat ourselves up and guilt trip ourselves about time management, but I believe time management is a myth. We can’t manage our time, but we can manage our energy.
Think of our energy cycles like our seasons in the UK.
Winter is dark, cold, trees are bare and everything is resting, it’s the hibernation period. But usually in the winter we aren’t resting, we go into full on party mode and late nights and busy-ness. Spring is like new beginnings and allowing things to blossom. Summer is heat, brightness, longer days and high energy mode. But in the summer we tend to take time off to recharge, but this could actually be our most energised time. Autumn is about reflecting, colours and changes.
There will be parts of the day where your energy is higher and where your energy is lower.
Daniel Pink has a book called ‘When’ and it’s about times of the day that we should be making, being social, and times of the day we shouldn’t. So we need to understand what we coulda, woulda, shoulda be doing with our energy and when.
I’m a morning person when it’s light. So I’m up at 5am, I go to bootcamp, I walk the dog, I work on my admin, social media and clearing my inbox, all before 10am. Then comes my client work.
In the winter you’ll struggle to get me out of bed before 8 or 9 in the morning. I used to fight that and had no choice when I was in corporate, as I used to be on the train by 6.30-7.00am. So in the months with lighter days and mornings, I’m fired up and ready to go and then I can crash and want to hibernate in winter. I manage my time and energy around this.
If I go past my normal bedtime routine for example and attend an evening meeting or appointment, I can’t then switch off after. My head will be full of ideas and thoughts at bedtime and I won’t sleep well at all.
Our brain only has a certain amount of energy and will start switching off after about 90 minutes and then a short break is needed. There is new research to suggest it’s actually 48 minutes of optimal energy and productive time. Most of us however are going for 4 or 5 hours at a time before taking a break and wondering why we can’t function properly or think properly.
You have to not only give yourself more frequent breaks each day, you should also start managing your energy and not your time. Give it a go.
In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with family.
Determined to enjoy the success that she had earned, she's learned to create a life of balance and boundaries that is also highly successful. Today at kellyswingler.com, Kelly helps women leaders all over the world to prevent and recover from burnout without giving up their career or jeopardising their wellbeing.