Managing Your Energy Makes You More Productive

How many times have you been told that to be productive you must know how to manage your time? Actually, what you should do is learn what time of day you feel most energetic. We explain.
Managing Your Energy Makes You More Productive
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 September, 2022

Have you ever had the feeling that you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do in a day? That no matter how much you organize your day, you still find yourself with pending tasks, unfulfilled obligations, and unachieved goals? This makes you feel frustrated and annoyed with yourself. You find yourself asking why it’s so hard for you to be productive.

Some might tell you that you set your expectations too high. Others might say that your time management is lousy. They may be right, but the truth is that there’s another decisive factor that you may be completely neglecting. It’s the fact that managing your energy, not your time can make a huge difference when it comes to your performance.

Jim Loehr, a psychologist, CEO, and co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, is the joint author of the bestselling book The Power of Full Engagement (2005). This work claims that today, with our particular lifestyles, organizing our time no longer works. Loehr claims there’s another strategy that we should learn.

Our energy isn’t only physical, it’s also emotional. Sometimes, factors such as stress and worry completely overshadow it.

Exhausted woman after running thinking about how to manage your energy
Many times we set goals without knowing our energy levels and without knowing when we feel at our best.

Managing your energy

The scientific literature on productivity has demonstrated that how productive you are isn’t dependent upon the number of hours you work. For instance, working solidly for ten hours won’t necessarily bring greater benefit to the company you work for. In fact, sometimes, working for half of this time results in more optimal performance.

This suggests that you’re focusing your model of goal achievement on the wrong resource. It’s not the time you spend doing something that allows you to achieve success. It’s your energy, your disposition, your mental focus, and your state of mind.

Having to work continuously is often an obstacle, especially if you’re tired and stressed. In fact, research conducted by an economics professor, John Pencavel, highlights the inverse relationship between time and productivity after a certain point.

How well can you concentrate?

Imagine that you’re preparing for an exam. You work part-time, so figure out that the most appropriate course of action is to study for four hours every night. However, after a few days, your mental exhaustion and stress will be immense.

The first thing you need to clarify is how long your level of focus and concentration lasts. On average, attention in the human brain is 45 minutes. That’s the maximum energy that you can contribute in a sustained manner. After that time interval, a break is always recommended of between 15 and 20 minutes.

What time of day are you most productive?

Let’s continue with our above example. As we mentioned, your first attempt at studying was limited to four hours every night. Nevertheless, let’s say you know that your mind performs better in the morning than in the evening.

Therefore, with this in mind, you devise a new strategy. You decide to get up an hour earlier before going to work to focus on studying as you know that you’re more productive at this time of day. Then, you can reduce your night study to two intervals of 45 minutes with their respective breaks.

Managing your energy also requires knowing at what point in your day you feel more physically and mentally willing to work.

It’s important to remember that your energy isn’t just physical. When it comes to achieving a goal, you must harmonize your mental and emotional energy. This requires everything from good stress management to recharging your batteries with positive energy.

Positive energy rituals to reactivate your focus and mood

Dr. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out, in their book, The Power of Full Engagement that our lifestyles are potentially stressful. We fill our days with a thousand tasks, get stressed and overwhelmed, and are soon gripped by discouragement and negativity.

You must bear in mind that your energy isn’t only physical, it’s also mental and emotional. This explains why, many times, despite not being physically tired, you don’t feel as if you have much energy or motivation to focus on a goal.

The key lies, not in managing your time, but in planning your recharging points. In fact, something as simple as resting, practicing self-care, and spending time with people you love, will allow you to regain your strength. Your mood will be rebalanced and you’ll feel stronger and able to work on your goals.

Woman working outdoors on managing your energy
If you already know what time of day you have the most energy, make the most of it by reducing distractions at this time.

To manage your energy, push yourself to the max when you work best

Managing your energy requires effort, both in planning, execution, and supervision. Only you know what time of day you’re most productive. Once you’ve established your work intervals and rest times, stick to them. Being productive requires effort and maximum control of any distractions.

Once you get used to this production model, you’ll control it much better. You just need to be clear that sitting at a desk for eight hours doesn’t mean better performance. It means that your mind soon becomes overloaded, your emotions fluctuate, and your body becomes exhausted and stressed. Indeed, it’s a fact that, sometimes, less is more.

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  • Loehr, Jim (2005) The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal. Simon & Schuster
  • Pencavel, J. (2015). THE PRODUCTIVITY OF WORKING HOURS. The Economic Journal, 125(589), 2052–2076. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24738007