By Beth Rush
Time management gets a lot of press. Some universities even offer courses. However, for all the hoopla, it takes a backseat to energy management.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Why do some people tumble into bed at days’ end feeling accomplished while others feel like perpetual hamsters, running on a wheel but getting nowhere? Many factors are at play, but energy management might offer the secret sauce that makes the deciding difference.
What Is Energy Management, Anyway?
Think back to the last time you tried tackling something important when you felt run down or exhausted. You might have rocked it otherwise, but even Einstein might struggle to solve complex equations immediately after waking up with a head cold.
Energy management refers to balancing all the various moving parts of your life to maximize your performance. Without it, you risk burnout and disengagement, a phenomenon affecting millions of Americans.
Good energy management involves meeting two criteria:
- Protecting your health to keep your energy levels as high as possible
- Matching your daily schedule to your energy ebbs and flows
For example, some people do best early in the morning but peter out as the day continues. Others can burn the midnight oil but struggle to get going before noon.
The tricky part of energy management is saying no to chairing 7 a.m. meetings if you’re a chronic night owl. However, anyone can make changes, such as getting adequate sleep and improving their diet.
Why Energy Management Is Important
Time is fixed — nothing you can do can give you more. However, energy is renewable and increasable. While it naturally ebbs and flows with exertion and rest, taking proper care of yourself by eating right and getting adequate exercise and sleep lets you make the most of the time available.
Feeling your best encompasses your body, mind, and spirit, so the right energy management solution also entails knowing yourself. For example, you might not be able to change the fact that you were born a night owl. Recognizing this means realizing a job at a nightclub might suit you better than one as an opening server at a breakfast and lunch joint.
What Factors Affect Your Energy?
Good energy management means recognizing and addressing the factors that influence your performance. Some are harder to control than others, although you can nearly always find a workaround to fit your circumstances.
Less Controllable Factors
Everyone has innate tendencies and responsibilities they must meet. For example, you might not control your work schedule right now. However, can you explore flextime options or move to another position with hours that better suit your circadian rhythms?
Those with chronic illnesses must learn to manage their spoons to maximize energy management, including taking medications and necessary rest. Those who are caregivers to young children, older adults, or ailing relatives need adequate support systems to give them breaks to recharge their batteries.
Factors You Can Control
However, you have more control over the following:
- What you eat
- How you move
- How you ease stress
- How you sleep
You might not need a full-life makeover. Small changes can make a big difference. For example, increasing protein consumption from 15% of calories to 30% of your total intake cuts your daily calorie consumption by 400 — enough to drop a pound per week without effort. You’ll also boost energy by improving your overall nutrition by choosing lean versions like lentils, nuts, spinach, seeds, edamame, poultry, and fish.
6 Suggestions for Improving Your Energy Management
Take these steps if you’re ready to improve your energy management.
1. Take Notes
Keep an energy log for a week. Check in with yourself every two hours and jot down how you feel. At the end of the week, look for patterns. Then, ask yourself, “What changes can I make to manage my energy better?” You might need to rearrange some meeting times.
2. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Even those who work the third shift can improve sleep hygiene by taking the following steps:
- Create a routine: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Furthermore, invent a ritual, such as brushing your teeth and unwinding with an easy yoga routine, to cue you that it’s bedtime.
- Dim the lights: Lowering the lights can help prime your body for sleep.
- Ditch the electronics: These stimulate you and may contain blue light that interferes with melatonin production.
- Keep it quiet: Use soundproofing and white noise for roommates and quieting the outside din.
- Avoid exercise and heavy meals two hours before bedtime: You don’t want your body to be digesting when trying to focus on sleep.
3. Adjust Your Diet
You don’t have to get in on the latest fad — simply know what to eat and avoid. Pass on ultra-processed convenience foods laden with unhealthy fats, bleached flour, sugar, and other additives, as they can harm energy levels. Instead, fuel up on:
- Whole grains
- Lean protein
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Healthy oils, like olive oil
4. Find Movement That Works
Exercise increases energy levels, and anything that elevates your heart rate for at least a half-hour daily qualifies. You might jog, take a cardio class, hop on a machine, or dance around your living room — as long as it leaves you breathless.
5. Manage Stress
Indulging in alcohol or substances while binging Netflix doesn’t qualify as stress management. Instead, find healthy outlets, such as:
- Healthy hobbies like gardening or playing an instrument
6. Assess and Adjust
Schedule time each week to reflect and assess what’s working and what needs continued improvement. Providing 30 minutes to brainstorm sometimes reveals answers to how to manage your energy even better.
Time Management? Try Energy Management Instead
You can’t make more hours in the day, but you can manage what you have more effectively. Energy management supersedes time management because it deals with the variable factor — you! Taking better care of your energy lets you perform at your peak.