Template: Energy management

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Alica Kačengová

Whatever you read that is at least distantly related to productivity, you hear that time management is a key to success. There is this often repeated mantra: “We all have the same 24 hours every day.” How come some people are able to achieve several times more than others if everybody has (roughly) the same time available? Of course you will achieve more if you eliminate time-consuming and non-productive activities and utilize idle time, so you stop scrolling your social media feeds and listen to audiobooks during your daily commute. But where to go from there?

It feels good to check off items from your to-do list but not all tasks are created equal. It requires different amount of effort to send a short status report compared to completing a new project presentation. The truth is, the secret to high productivity that actually lasts is not managing time or working harder or checking more items off the to-do list— it’s all about managing yourself, specifically your energy. You can’t expect yourself to perform on the top of your potential every minute of every day – that’s just not possible. Naturally, our energy level has its peaks and troughs during the day and looks like a sinusoide. It is influenced by how much we sleep, what do we eat, what’s the weather etc. However, it will always be there. By respecting the sinusoide and adjusting the work to it, it is actually possible to improve the performance without spending more time or effort. Lumeer’s Energy management template will help you with that.

When you work on a task, knowing why you are actually doing it (the goal) will increase your motivation and feeling of accomplishment when completed. There are two dimensions to categorise your tasks: important and less important, and urgent and not urgent. The following view in Lumeer illustrates this, with Tasks linked to Goals:

Kanban perspective shows cards with tasks in two columns:

If you apply both dimensions of categorisation to all of your tasks, you will get 4 types: 

  • important and urgent – require immediate action and could have serious consequences if not done – e.g. finish and rehearse presentation for tomorrow,
  • important and not urgent – are necessary to achieve long term results but don’t require immediate action – e.g. read a book that broadens your knowledge in the field
  • less important and urgent – require immediate action but don’t bring much (or any) value in long term – e.g. respond to emails
  • less important and not urgent – don’t require immediate action and don’t move you towards long term goals, e.g. prepare materials for a meeting that has not been set up yet

From a short-term perspective, you of course need to work first on the tasks that are important and urgent. That would, for example, include finishing and rehearsing presentation for the next day. You should schedule those tasks for the time of day when you are on the top of the energy sinusoide (and for the first peaks, as they are urgent). See how much of your workload is important and urgent in the pivot table:

Or as a percentage in a chart:

Then there are troughs of the sinusoide. It would be best to take a short break and after that focus on work that is urgent but not so important – it could be, for example, cleaning your inbox and responding to emails, as it probably requires less energy.

After finishing all the urgent tasks, are there still some peaks left until the end of your day? Well, they should, because by using your energy peaks and troughs you should finish them earlier than without it. This is when you have both time and energy to work on not urgent and important tasks. It is the time when you can sharpen your saw: if a woodcutter was only cutting the trees all the time and didn’t sit down to sharpen his axe, he would cut less and less trees down and with the same effort. Sharpening your axe is where the magic happens! You can think in long-term: What are the next projects we want to work on? What should the product roadmap contain? (Note: you might want to have a look at our another article explaining the difference between project and product management). Do we have a vision and are we acting on it?

Take the unique opportunity and start concentrating on things you always knew you want or should do (not urgent but important) with Lumeer’s Energy management template today!