Work Productivity & Energy Management - What We Lose Thinking About Time

“Have you considered better time management?” 

A hateful curse, often proffered when we’re “too busy”, “too behind”, too, too, too—

It’s not a poor observation. Time is our life’s currency. The one thing that we have to spend in almost any way we want, day in and day out. 

But time management doesn’t make you more productive. There is no recipe to chop up 24 hours 40 different ways to inch towards the 400 things you want to achieve in your lifetime. 

In fact, most studies will tell you that to be most productive you need specialization and focus. That means fewer projects and less competing mental space for your priorities to fight against other priorities. 

Time, on the other hand, is the universal currency of work. Running an agency, it is much easier for me to convince you I’m worthy of my hourly rate than to convince you I’m worth some payment based on success.

Since time is just the currency we exchange value with others, where does our productivity come from?

I would argue, it comes from energy—and “Have you considered better energy management?” is the watercooler curse of the future. 

Energy Management and Inertia

Before we get into energy management, first we need to talk about inertia.

What is Inertia?

Inertia is the tendency of an object to remain at rest or to remain in motion. Inertia is related to an object’s mass. [1]

Or, in our definition, Inertia is the energy that you build up and maintain. Your productivity comes from this sense of inertia—the good feeling that you are getting things done. 

But sometimes, friction slows us down. Time management, because we’re focused on controlling our main resource of time, forces us to split ourselves up and head in a new direction because we think we have to be balanced in our striving towards personal, professional, and business goals. 

This need not be the case. If you recognize the power of inertia, it is easy to see that focus on key tasks, scaling those tasks up, and building up your inertia—in turn, translates into momentum. 

Staying hyper-focused can lead to greater momentum and scale, and when we work with customers around digital sales, marketing, and product development strategies—increasing our momentum is always what we focus on.

Energy Management and Building Momentum in Business

To build momentum in your business, you have to accelerate. 

Acceleration is simple. Keep heading in the same direction until you hit a critical speed. Put systems in place to continuously fight friction and competition in the marketplace—and that my friends, is what we gain success.

A successful business that has reached a critical speed, acquires and persists the momentum they need to overcome new hurdles in the marketplace every day and continue to grow.

A person or business focused on success needs to focus on activities that increases their speed every day, month, and year. 

Therefore, a business who is continuously gaining momentum and success needs a few things:

  • Infrastructure and foundations to support growth.
  • Repeatable, scalable process by which value is delivered to customers. Compounded interest on time the business has invested over the years into a product may garner a higher product value than it’s manufacturing or production requires. But that’s profit!
  • Tooling to control processes, and delivery of value to customers with some level of oversight and governance.
  • Analytics to measure the effect and performance of the business. 
  • Scalable automation and communications to reach, nurture, close, and deliver to a critical mass of customers. 

When we talk about these components to momentum with customers we call these the digital foundations. These foundations are actually better visualized as a pyramid, with infrastructure at the bottom, and automation at the top. 

The goal for every modern business is to build up enough momentum, by leveraging low cost, repeatable technology transactions, to earn more revenue than the costs of the people it takes to power the machine. 

In the business energy management paradigm, staff are the managers of processes and automation which leads to momentum, scale, and profit. 

Energy Management and Building Momentum in Personal Life

Just like with gaining speed in business, we all seek to do more, experience more, and be more in our lives—even if some of you are shaking your head and telling me you’re trying to do less, you’re really just saying you need to achieve more with the smaller window of time, so you can earn that do nothing time we all strive for.

So to build momentum in your personal life, you need to look more pragmatically at how you manage your personal energy.

My philosophy behind this is, always choose tasks that raise your energy and pay attention to the tasks that drain it. 

Activities that Raise Energy

Not everyone is the same, so I’ll share tasks that raise my energy (expect yours to differ, and pay attention to your unique needs):

  • Writing, reflection, and communicating with others. Teasing out the strings of truth that weave our lives together has repeated rewards. As does sharing knowledge, processes, and ways that I can make other people’s lives better. That’s why I write pieces like this, which may not be for all of you—but for those of you who need it most. 
  • Consulting with clients and friends on their problems that I feel empowered to solve. Note that it’s critical I feel empowered and capable of solving these problems. Without knowing the way, it is easy getting lost trying to find it. 
  • Pursuing some form of mastery over a skill that I have developed. In my younger years, powerlifting was a great hobby, but now yoga is the first that comes to mind. The importance isn’t in the skill itself but the feeling of growth and development in each session. 

Activities that Drain Energy

As above, these are just some of the activities or tasks that drain my energy. Again, pay attention to your own energetic needs:

  • Repeatable, boring tasks. 
    • Submitting Time Entries (who doesn’t hate this?!)
    • Scanning Photo Albums
  • Attempting something new, without guidance or mentorship.
    • Working in new technologies, paradigms, or services can be quite daunting. There are some benefits to having a team or at least exposure to someone who has blazed a path before you. Know when to get coaching, mentorship, or help if you’re constantly coming up against an energetic wall that you don’t know how to scale alone. 

Some other things you want to be careful of, are the people or places that you interact with and lose energy. Often these are a sign of something deeper. 

  • Energetic Vampires. Coworkers, clients, in-laws, “friends” who consistently drag your energetic frequency down. Be aware and be vigilant, these people have a greater effect than most like to admit. 
  • Passion. Passion projects and activities incite you to burn up and sometimes flame out. Passion burns hot. You can’t burn hot every day and not burn out. So be careful. Ryan Holiday has a great book about this, Ego is the Enemy.
  • Misidentified or Withering Purpose. We all go through different phases of purpose in our lives. Most relatably, our purpose in school, not our purpose after we get into the workforce, and our purpose after kids, finding your soul-paw-mate, or other phases eventually leads to a shift in purpose. Know when it’s time to let leaves fall, autumn is coming. Seasons change and so should you. 

Takeaways for Energy Management

Between your work and your personal life, recognizing your energy patterns and managing those—instead of managing time—can lead to greater output, balance, and happiness. 

Divide your days less, and your responsibilities more among those who have specialized themselves and can help you grow in the right ways. Ways that raise your energy and momentum faster in the direction you’re heading in. 

And if nothing else, simply pay attention when your energy dissolves into chaos. Perhaps that one more project, social engagement, date, book, or TV show isn’t going to raise your energy and make your life more balanced.