Should You Manage Your Time or Energy at Work?

Want to get more done? It’s important to know the most effective way to go about it. As a starting point, people often choose to focus on one of two approaches: time management or energy management.

While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably when talking about productivity, they aren’t the same. Time management involves managing the hours in your day most effectively, with a goal of completing more work in less time. Energy management, on the other hand, focuses more on managing yourself; by recognizing in advance the segments of the day when you generally feel the most energetic and clearheaded, you can be strategic about when you schedule your most important tasks.

While time management has long been the go-to strategy for increasing productivity, there’s a growing consensus that energy management is also essential in today’s rapidly evolving work environment. The truth is that time management and energy management go hand-in-hand — once you understand the peaks and valleys of your physical and mental energy levels, you can leverage that information to make the most of the time allotted.

So rather than wondering whether to manage your time or your energy, consider the pointers below to help you devise a blended method that incorporates both strategies to reach your goals at work:

Know When You Work Best

The starting point for effective time and energy management begins by identifying the times of the day when you’re at your most and least energetic. This goes beyond simply knowing whether you’re a lark (someone who feels and performs best in the early morning) or an owl (a late-night person when it comes to getting things done), although that’s part of it. If you chart your energy levels throughout your waking hours, you’ll see that in addition to noticeable boosts and dips in the morning and evening, there are also fluctuations in your focus, stamina, drive and motivation throughout the day.

Log or chart the flow of both your physical and mental energy, hourly, for a week or longer. Look for patterns. Your goal is to be able to spot the blocks of time when you’re performing at peak productivity, versus when your energy stores are at their lowest, holding you back from efficiently accomplishing your goals. For example, you might find that you’re firing on all cylinders an hour after you wake up for 2 1/2 hours, followed by a midmorning slump of an hour. Then you get a second wind soon after lunch that takes you to 3 p.m., only to crash for the remaining hours of the work day feeling much less centered and focused. Then, in the early evening you spring to life again with a fresh energy store until bedtime.

[READ: Red Flags That You Have Too Much Stress at Work.]

Schedule Your Peak Hours

Once you’ve performed this reconnaissance, don’t leave it to chance whether or not you’ll make the most of your top daily times. Use what you’ve learned about your energy fluctuation to schedule your best self for your most critical projects.

Taking the example above, this might mean starting work right when your 2 1/2 hour window of peak productivity opens in the morning. Instead of frittering that valuable time away checking news and emails, devote that slot to writing a challenging report that’s due. Extending this same strategy throughout the day, you might avoid scheduling meetings right after lunch to capitalize on your second wind and save more routine busywork like returning calls and emails for those low-energy points in your midmorning and post-3 p.m. slumps.

[Read: How to Ask to Work Remotely Full Time]

Invest Time to Create More Energy

Another way time management and energy management intersect is that when you devote time to activities that energize you, the investment can pay off tenfold. Energizing activities include exercising, meditating and self-care rituals like reading or listening to music.

It may seem initially like you’re “wasting” time on these things since they require you to pause from your workday to do them. But the fact is that you’ll usually return from these breaks refreshed, restored and ready to hit the ground running in a way that you wouldn’t if you kept your nose to the grindstone without pause.

[See: Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance.]

Preserve Energy to Create More Time

You can also experiment with saving your energy for what matters, which helps give you more time. This strategy involves boundary management and being able to say “no” to invitations and opportunities that are draining or don’t move you closer to your goals. By conserving your energy for what truly matters, you end up with additional bandwidth to devote to what you want and need to do.

Another way you can preserve energy to create more time is to simply rest. By constantly expending energy and working all the time, you end up exhausted, overwhelmed and eventually burned out. Allowing yourself recovery time from big efforts — and prioritizing downtime along with crunch time — ensures that you’ll have enough energy for the long game.

More from U.S. News

8 Stress-Busting Mood Boosters to Feel Better in the Office

20 Work-Life Balance Tips and Secrets From CEOs

How to Handle Workplace Stress

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