Let’s face it. Chaos equals exhaustion! Do you imagine more time could ease this problem? Maybe not! Consider that your secret sauce in short supply is not time but rather ENERGY. Every day your limited energy supply is zapped by long hours fulfilling multiple responsibilities, problem-solving, and dealing with the unexpected. Plus, creativity and focus, the magic duo professionals in higher ed must conjure regularly, require extensive energy.
Ready to reconsider the importance of time management in favor of energy management?
Energy management strategies can ensure you have adequate energy for the things that matter most. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz argue in The Power of Full Engagement that energy management is more important than time management. With some awareness, intention, and new habits you could both conserve and generate the energy you need to tame the chaos and propel momentum on all your projects.
Take a look at this inventory of energy zappers:
Email: frequent checking, opportunities to consider, reminders of issues with family, friends, co-workers, rereading unanswered ones, reminders of burdensome tasks ahead, and new urgent requests
Daily Decisions: What to wear? What, when, where, and how much to eat and drink? Invitations to consider. Should I and, if so, when, where, how much, and what kind of exercise?
Unmade Decision: While most of us end up making the Daily Decisions; many other decisions, however, remain open loops. While the decision remains open for consideration, you research, analyze, ponder, and deal with continuous, and often ill-timed, mental reminders
Multitasking: Sophie Leroy’s study calls it task switching and demonstrates that “attention residue” from the first task persists when we switch to the next one, preventing our full attention
Social Media: frequency of checking, time spent consuming content, the emotions stirred, the to-dos created
Constant Connection: Notifications—email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, etc.; Alerts—sounds, red badge numbers increasing, banner messages; phone calls; knocks at the door; co-worker chats
Clutter: Digital, workspace, car, living and sleeping spaces
Household Chores and Errands: time doing them; visual reminders when you ignore them; trying to remember them
Consider these energy-conserving and/or boosting strategies:
1. Identify and consider eliminating energy zappers, from the list above, that generate more negative than positive emotion and results.
2. Identify your high and low energy times in the day and/or week. Align your high-energy tasks, which are usually the most important, and your high-energy time of day. Save the low energy time of day for the least important tasks.
3. Adequate sleep: Arianna Huffington, in The Sleep Revolution, critiques our cultural admiration for prioritizing everything above sleep. Numerous studies, in her book and elsewhere, demonstrate that the brain performs essential memory functions during sleep. Sleep deprivation registers impairments similar to alcohol consumption. Moreover, researchers argue that sleep deprivation leads to overeating that compensates for the energy loss.
4. Exercise: improves blood flow, bringing oxygen to the brain and vital organs; releases endorphins that boost mood and motivation
5. Hydration: Drink plenty of water!
6. Periodic Breaks: The brain switches continually between focused and diffused modes. Thus, excessive continual attention on the same task becomes counterproductive as the brain switches away from a focused mode. Breaks are essential for regaining focus, stimulating thinking, and making needed connections when in the diffused mode.
7. Meditation: Practice sitting still and calming the mind for a few minutes each day.
8. Single-tasking: Counterintuitively, sequentially doing one thing at a time improves productivity, avoiding the energy drain of multi-tasking.
9. What about caffeine and adrenaline? Both work in the short term but with varying degrees of consequences when you lean on these for the long haul. Manage with intention!
Energy—scarce in the natural world and in our bodies. Common sense dictates that we conserve scarce resources. Wisdom suggests that we direct this precious and limited supply to valuable needs.
What changes are you willing to make to enhance your energy management to tame the chaos?