We are woke to time management. Skimming is the new reading. Everything is optimised to the one measure of our work that is truly objective: time.
Consciously or subconsciously we make assumptions about how much time things will take on a daily basis. When weighing up how to respond to requests for help, delegating tasks or arranging meet-ups, we have a sense of how that will sit alongside other commitments of time. We measure what we ask of others in line with what’s okay for us and for them. What’s generous and what’s perhaps a bit cheeky are based on how we value time.
Why is it, then, that you can have a beautifully curated calendar and still feel wrung out? Sacred hours are held and colour-coded (if you’re me) with “Must keep free!” and “Lunch” and various other pockets of self-loving activity like the gym and Thursday beers.
How can you can bag those early nights, have a not-drinking-during-the-week rule (except Thursday beers, obviously), but still feel like you’ve been run over by a truck?
So many workplace cultures place value on time. It’s a badge of honour to work all weekend. To be tired and exhausted, but to graft on and on, literally spending your time to the point of needing a time overdraft. It’s a traditional signal of dedication. Go home on time? You don’t care as much as Alex who was here until 11 last night. See? The pizza boxes are still in the kitchen.
So here’s a radical though. Don’t measure yourself by the time you give someone or something. Measure yourself by the energy you dedicate to it.
Let’s say instead of 37.5 hours a week you were paid for 37.5 units of energy. Physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy. This means turning up ready to say yes to the tasks ahead. Ready to create and engage. Being present as an open channel for the labour ahead.
We’d need some ebb and flow. After all, nobody can bring the full Hermione Granger-meets-Mo Farah every day. Think of it as having a full battery on your phone. Sometimes you choose to spend it watching technicolour worlds whizz by at high speed on Instagram, and sometimes you pop airplane mode on, pop your earbuds in and listen to a podcast download with closed eyes. That’s what managing your energy looks like.
One of my favourite quotes is from Ben Bergeron who coaches of some of the fittest athletes in the world. He says: “Confidence is knowing that you giving your best effort is enough.”
Let’s be honest: what does our best effort look like? You can work all the hours you can, but if you’re not in the right zone you’re never going to make the impact you’ve dreamt of.
Here are some questions to help you work that out:
• What are the biggest drains on my battery?
• What recharges my batteries the best?
• What are the signals that my battery is low?
And if you want to dig a little deeper:
• What makes me feel safe?
• What makes me feel awake?
• What (or often who) brings me down?
• What (or who) gives me a boost?
One thing to try this week is an account of how much energy different things take. Bullet journallers, trello ninjas and spreadsheet lovers, go crazy. Or simply notice. We challenge others if they ask for more time than we think something needs. Let’s be savvy with our energy too.
Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.
Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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