Understanding Time and Energy Management Strategies for Peak Productivity

by | Nov 6, 2023

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You’ve probably come across many articles touting time management tips, trucks and shortcuts. Time management skills are only one component of the productivity puzzle. 

In today’s fast-paced business environment, you’ve probably come across numerous articles touting time management tips, tricks, and shortcuts. They promise to help you squeeze more tasks into your day, find efficiencies, and streamline your decision-making. Yet, while time management is crucial, it’s just one piece of the productivity puzzle. To unlock your team’s full potential, we must also delve into the world of energy management. This blog explores the differences between time management and energy management and explores various strategies you can test to alter your approach and ultimately become more productive.

Energy Management vs. Time Management

While time and energy management are distinct concepts, they still go hand in hand when it comes to enhancing productivity. Time management revolves around making the most of the finite time available, while energy management focuses on harnessing your inner vitality to excel in every task, bringing forward your best self to whatever task you are engaging in.

Unpacking Energy Management

Energy management, as a pivotal aspect of individual workplace productivity, involves proactively monitoring and regulating your energy levels throughout the day. This concept, brought to the forefront by James E. Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book “The Power of Full Engagement,” emphasises the efficient use of energy to achieve your goals. It encompasses not just physical energy but also emotional and mental energy.

What Are Time Management Skills?

On the other hand, time management skills require mastering the art of prioritising and executing activities within predefined periods, both effectively and efficiently. It entails conscious decision-making, realistic goal setting, and careful planning to ensure that all tasks are completed on time. Recognising your own abilities, resources, and limitations is crucial to effectively prioritise tasks and manage commitments and deadlines.

Why Managing Time Is Really About Managing Energy

When productivity declines or workloads become overwhelming, many often turn to improving time management. However, optimising your schedule is only part of the solution. It’s essential to assess the energy needed for specific tasks, especially those that are mentally taxing or demand profound concentration. Elements like the time of day, your current energy level, and personal task preferences significantly influence your overall performance.

For example, if you’re primarily an analytical or structural thinker (Blue or Green in Whole Brain® Thinking), you may find yourself most energetic during daytime hours. This means that tasks that require more experimental (Yellow) or interpersonal (Red) thinking may pose challenges, especially if scheduled late at night.

While scheduling remains crucial, it’s not the sole determinant of productivity. To truly excel, you need to align your high-energy periods with the most demanding tasks based on your personal preferences.

Furthermore, inadequate energy management can sometimes lead to high-pressure work scenarios, wherein we’re forced to complete urgent tasks at times when our energy levels are at their lowest. Click on the image below to download our Stress Management Toolkit and learn how to manage these situations better.

Applying Whole Brain® Thinking to Time and Energy Management

Understanding how you and your colleagues think is a vital aspect of aligning energy with tasks for improved productivity and results. The Whole Brain® Thinking framework plays a pivotal role in this process and offers insights into thinking preferences, especially after taking the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI®) assessment.

Whole Brain® Thinking, with over 40 years of practice, provides a comprehensive understanding of how individuals think and which types of work align with them. The HBDI® assessment categorises thinking preferences into four quadrants: Analytical (Blue), Structural (Green), Relational (Red), and Experimental (Yellow). While everyone has a higher preference in one or two quadrants, we employ all four daily, with no quadrant being superior to another.

Five Ways to Harness Whole Brain® Thinking for Energy Management

Let’s delve into five practical strategies that incorporate Whole Brain® Thinking and personal energy management techniques to help you and your teams unleash your best energy at work.

1. Understand Your Energy Patterns

Initiate an effective energy management plan by gaining insights into your energy patterns and their effects on productivity. Herrmann’s Whole Brain® Thinking dashboard provides guidance on whether your peak energy times occur early or late in the day (see below). This is a great tool to help you plan out your day in terms of high and low-energy tasks and when you will be the most effective at completing those tasks.

Alt text: How the HBDI profile deconstructs time and energy management

Alternatively, even without the HBDI assessment, you can self-assess your energy patterns or assist your team in doing so. Ever experienced the ‘after-lunch slump’? Maybe your energy peaks higher in the mornings. Feel like you can’t focus in the mornings? Try placing high energy tasks to commence in the afternoon. This assessment, on its own, will empower you and your team to formulate a highly effective strategy that resonates with the entire group, enabling them to successfully achieve their collective objectives.

Take notes of when you notice your energy peak or dip, considering factors like the activity you were engaged in and your physical environment. Armed with these insights, you can devise a plan to maximise your energy for optimal productivity, scheduling the most challenging tasks during your peak energy times and incorporating regular breaks for mental and physical rejuvenation.

2. Identify Mini-Goals

Aligning tasks with your energy patterns involves more than just setting time slots. It requires assessing how your energy levels affect your productivity. Develop a personalised energy management plan that uses “mini-goals” to break complex tasks into smaller, more manageable, components.

For instance, if your team is responsible for organising a corporate event, the ultimate goal is the successful execution of the event itself. However, this goal involves various smaller tasks and milestones, including venue selection, event promotion, coordinating with vendors, managing registrations, and the actual event day. When assigning tasks to your team members, take into consideration their individual skills and schedules, and also factor in their energy levels for optimal performance.

For tasks that require brainstorming or creative thinking, grouping experimental (Yellow) thinkers who perform better later in the day can be a great strategy. As per our example, this may involve the task of brainstorming ideas to promote the special event. If your team consists of members with diverse thinking preferences and energy levels, consider allowing each team member to work in the way that best suits them while emphasising asynchronous communication whenever possible. These strategies highlight how Whole Brain® Thinking fosters collaboration, empowers individuals, and advances progress toward collective goals.

3. Take Regular Breaks

Recognise that no one operates at peak performance all the time. Therefore, incorporating regular breaks into your workday is essential for maintaining focus and productivity. Breaks enable you to step away, recharge mentally and physically, and return to work with renewed vigour. 

Multiple strategies are available for taking structured breaks, such as the Pomodoro technique, which advocates working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break, with every fourth round resulting in a 15- to 30-minute break.

4. Manage Your Cognitive Load

Our brains have limitations when it comes to handling information, especially in today’s world filled with screens, apps, and constant distractions. One well-established technique for managing cognitive load is “time-boxing”, which involves allocating specific time slots on your calendar for particular activities. Enhance this method by organising these “time boxes” based on the type of Whole Brain® Thinking required. You can even colour-code activities according to the predominant thinking style. 

For example, meetings with your employees might be colour-coded in red (relational and interpersonal), while tasks involving data analysis might be coloured blue (analytical). To make the most of your high-energy periods, tackle tasks requiring thinking styles you are less inclined towards at the time of the day where you are the most energised. This approach leverages the higher energy levels to effectively complete less-preferred tasks, and you may find that the process even re-energises you. 

Conversely, leaving your least preferred tasks to times when your energy is lowest could result in subpar performance or non-completion.

5. Create Flow-State Routines

Establishing routines centred around specific thinking preferences is a powerful way to manage your energy, reduce decision fatigue, and combat procrastination. 

For example, if you’re a designer who focuses on creative tasks in the morning and meetings in the afternoon, structuring your schedule this way can enhance productivity. 

Additionally, the Whole Brain® Thinking framework can be harnessed to create flow states among your team members. For instance, if an engineer on your team primarily thinks in a blue (analytical) manner and becomes fatigued while analysing data, suggest taking a 30-minute break and focusing on a less demanding task. For a red (relational) thinker stuck behind a desk, encourage active breaks or interactions with colleagues to re-energise

In the quest for superior productivity, remember that managing your time is only part of the equation. Incorporating energy management techniques, guided by Whole Brain® Thinking, can lead to transformative outcomes. By doing so, you not only optimise your own productivity but also harness the collective energy and thinking preferences of your team. Through this fusion of time and energy management, your team can achieve peak performance and cultivate a work environment that fosters growth and innovation.

If you want to learn more about how Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® can help you and your organisation, have a look at how it works here or get in touch and we’ll help you find the right solution.

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