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The Great Time Management Hoax

Eleanor Beaton

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m obsessed with time management.

But when it comes to doing great, creative work, time isn’t the metric you should worry about most.

It’s energy.

Time is a finite resource. You only have so much of it, and you can’t manufacture more.

Energy is something different altogether.

By implementing some specific rituals and practicing them daily, you absolutely can create more energy to help you do the things that matter most.

The problem is that most of us are working harder than ever and managing our time down to the nanosecond without paying enough attention to the one thing that could really help us: more energy.

In fact, there’s an abundance of research that suggests many of us are living in a state of full-blown energy crisis.

We skip meals on a regular basis.

We work out less than twice a week.

We have trouble sleeping.

When it comes to family time, we have trouble switching off our work brains and truly connecting with our loved ones.

We procrastinate or fritter away time on mindless crap. We know we’re wasting time, but we tell ourselves our brains need a break.

When we get tired during the day, we doggedly keep plugging away at our work.

Why? Because we’re committed doers, gosh-dang it. Keeping on keeping on is what we do.

Until we can’t.

I hit the wall a few months back. Seriously. Hit. The. Wall.

I experienced an energy crisis of epic proportions that saw me sobbing in a hotel room the minute after the door thudded closed.

I dropped my suitcase, sat down on the floor and cried for 10 minutes because it was silent, I was alone and for the first time in eons I had nothing to do.  I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t in pain. I was bone tired.

And over the course of the following rejuvenating days, I made a huge discovery. All the focus I’d been placing on managing my time was dead wrong.

So I made this one, profound tweak and saw my productivity (and happiness) more than double.

You see, the event I attended held a pre-breakfast networking run. Yes, a networking run.

This was my style of networking opportunity.

I’ve long been a devotee of the late afternoon workouts, but decided hobnobbing with fellow online entrepreneurs over a brisk morning run by the water was worth waking up for.

I did the run, completed some light stretching, showered and started my day…

And had more energy and focus than I’d experienced in weeks.

When I returned from the conference, I kept up the habit, alternating between a morning run, post-breakfast weight workout or pre-work walk. I started fitting in physical activity throughout my day — taking short walks in the afternoon, eating when I got hungry etc.

Here’s the tweak I made. I quit obsessing over managing my time. Instead, I focused on managing my energy.

The result? More focus, more productivity, higher output, more time for me and my family, more happiness.

Here are five simple energy management rituals that have been proven to catapult your focus, productivity, output and ultimately your results.

1. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Ariana Huffington suggests we all “sleep our way to the top”, and I think the HuffPo founder offers sage advice.

2. Workout 3 times a week.

You will come up with every single excuse under the sun for not making this happen. Just do it, OK?

3. Eat something every three hours.

Except when you are sleeping. And sugar-encrusted donuts do not count here. (Hint: I recently interviewed a doc who runs the largest menopause clinic in North America. She said almost everybody could stand to eat more protein.)

4. Recognize the signs that your energy is flagging and get moving.

Signs include: the sudden onset of boredom, restlessness, yawning, hunger. Don’t sit and type through it. Get up and do what’s recommended below.

5. Take short, regular breaks away from your desk every 90 to 120 minutes.

Walk a flight of stairs. Get some fresh air. Do burpees. Get a drink of cold water. Do whatever you want, just stand up and move.

The great time management hoax is this: you can have all the time in the world, but if you lack the energy you need to perform your best while doing what matters most, you’re wasting your time.

Quit trying to manage your time. Experiment with managing your energy.