Planning around your energy levels

Photo courtesy of boetter (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of boetter (Creative Commons)

Do you pay attention to the signals your body sends you about your energy levels?

I sure don’t often enough. But I would like to get better at it.

One thing I do know is that I’m a morning person. I do my best thinking, writing, problem-solving and focusing early in the day. I also feel best when I run or exercise early in the day.

For the last 8 or 9 months, I’ve been getting up early to do my devotions and prayer, and spend some time writing before the craziness and distractions of the day begin. But then the day gets away from me, and I just play the hit and miss game of putting out whatever fire seems most urgent. And I wonder why I lose my focus and just feel like a nap after lunch, and then end the day feeling like I didn’t accomplish enough.

I’d like to be more intentional in how I plan the rest of my day to take advantage of the ebbs and flows in my energy levels. I usually have a big energy dip midafternoon, but then get a bit of a second wind later on. And since I get up so early, I go to bed very early.

You know the saying that if you do not manage your day, it will manage you? It is a poor use of my time and energy to work on mundane tasks in the morning, when I’m primed and ready to be creative or highly functional. And how frustrating is it to then struggle in the afternoon to write or do highly detailed work without making mistakes or getting sidetracked?

Here’s what I’m thinking might help:

  • Design my Ideal Week – create a template for my ideal week, similar to what Michael Hyatt wrote about here. But I’m adding a little twist on his plan – I will start by plotting my high, moderate and low energy levels during the day. Then, within those blocks, I can begin to plan my tasks more effectively. Obviously, that would be in a perfect world, but it would be helpful to have a guideline for planning using those varying energy levels.
  • Review my regular tasks and projects – block them in on the calendar, using the Ideal Week guidelines. While emergencies will come up, having a plan will eliminate some of the “latest and loudest” mentality of dealing with whichever stack is biggest on my desk or whichever interruption happened last. Having the calendar helps refocus and lets others know the priorities as well.
  • Keep a “brain dead list” – author and productivity guru David Allen recommends in his Getting Things Done methodology that you keep a list of those tasks or activities that are well-suited for the “dip” in my energy levels. I will refer to them as needed.
  • Plan the week before the week – now there’s an idea – I need to improve on plotting out the week before it hits so I can be prepared! Must get back to my weekly review and planning sessions on Sunday afternoons to get myself ready for the week ahead.
  • Build in buffer time – this is a step I tend to overlook. I plot out the entire day with no breaks or extra time built in, and then wonder why I don’t finish everything by the end of the day. There needs to be some buffer time for those unexpected tasks or projects, or if something takes longer than expected to finish up.
  • Plan for DELIGHT – one of my three focus words this year is DELIGHT (read more here). In the scheme of things, I need to be sure to plan some fun activities, and not just focus on work, whether that is coffee or lunch with a friend, a walk in the park or an hour or two of reading.

While it might seem controlling to plan an Ideal Week, in the long run, it will free me up to be able to do what I want to do. If I’m using my energy levels effectively, then I’ll be more creative, efficient, and satisfied with what I’m producing.

Are you paying attention to your energy levels?

3 thoughts on “Planning around your energy levels

  1. Ya know Carol, upon reflecting to this post, I feel this might be my single biggest challenge. My day job (commute included) is sapping me mightily. I almost never have the spirit and energy I need to work on my book and blog. I will try some of your suggestions. Thanks!

    • I hope it helps. I’m listening to my own advice so far today and it’s going better. It’s tough when you feel worn out and still need to be at the top of your game. Good luck with your writing.

Comments are closed.