The Time Management Myth
The Time Management Myth & What You Need Instead
I’ve always hated the notion of time management and managers who criticize their employees for needing to improve it. Time management isn’t real. Time is not what needs to be managed. No matter what you choose to do within that time the hours will inevitably pass.
What needs to be managed are your personal energy cycles. I’ve discussed energy cycles in previous blog posts but I feela more in-depth explanation is deserved because employees, leaders, entrepreneurs and the like are constantly trying to be more productive. If you want to be more productive, stop trying to improve your time management skills and instead understand your energy cycles through observation and testing.
We’ve all heard of the circadian rhythm - our internal clock that wakes us up in the morning and makes us tired at night. In addition to our circadian rhythm, we have an ultradian rhythm, which controls our hormones and ultimately our energy cycles. You see, we have several energy bursts and throughout the day. Those, my friends, can be managed. Not time.
The problem with standard work environments is that we are expected to perform with a high sense of urgency and energy for 8-9 consecutive hours each day. Failure to do so results in harping from managers about how we manage our time. When we experience these dips in energy we are made to feel we have a problem. That is simply and utterly false.
Another issue is that busy entrepreneurs pressure themselves to work in this same way, often times feeling guilty or lazy if they aren’t able to sustain energy the way mainstream society expects us to.
Personally, I’ve fallen victim to overworking myself. And you know what happened? I eventually got sick. Pneumonia, sick. Nothing will knock you on your ass like overworking your body.
It wasn’t until I realized that taking breaks does not equal laziness that I became a productivity beast. If you’re overclocking your brain, relying on stimulants (drugs, sugar, caffeine) to keep you working harder, you can give it a rest now and start analyzing your personal energy cycles.
We all have up-cycles and down-cycles in energy throughout the day. These cycles and patterns are unique to each of us and must be examined through observation and testing. Jot down notes and pay attention to the clock throughout the day. Note your energy peaks and valleys over a weeks time. This is plenty of time to find patterns in your personal energy cycles so you can plan your workday most efficiently.
It’s important to maximize your peaks by scheduling the most important or creative-based tasks during this time. Try your best to avoid important business meetings or deadlines during lulls in your personal energy cycles.
When in an energy lull, force yourself to step away from work and rest. This can mean a 20 minute nap, meditation, a walk outside, a workout, etc. Try to avoid any form of mental stimulation during this time - reading a book or listening to a podcast is not giving yourself a mental break.
The most important part about managing energy is getting enough sleep. If you are victim to sleep deprivation, I urge you to try your best to turn this bad habit around. Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. If you do not have adequate sleep, you are not giving yourself a fair shot at managing your energy. You’ll have significantly more down cycles than up cycles.
If you’ve believed the time management myth your entire life - you can throw that notion out the window now. It is impossible to manage time. Time passes no matter what you fill it with. What you need to focus on instead is managing your energy. You can do this wether you work for yourself or for someone else. Start observing and taking notes now for a more productive tomorrow.