Ask anybody how to become more productive, and the subject of time management invariably creeps up. On the surface, this makes sense; if you want to get more done, you need to take charge of the limited time we all have.
However, there’s a big piece of the puzzle that’s missing when we only talk about time management. Let’s say I sit down and divide my time up into a 15-minute block. Then, I assign a high-priority task to each block. Sure, I might get a lot done during on Day 1 and Day 2. But by Day 3, I’m going to be pretty burned out!
Good time management can only exist when it’s coupled with good energy management. And when it comes to energy management, there are two important considerations to make: increasing the amount of energy you have and allocating that energy to your most important tasks and priorities. Here’s how the two work together.
Natural Ways to Increase Your Energy
Here are a few you’ll want to try:
- Keep healthy snacks on hand — Low blood sugar can really take a toll on your energy levels. That’s why we keep our breakroom stocked with fruit, trail mix, granola bars, and other protein-rich goodies. And why you should tuck some away in your office, car, or other locations you frequent around your funeral home. While it’s tempting to turn to sugary snacks, the quick boost will leave you feeling even lower within an hour or so.
- Find time for exercise — I’m not going to tell you how important it is to stick to a normal sleep schedule, as we all know that death happens at all hours of the day and night. But no matter what your on-call schedule looks like, you can find at least 10-20 minutes a day for regular exercise. (And no, lifting caskets and other equipment doesn’t count!) Stick with it, and you’ll find there’s a noticeable impact on your energy levels when you miss a workout.
- Take regular breaks — Just like the circadian rhythms that govern our sleep, we naturally move through periods of alertness and fatigue throughout the day. Typically, periods of focus last no more than 90-120 minutes, so be sure to schedule breaks during long work sessions. If you start to feel fatigued, step away from what you’re doing. Take 5-10 minutes to stretch out your body, relax your eyes (especially if you’ve been staring at a computer screen) and rest your mind so that you can return to your work feeling more energized.
As you work on increasing your energy, pay attention to your own unique energy cycles. Some people feel more energized in the mornings, while others find their greatest ability to focus at night. Knowing how you respond to different energy peaks and valleys throughout the day allows you to prioritize your various activities to coincide with your most energetic periods.
How to Use Your Energy Effectively
Chances are some parts of your day are out of your control. You don’t always get to decide when services are scheduled, when calls come in and when families prefer to meet for arrangement conferences. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for you to structure parts of your schedule in a way that allows you to maximize your periods of high energy.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Match high focus tasks to high energy periods — If you know you have a task coming up that will require a lot of focus and attention (for example, handling accounting matters, writing new marketing materials or developing new business growth strategies), don’t try to start it when you know you’re about to hit your afternoon lull. Instead, find a block of time where you’re feeling naturally energetic and work on your highest priority items then. Save admin issues or other mindless tasks for periods when you’re at your lowest energy levels.
- Batch similar tasks — When you switch between tasks, you lose a bit of momentum with every change. If you go from making a phone call to entering information into your funeral management program to creating a tribute video and then repeat the cycle, you lose a bit of energy in each transition. To prevent this from occurring, handle all of your phone calls at once, then all of your data entry, and then all of your videos. You’ll ultimately get more done, maximizing the effort you’re able to achieve with your available energy.
- Create a focused work environment — You’re on a roll and working hard when a “New Message” alert draws your attention away to a new email you received. Because these types of distractions suck away your productivity and focus, try to create a focused environment. You can shut off computer notifications, put your phone on silent mode, and close your office door. Even if you’re only able to maintain this type of environment for 20-30 minutes before you’re interrupted, you’ll be able to use your energy effectively to get more done during these brief, focused work periods.
Focusing on both energy management and time management might sound like a lot of work, but putting even the simplest strategies into place can make a major difference in your ability to get more done and to succeed in implementing the habit goals you’ve set for yourself for 2014. Give these tips a try and you’ll quickly find yourself feeling healthier, happier, and more productive overall!