Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
When it comes to being more productive we often think of the external changes we can make to improve our efficiency. Maybe you’ve designed your workspace to be as productive as it can be or you’ve mastered managing your calendar. But there’s one productivity tool you’re unlikely to be investing in and it’s probably the single most important one.
One of the most significant things you can do to be more productive is to increase your energy levels. When you have more energy, it’s easy to get things done, to work with focus and accomplish your goals. When you don’t have energy, you procrastinate, postpone important tasks and get behind on work.
If you don’t have the energy to do what you need to do your ability to perform will suffer.
Your energy levels are like the fuel tank in a car. When you wake up each morning you need to have a full tank of fuel so you can go the whole distance. If you wake up with 75% then you’re only going to get 75% of the way. This means tasks will take longer, feel more painful and you’re likely to miss the goals you’re aiming for.
You can have all the time in the world and even have your office set up as efficiently as possible with zero distractions, but if you lack energy it will be impossible to be truly productive.
If you have a productivity mindset you’re probably comfortable with looking for opportunities to improve things and being able to do that instantly. For example, if you need to find time to work on a project next week you can move commitments about in your calendar and re-set priorities in order to ‘create’ the time you need to focus on that project.
Energy is a little bit different to most other productivity tools because once you feel tired you can’t instantly boost your fuel tank. Your body takes times to recover.
Most people fail to even identify that energy is the reason they are under performing. Part of the reason is probably because they’re feeling so tired that they cannot think clearly in order to recognise the problem in the first place. However, recognition is the first step to remedy.
Here are some of the early warning signs that your energy levels could be low.
Even if just one these resonates with you then you might have an energy problem:
1. You wake up and cannot function without a cup of caffeine.
2. When you finish work each day you plan to go home and spend time with your family or seeing friends but when you arrive you feel too wiped out to do anything.
3. You do everything at a slow pace or you run out energy long before you should do.
Often the behaviours we display are so ingrained in our lifestyle that it’s only when we take time to sit back and reflect that we can identify where the root cause of our energy problems come from.
Here are some common behavioural problems:
1. Life drama – work or personal drama in your life will zap your energy. This could be anything from a strained personal relationship at home to intense situations at work.
2. Feeling overwhelmed – a little bit of stress or pressure over a short period of time is healthy but if it carries on over a long period of time it will damage you. People often don’t realise just how overwhelmed they are because it builds up gradually over time.
3. Multi-tasking – we can only focus one thing at a time. If you multi-task you make more mistakes, are less productive and you use up more energy overall because you are continually task switching.
4. Over committing – personal time should energise you but if work is busy and then you have a stack of personal commitments on top of that you’re headed for burn out.
Energy is an important currency and, as I mentioned above, once you have a deficit you can’t top up your levels immediately. It takes time.
So, on a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your energy level right now? With 1 being ‘you just want to lay in bed’ and 10 being ‘you feel alive and ready for anything’. If you’re not a 9 or a 10 then you need to take action.
Once you’ve identified you have an energy problem the next thing to do is to try and fix it. Think about what’s taking (most) of your energy and focus on fixing that one thing.
Getting a little bit better at something every day is the path to mastery and working on increasing your energy levels is the path to mastering productivity.
If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.
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