I’ll let you in on a little secret: even though my new book has the words “time management” in its title, nobody can truly “manage” time.
No matter what tricks or strategies you use, you will always have the same 24 hours tomorrow that you had today. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds.
When people talk about “time management,” what they really want is to get more stuff done, with less stress, and maybe fit in a bit more leisure time, too.
Red Bull Nation
Stop and think for a moment.
Have you ever experienced any of the following?
- Have you ever been reading a book, but you keep reading the same paragraph over and over, and it’s still not sinking in?
- While working on an important report, have you ever kept zoning off into space—wasting who knows how many minutes, simply doing nothing?
- Have you ever been in a brainstorming session, but you just couldn’t come up with any good ideas?
- Think about the time immediately following lunch. How productive are you an hour or two after eating?
- Have you ever actually fallen asleep at your desk? How about right in the middle of a meeting?
If you said “yes” to most of these questions, you can personally understand that our physical and mental energy varies—and that it has a direct effect on our productivity.
It’s why consumers bought over four billion cans of Red Bull each year, and why the company behind 5-Hour Energy power shots reportedly makes more than $600 million in revenue annually.
People everywhere are fatigued and looking for a quick fix. But while an energy drink might bring short-term alertness, it’s no way to handle the chronic brain fatigue so many of us have come to view as normal.
Learning the tips that help you to maximize the return on your investment of time is the secret to exponentially increasing your productivity. And the secret behind this is learning to maximize your energy.
Energy Is Everything
So how can you find more energy? Here are four simple tips:
- Work for shorter intervals.
Research shows that humans work best when they alternate between medium-length bursts of focused work, followed by a short break. For example, in the popular Pomodoro method (developed by Francesco Cirillo), you set a timer for 25 minutes, work on a single task with your full focus, then take a 5-minute break to get up, move around, maybe drink some water. Then, repeat the cycle.
Personally I like longer sessions of about 50-minutes, and others swear by the 90-minute cycle. Regardless of the amount of time itself, scheduling focused working jam sessions increases focus, productivity and overall results.
- Get more exercise.
It’s no secret that regular exercise improves our metabolism and increases energy levels. But many feel that including exercise within the workday is asking for too much. The problem is, they think of exercise as something complicated—going to the gym or an activity that takes more time than available.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Who doesn’t have time for a 20-minute power walk on their lunch break? If you feel that you can’t fit that into your schedule, chances are your current priorities are sabotaging your productivity.
- Use tools that save energy.
Author Monica Leonelle went from being a 600-word-per-hour writer to a 3,500-word-per-hour writer. How did she do it?
In addition to using a variation of the Pomodoro method, she noticed that her ailing wrists and fingers were causing a drop in productivity. So, she switched from keyboard typing to dictation and eventually gained an additional 25 percent in word count. Another big leap in productivity occurred when she decided to write while getting fresh air and exercise: She began dictating her novels while going for walks.
What about you: What tools could help you work from a different angle, eliminating your bottlenecks?
- Get more sleep.
According to research by the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, and the ability to learn and retain information. Specifically, “concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning are all aspects of cognitive function compromised by sleep deprivation.”
So how much sleep do you need? Opinions vary, but physician and associate professor Elizabeth Klerman lists the following criteria as part of the means for identifying if you are getting “enough” sleep:
- You sleep the same amount on work days and non-work days
- You awaken without an alarm clock
- You don’t use caffeine or other stimulants to remain awake or substances to fall asleep
- You don’t fall asleep within five minutes or in other non-stimulating conditions (e.g., when a passenger in a car)
If you’re unable to do one or more of the following, it’s time to consider getting an hour or two more sleep per night.
In the end, you may find that the first step in getting more done… is by doing a little less.
Kevin Kruse is the host of the Extreme Productivity Podcast and author of the ready-to-print “Infographic: 15 Things Ultra Productive People Do Differently.”