Why Time Management is Overrated (and what to do instead)
Shifting our focus from managing time to building energy isn't just recommended, it's essential.
When you are in church production, the next production comes around... Every. Seven. Days.No matter how hard we work—like a hamster in a wheel—there is always another Sunday. And in a digital world, there is never a "slow day." There is just busy. And busier. Time management gurus tell us to "work smarter not harder" or "say no to non-essential tasks" but that advice never really seems to solve the problem. What if we could change the game entirely? We've all experienced how time ceases to be a factor when we have energy around something we love. Minutes, hours and days can fly by and we don't notice time at all. We will get up early, stay up late and perform amazing feats of productivity.While time is a limited resource, energy is not. It is exponential and can be renewed. What if we've been looking at this all wrong? We tend to evaluate our commitments based on time. If someone asks for 10 minutes, we will give it. After all, it is just 10 minutes. But sometimes that 10 minute thing we commit to sucks the life out of us. Doing something outside of our skillset or core purpose can drain an inordinate amount of energy in a short amount of time. The time lens also impacts the way we give up on things that are good for us. We will skip a 30-minute workout because we feel like we don't have time for it. Or we will stay up late and cut our sleep trying to get more time.Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project writes, "We feel better and perform better when four core energy needs are met: sufficient rest, including the opportunity for intermittent renewal during the work day; feeling valued and appreciated; having the freedom to focus in an absorbed way on the highest priorities; and feeling connected to a mission or a cause greater than ourselves."Most of us respond to increasing demands at work by putting in longer hours, which takes a toll on our energy reserves: physically, mentally, and emotionally. We would never write a $10,000 check on an account with $150 in it, but we regularly write energy checks we can’t cash. Shifting our focus from managing time to managing energy can make a big difference in how we experience our schedules. What would happen if you did an 'energy audit' on your schedule? If you were to do an 'energy audit' on your schedule right now—identifying things you do that energize you and things you do that drain you—what would you end up cutting? That blog you keep trying to maintain? That Bible study? We often do things that exponentially drain us because we are worried what others would think of us if we stopped doing them. But the beauty of the variety in our design is that each of us are created for different things. We have a wide array of talents and gifts—which is why what gives one person energy is actually draining to another. (Yes. That task or activity that makes you want to put a spoon through your head is actually easy for someone else.)It isn't unusual for us to commit to things we aren't talented in because there is no one else to fill the gap, but if we want to manage our energy, we have to get better at having hard conversations when we find that a commitment is having a negative impact on our core calling. We've been taught not to quit things, but there is integrity in being honest when we are engaged in a task that is disproportionately draining our energy reserves. (And I'm afraid I've been guilty far too many times of soldiering through and muttering under my breath for a commitment I should have never made—and wouldn't have—if I'd known myself and my strengths better at the time.) Having the courage to be authentic in how we feel about the ways we are serving can not only free us to focus on the place we truly excel; it also opens opportunity for people who are gifted in the areas we've been struggling at. (It can also reveal when a task or program isn't needed if there are no resources there to cover it.) When managing our energy reserves, we have to build in 'white space' "When we regiment our days too severely, when we stay completely focused on one task, our minds tend to stagnate after a time." writes Ori Brafman in The Chaos Imperative (visit link), "We need white space in order to avoid becoming so task focused that we lose our creativity."Brian P. Moran, author of the 12-Week-Year, writes, “An effective breakout block is at least three-hours long and spent on things other than work. It is time scheduled away from your business during normal business hours that you will use to refresh and reinvigorate your mind, so that when you return to work, you can engage with more focus and energy.” Few of us have the freedom to completely own our time when we work as part of a team; however, we can create pockets of time where we are engaged in something that recharges us. While three hours may be ideal, 15 minutes can also have impact. And we know the things that are life giving to us. For some it is a walk outside, for others a conversation with a co-worker, still others may just need to sit and do nothing for some time. We can also start to become aware when we've hit the point of diminishing returns. If what should be a short task begins to take way too long, we need to have the courage to either engage it the next day, find someone who has more skill in it than we do, or write it off as a task that lacks purpose.Motivation is a perishable commodity. Commit to short timelines. There is a trend in personal planning to move from plotting out an entire year to only looking at 12 weeks at a time. Books like The 12 Week Year (visit link) and planners like the Self Journal (visit link) or Freedom Journal (visit link) focus on executing in short timelines in order to keep our motivation high. Why 13 weeks? Because moving quickly and creating tangible results silences our doubts. Perfectionism, fear and insecurity chip away at ideas. The caveat is that they need a timeline. Tight planning cycles short-circuit our propensity for circular decision making. If we can execute quickly—before we start to question and second-guess ourselves—then big things can happen. The faster we can get from ideation to execution, the more likely it is that we will put something new out there.Not only that, but 13 weeks allows us to create tighter alignment between motivation, purpose and activity. Our context continually changes. We may have once loved serving on a board, but 3 years later find we aren't in the same place that we were back then in terms of purpose. Or maybe we committed to something only to learn a few weeks later how much it drains us. Planning our commitments in 13-week increments minimizes getting trapped by things that drain us. Motivation matters.It's not about time. It's about energy.Shifting our focus from managing time to building energy isn't just recommended, it's essential. The thing is, deep inside we know the things that energize us and the things that drain us.It simply takes intention to look at them.And the courage to work it like a balance sheet to make sure we build our energy income and eliminate the embezzlers.
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