We live in a relentless, 24/7 world. We try to manage every minute of the day, but instead we wind up feeling burnt out and exhausted. Remember that time you followed a schedule crammed with tasks and activities, but the effort didn’t seem to get you much closer to your goal? That’s because when you don’t manage your energy, you fall short of getting the most out of your time.
Too often we assume that spending an hour on an important task is going to produce measurable results. But it’s not the hour that matters; it’s harnessing your energy. If we don’t bring energy to what we’re doing, the time spent really doesn’t matter.
Isn't there a better way?
Time management is important but the real key is managing your energy. You can’t create more hours in the day, but you can control who and what you give your energy to. Too many people fail to realize who and what they give their energy to and why. As a result, they end up drained and unfulfilled, with no energy for what matters most.
What if you could stop micromanaging your time, and instead focus on directing your energy toward what’s most important?
In my new book, The Energy Clock, I share a tool called the Energy Audit that helps you recognize where you are spending your energy so that you can create change. When you begin to see your time as serving the ebb and flow of your energy, you can make better choices of how to spend both.
Performing an Energy Audit
When your home or office’s heating and cooling system isn’t working efficiently, it’s time for an energy audit. There is a balance for both functions to create efficiency. The same principle applies to our own lives.
You might think of heat as the energy you need to get things done, and cooling as the energy replacement time (down time) needed in between those bursts of energy. Both are important, especially in avoiding burnout.
An energy audit simply means looking holistically at all of your energy outputs and determining where you are gaining energy and where you are losing it. Start with these three questions:
This awareness is the first step in creating change. It’s about knowing where you are and how to shift your energy towards those things that give you energy.
From there, you can take action on how to maximize your energizers, eliminate or better manage your drainers, and be more efficient with everything in between.
Setting Your Energy Clock
The “Energy Clock” is a way of re-imagining your time to bring energy to the most important priorities. In the book, I dig into how you can use the clarity gained from the energy audit to take charge of your energy.
Here’s the deal. You control your energy—how you spend it, where it goes and how you can allocate it better. Awareness of your energy will change how you manage your time, and change it for the better.
-Molly Fletcher, author of The Energy Clock
For more on creating a life full of energy, check out The Energy Clock>>
If you know about my new book, you have likely been introduced to the term “attention management.” Although the phrase existed before I started using it, it was not used in relation to productivity. In fact, it was not particularly relevant or useful to our everyday lives.
Attention management is at the very heart of my work as a speaker, trainer, and author. Attention management is really just like it sounds—managing your attention.
My definition of it is a little more specific. I define it as the practice of creating the conditions that allow you to intentionally engage the most optimal brain state to achieve your best results in the moment.
A 19th Century Take on Attention Management
A psychologist and philosopher in the 19th century, William James, was an advocate of the ideas behind attention management. He wrote: “[Attention] is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought.”
Here, the key word is “one.” No one can give their attention simultaneously to all of the things that demand it. Attention management allows you to be more proactive than reactive. It means you decide where your attention goes instead of letting outside demands decide it for you.
William James suggested that attention management gives you the ability to maintain control over your thoughts and actions, rather than inadvertently relinquishing this control.
Attention Management Helps You Live a Life of Choice Rather Than a Life of Reaction and Distraction
Today, you can use attention management as a defense against the damage our fast-paced, technology-rich environment does to our mind, body, and soul. It’s also essential for achieving your most significant results daily, so that you can stay in control of your days, and therefore ultimately, your life.
You might wonder if attention management is just “focus.” But you can think of it as the collective practice of a group of behaviors, including focus, concentration, mindfulness, presence, and flow. It offers the ability to consciously direct your attention in any given moment despite distractions, to be more proactive than reactive, and to maintain control over your thoughts, rather than inadvertently relinquishing control.
Attention management is the antidote to everything in our environment that sabotages our attention. We live in a fast-paced, “always-on” society, and that has negative consequences for our ability and efforts to be productive.
Attention management is the key to controlling distractions, maximizing focus, and becoming engaged in “flow.” It helps you to be present in the moment, whether that be at work or at leisure. It helps you to maximize your brain power and your unique skills to bring your best self to the moment—what I call “unleashing your genius.”
Our Attention Determines the Life We Lead
Another quote from William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. This implies that you must control your attention to control your life. Productivity is basically about directing your activities to do more of the things that are important to you. Attention management is the logical path to get you there.
Being able to control your attention requires practice. You’ll be more successful on some days than on others. Managing your attention depends on several factors. It’s not just about distraction.While attention management is a skill to be developed, there are also physiological factors. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration play an important part in your ability to control your attention, also. When these important elements are neglected, your focus, productivity level, and ability to avoid distractions will also suffer.
Single Focus Instead of Multi-Task to Increase Effectiveness
Attention management is the idea that how you spend your time is relevant only to the extent that you also devote your attention, because time spent on a task with divided attention is much less effective than time spent focused on the task without interruption.
To be sure, traditional “time management” theory still contains useful concepts, such as making lists, setting goals, and prioritizing tasks. It’s the practical application of these ideas that fail the test of time, and most time management training has not been updated to keep up with modern technology and the increasing pace of business. Distraction is the single biggest problem for knowledge workers today. Attention management is the skill we need in our modern, technology-driven society.
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A version of this article originally appeared on .