Energy produces productivity.
If there’s no energy, nothing productive gets done. The key to using your time effectively is managing your energy levels and matching your activity to your current energy level. The idea is that you find what it is that can promote feelings of productivity and use this knowledge to create productive moods which you will spend on exercising, cleaning, or whatever activity you need to get done.
Use your pattern recognition skills to do this. Figure out what promotes productivity, and then figure out what activities you should be doing during the day, when you should be doing them, and for how long.
Match your activity to your energy level:
After breakfast and during my cup of coffee is the best time for me to do my writing. My energy levels are just right, I want to do this. After that, I’m itching to do something active so I’ll head to the gym. Once I’m done with my workout, I like to do something sedentary for a while so I’ll work on some video editing, maybe do some study or play chess. I still want to be productive, but I can’t realistically do some housework after coming back from the gym. My energy levels are low so I do a low energy, yet still productive task. Once I’ve had something to eat and taken a bit of a break, my energy levels increase a bit and I’ll look to do something that requires more energy - maybe clean the house, or make that call that I’ve been putting aside for a few weeks. I’m listening and feeling to what my body wants to do.
During these times of productivity bursts, it’s important to not get distracted. Pulling your phone out when you’re supposed to be doing something creative can be like pulling the handbrake on a moving vehicle. It’ll come to a grinding halt. It can kill the creative process and disturb your flow. You want to maintain this flow state for as long as possible, any distractions should be minimised. I’ve had a few times when I’ve been messaging someone (in fact people are messaging me as I write this but I really want to finish this up before I respond) and I’ve thought, I’ll just quickly send them a message. Next thing I know I’ve watched 20 minutes of Tik Toks, checked out what funny stuff the president has tweeted, and researched a slow cooked coq au vin recipe. Stick to your task.
Matching your activity to your energy level requires you to be able to be flexible. Sometimes I have to switch it up. I don’t always write in the morning, sometimes I’ll try but I only manage to get a few sentences down before my mind starts to wander. I can’t concentrate. I’ll drop my pen and do something else. I’d rather spend 20 minutes doing some writing at a different time and get the same amount done than if I forced myself to write for 60 minutes. Sometimes it’s the opposite. I’ll be watching a show, or playing some games when a thought will strike me that will cascade into a collection of deeper thoughts, “I need to get this down” I say, and I’ll drop what I’m doing and blast out a couple pages until I’m satisfied. I’ve even had times when I’ve been lazy (okay I mean hungover) all day and it’s not until 10.30 at night that I feel pumped and wanting to go to the gym, so I’ll go. Strike while the iron is hot, as they say. When these bursts of energy happens, go for it. You have to take advantage of these moments because for some, they’re rare. I don’t want to give up an opportunity to be productive because it’s not ‘the right time’. The right time is when you feel like it, which will be based on your energy levels.
As a side note, this requires having different activities that you can go to that will vary in energy levels. You don’t want to have 5 different hobbies, all that need 110% hard working energy. No one is going to go rock climbing for an hour after going for a 10km run, you’re just not going to get as much done this way. You’ll either have to change what days you do things, or how often you do them, or choose to suffer in a state of perpetual tiredness.
Manage your energy levels:
Some people feel that they never have the right energy to be able to do anything productive, I say that you should pay attention to some external factors in your life and see how they can influence your energy levels. There are obvious things that can affect this like your sleep, what you’re eating etc. But there are also some not-so-obvious things, there’s your social life and much sunlight/fresh air you are getting. Make small changes to your life, and see how it affects your energy. Maybe something as simple as a coffee will be enough to spark that productivity fuse.
There’s this thing call A/B testing. It’s a simple experiment where you see which variable - A or B - does what. Obviously, life is hard and filled with many different variables, but if you can implement this in your life, say, you want to cut carbs from your diet. Do that for an entire week. Record how you feel and what your energy levels are like. Then the next week, add the carbs back into your diet and compare how you feel. It may be that nothing changes. Or it may be that feel radically different. If this is the case, implement the better option, and try A/B testing again but with different variables.
Building and creating strong, sustainable habits is a good way to create energy. ‘Whaaaaaaat?’ Yes, I can hear you asking that right now from the future. If you’re able to build a compelling habit of going for a run after work, your energy levels will usually rise in anticipation for this run. In fact just yesterday I went for a walk with my friend, I was hanging with her partner before she got home from work and he was in a really, “I can’t be bothered I just wanna drink beers” sort of mood, you know that sort of mood, right? But as soon as she got home and announced that they’re going for a walk, he was out the door before she was and was running for most of it when the rest of us were walking. Your energy levels aren’t just a physical thing, I would argue that they’re more of a mental thing. A mental thing that you’re able to overcome with the right mindset. Find that mindset. Master it. And become the king or queen of productivity.