Time famine is a big challenge for leaders.
No matter how much your organization grows or declines, how many staff quit or join, how many upset people you have to deal with, or how insane the world gets, you only get 24 hours in a day to solve everything that comes your way as a leader.
Unfortunately, this leaves most leaders with a nagging sense that they can’t get it all done.
As a result, as things grow or problems escalate, most leaders respond by working more hours, usually at the cost of their health and the well-being of the people they love the most.
A natural and typical response to getting everything done is incorporating better time management practices, which is a really great idea.
However, the challenge most leaders discover is that time management alone won’t solve their time famine problem.
Here are three reasons why that’s true. Hopefully, they explain the current angst you’re feeling and the nagging dread you might feel as a new year approaches, and you have no idea how you’ll manage it all again.
Then, I’ll share a concept that I hope will lead you to a breakthrough next year: Energy management. I’ll also outline three reasons why energy management is so powerful.
So why won’t time management alone (as valuable as it is) solve your time famine problems? Here are three reasons.
3 Reasons Time Management Won’t Solve Your Time Famine Issues
1. You’re Managing a Fixed Asset
The challenge with time management is that you’re managing a fixed commodity.
You get 24 hours in a day. No more. No less.
Time doesn’t grow. It won’t expand. It doesn’t even flex to help you out.
As a result, you’re managing a growing list of demands with a limited asset.The challenge with time management is that you're managing a fixed commodity. Time doesn't grow. It won't expand. It doesn't even flex to help you out. Click To Tweet
The limit is this: No one will ever give you another hour in the day.
While you’re starving for more time, you know you’ll never get it. Nobody is going to hand you an extra hour in the day, or an eighth day in the week.
People think money is a limited commodity. Well, yes. But not more limited than time.
You can always make more money. You can never make more time.People think money is a limited commodity. Well, yes. But not more limited than time. You can always make more money. You can never make more time. Click To Tweet
2. Time Management Will Make You More Efficient, But You’ll Hit A Wall In Effectiveness
As a result, traditional time management will make you more efficient, but it doesn’t make you more effective over the long run.
Efficiency fails because there’s a fundamental limit—a wall you hit—with time management when all you’re trying to do is to become more efficient.Traditional time management will make you more efficient, but it doesn’t make you more effective over the long run. Click To Tweet
You can get better at managing your 24 hours and become exceptionally efficient.
And that’s when you meet the wall.
Once you become highly efficient, time management becomes demotivating because you have to settle for small—sometimes microscopic—improvements. Meanwhile, the opportunities you have or the responsibilities you carry continue to expand. Then what do you do?
Managing a growing list of demands with limited time is a little like planning a dinner party for eight on a $100 budget.
You can do that if you shop for sales and get innovative. It’s more than possible.
But try to host a dinner party for 80 or 800 people on a $100 budget and suddenly everything falls apart.
That’s what leadership has felt like over the last few years. Then what do you do?Once you become highly efficient, time management becomes demotivating because you have to settle for microscopic improvements. Meanwhile, the opportunities you have or the responsibilities you carry continue to expand. Click To Tweet
3. It’s Not Just The Hours, It’s the Weight
Leaders have always had to solve big problems. By the time a problem reaches the senior leader’s desk it’s usually because no one else could solve it.
Which is the third reason why traditional time management alone doesn’t solve your leadership problems: It’s not just the hours, it’s the weight of leadership that has you down.
The weight of leadership is something only a leader understands.
When you’re running from meeting to meeting and crisis to crisis the weight on leadership intrudes on your evenings and weekends.
It keeps you up at night, tossing and staring at the ceiling unsure of what to do next.
Time management alone only deals with the length of the hours you work. It has no idea how to tackle the weight of leadership,Time management alone only deals with the length of the hours you work. It has no idea how to tackle the weight of leadership. Click To Tweet
So What Will Help You? Energy Management
If you’re counting on time management to get you through the stress of another year of crisis leadership, it’s time for a new strategy: Energy management.
Most people concentrate on managing their time but never think about managing their energy.
Most leaders know that their energy level waxes and wanes over the course of the day.
By default, most people compete with their energy levels, trying to push through low ebbs or even denying that they’re struggling in a given moment.Most people concentrate on managing their time but never think about managing their energy. Click To Tweet
Rather than competing with your energy levels, start cooperating with them.
Leveraging your energy is where you start to see exponential results. When you leverage your energy, you’ll realize you’re capable of producing not just more work but much better work than you thought possible.
Here are three keys to managing your energy, not just your time.Leveraging your energy is where you start to see exponential results. When you leverage your energy, you’ll realize you’re capable of producing not just more work but much better work than you thought possible. Click To Tweet
1. Realize You Only Have 3-5 Deeply Productive Hours in a Day
How many productive hours a day do you have in you?
It’s a more important question than you might think. When I was starting out in leadership, I might have answered that by saying eight, or ten. Or twelve.
What about you? How many productive hours do you think you have in you?
Like many driven leaders, I thought I was superhuman. Pushing the pedal all the way to the floor worked for a while until it didn’t.
Then—also like a growing number of leaders—I hit the wall. I burned out.
When I rebuilt my leadership in the years that followed, I started to manage my energy, not just my time.
Here’s what I learned.
As driven and determined as I was, I really only had three to five peak hours in me every day during which my energy was high, focus was clear, and my mind was sharp.
Most people have only three to five deeply productive hours in a day when their energy is at its peak. That’s it.Most people have only three to five deeply productive hours in a day when their energy is at its peak. That’s it. Click To Tweet
2. Leverage Those Hours Like They Were Your Lifeline (Because They Are)
The reason you take your stress home, work ridiculous hours and feel like you’re never finished is usually because your most important work didn’t get done when you were working.
When your most important work never gets done, you never feel done. Which, in turn, causes you to work all the time.
Ask any preacher whose sermon is still ‘in development’ Friday afternoon, any CEO who is not clear on strategy for the next quarter, or any manager who hasn’t dealt with their toughest team issues, whether they can relax, and they’ll look at you like you have three heads.
When you realize you’ve basically got three to five hours to accomplish your most significant work, and you focus deeply enough to do it, everything else becomes so much easier.
Think of those hours as your Green Zone: Your best hours in the day when you’re sharp, clear, focused, and able to tackle your work with energy. For morning people, that happens in the morning. For night owls, it might happen after 10 p.m. Or, maybe your energy peaks mid-day.
Protecting your Green Zone and leveraging it to do your most important work five days a week means you’ll not only catch up, but you’ll also likely get ahead.
I know when I get my major content done I almost feel like I can call it a day. I don’t – I have meetings and other things that are less important to do. But the big stuff is done.
Which, as a morning person, means that when I’m in a meeting later in the day, I’m focused on the meeting, not thinking about other things. It means when I’m relaxing, I can relax. When I’m home, I’m home.
Having only three to five productive hours in a day might make you feel like you’re losing, but when you leverage them, you’ll start winning in ways you never imagined.
I outline the strategy in detail in my online, on-demand resource, the Complete At Your Best Course. It unlocks everything you need to get thousands of productive hours back next year that will help you get your life and your leadership back. You can check it out here.
3. Don’t Compete With Your Energy Levels, Cooperate With Them
Having accomplished your most important work during your Green Zone, you’re then free to do other things as your energy dips to other zones—your Yellow Zone and your Red Zone.
As you might guess from the colors yellow and red, these are the zones where your energy is somewhere between average and, well, dismal. That’s perfectly fine and very natural.
When I’m exhausted and in my Red Zone (usually around 4 p.m. most days), I have about three brain cells left.
So, what should you do?
Rather than trying to tackle that massive report, cooperate with the fact that you’re exhausted.
Do some low-demand tasks, like filing your expense report, emptying your inbox, or reviewing your calendar.
Or hit the gym. Or maybe even take a nap.
No one gets points for staring at a blinking cursor for an hour until it’s time to go home. Just go home.
Call it a day.
Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re exhausted is to call it a day. You’ll live to see another day, and after a good night’s sleep and some recreation, you’ll come back with so much more energy.
And here’s the rewarding upside: practicing energy management, you’ll get far more accomplished in far less time.Sometimes the best thing you can do when you're exhausted is to call it a day. You'll live to see another day, and after a good night's sleep and some recreation, you'll come back with so much more energy. Click To Tweet