How Managing Your Energy Can Make You A Far More Effective Leader

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So you have a to-do list and you’ve prioritized tasks clearly, but you still struggle to get it all done and come home drained.

Why is that?

Sometimes it’s not just a question of becoming more organized, more efficient or getting a new app to track your life.

It’s one thing to manage your time. It’s entirely another to manage your energy.

Time management can help you make some progress. But break-through progress comes when leaders manage their energy.

The difference isn’t just about getting through your to-do list. It’s about bringing your best to your most important tasks.

And it’s about having energy left for time with God, for your family and for you.

Over the last 7 years, I’ve paid far more attention to energy management and have seen my capacity as a leader grow significantly.

So how do you do that?

You track what truly gives you energy, and what doesn’t. And then you build your day, your schedule and your life around it.

The exercise of tracking your energy will take you very little time to complete, but in the end, will save you countless hours.

It also has the potential to change everything from your productivity to how you feel about your job to how you leverage your gifts.

Here’s how to do it.

Managing your time is one thing. But real progress comes when leaders manage their energy. Click To Tweet

Step One: Identify When Your Energy Is At Its Peak

As we’ve talked about it before on the blog, time gets measured out equally over 24 hours each day.

Energy doesn’t. Smart leaders get that.

You likely only have a few hours each day that are your most productive.

Almost everyone’s mental focus, energy and even enthusiasm shifts as the day goes on. This isn’t just anecdotal, it’s biologically true. And it’s true for all of us, from early risers right through to night hawks.

So…study this: when is your energy at its peak? And when is it at its lowest?

It’s usually a 2-6 hour window.  Here are three ways to identify those windows:

Track your mood.

Monitor your productivity.

Ask people around you when they think you bring your best energy to the table.

Identify that time window and write it down.

Time gets measured out equally over 24 hours. Energy doesn't. Smart leaders get that. Click To Tweet

Step Two (The Secret Sauce): Rank Activities in Terms of Whether they Energize You or Drain You

This next step really is the secret sauce.

Not only are not hours created equally, but all tasks are not created equally. You do not embrace every task with equal enthusiasm.  Pay attention to that.

Be completely honest with yourself:

There are some tasks you can’t wait to get to and some you dread.

Some tasks play right into your gift set, while some you find almost impossible to complete.

Certain tasks leave you feeling completely energized when you’re done; others make you feel like you’ve had the life drained out of you.

You know what I’m talking about.

Now, look at the kind of work you routinely do. By “work you routinely do” i mean not specific projects, but the kind of work you do as a rule.

So if you work in a church, some examples might include “respond to email, write reports, prepare spreadsheets, prepare talks, deliver talks, meet with leaders, meet with volunteers, recruit new team members, visit the sick, raise money,

Assign a number between 1 and 10 to every task you routinely do as part of your job:

  • 10 = Can’t wait to do it. Leaves me energized.
  • 5  = Neutral
  • 1 = Dread it. Leaves me feeling drained.

Your sample list might look like this

  • 10  Meet with leaders
  • 7   Recruit new team members
  • 7   Write messages
  • 5   Finish the weekend service
  • 4   Pastoral care
  • 3   Respond to email
  • 1   Clean my office

We all have to do things we don’t like. But you don’t need to spend your best energy doing them.

We all have to do things we don't like. But you don't need to spend your best energy doing them. Click To Tweet

Step Three: Do What You’re Best At When You’re At Your Best

So how does all this fit together?


Take your two previous responses to these questions:

What’s your most productive time?

What are the top 5 things that energize you?

Put them together and then:

Do what you’re best at when you’re at your best

For example, if you dread email but love spreadsheets, don’t touch email until you’re already tired and use your best hours to design the best spreadsheets you’ve ever put together.

Do what you’re best at when you’re at your best, and leave the neutral activities and the things that drain you to your off peak hours.

Three things will happen:

You will become far more productive. You’ll be able to do twice the amount of your best work because you’re doing it when you’re at your best. 

You will become far more effective.

Imagine the organizational impact of doing what you’re best at over and over again when you’re at your best.

You will love your work so much more.

Personally, I love the first hours of the day when I get to create on a fresh canvas. The things that drain me will easily consume time, but they don’t have to consume my best time.

Do what you’re best at when you’re at your best. Click To Tweet

Can't find the time to get it all done? Become a high-impact leader without burning out (or sacrificing yourself).

Without a new strategy and approach, it's easy to continue to:

  • Sacrifice family on the altar of work
  • Overcommit and underdeliver
  • Have no time for what you actually want to do
  • Struggle to get time off to refuel and relax

Worst of all, other people—other tasks, jobs, and projects—will continue to hijack your life.

It’s time to change that by implementing a strategy that works.

At Your Best is a proven strategy to get your time, energy, and priorities working in your favor. It's my step-by-step online course that will help you overcome stress, find a sustainable pace without losing impact, and be far more productive at work.

50,000+ leaders have used the At Your Best strategy to escape the stress spiral and finally do what they want to do—grow their organizations, advance their careers, launch new ventures, be far more present at home, and take regular time off.

Wow! I didn’t realize I was in desperate need of this message and system in my life and business. 

This message so profoundly impacted us, that we named our annual company theme, “At Our Best,” using Carey’s system and resources to strengthen our culture and make health a priority this year.”

Sean CannellFounder and CEO, Think Media

Whatever you choose to do with it is up to you. Join today for instant access.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.