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

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

Get your time, energy, and priorities working in your favor

the high impact leader


What I just shared with you in this post is included in the High Impact Leader online, on-demand course, a course that’s helped thousands of leaders get time, energy and priorities working in their favor.

I’d love to help you do just that. There’s much more on how to sync your time and energy to become far more effective and productive at home and at work.

Many leaders who have taken the course are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – Joel Rowland, Clayton County, North Carolina

“Just wow.  Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell,  Sioux Falls South Dakota

A game-changer.” Pam Perkins,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?

Click here to learn more or get instant access.

It’s Simple but Effective

What are you learning about doing your best work when you’re at your best?

Have you tried that? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment!

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


  1. Irven Gammon on November 5, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    I find this exercise interesting. I have also signed up for the High Impact Leaders online course. I find digital communication draining especially the current day expectation that if your phone dings, rings, or whistles you must respond to the text, email or phone call that very second. I get very frustrated when a conversation with a person is interrupted by the person responding to their phone. I am not sure how to factor this into rating tasks and time periods of the day to capitalize on my best hours which are early mornings. I actually love to get out to walk or hit the gym early morning. Additionally, computer tasks, emails that arrive by the hour, and word processing rob me of a lot of energy. Wonder if there might be a recommendation of how to organize/ schedule/ plan to deal with the inflow of the digital stuff? And how to structure appropriate response in a timely way.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      Of course!

      My biggest tip is to turn Do Not Disturb on all the time. My philosophy is that if anyone needs me that bad, they will come knock on my door.

      You don’t have to respond to texts or phone calls until it’s the best time for you to respond.

      Does that help?

  2. goldsilk city on November 3, 2019 at 10:09 am

    My only pushback is sometimes my most energizing tasks aren’t the most critical in terms of kingdom building. Tomorrow I have to finish a sermon and prep slides

  3. Yeong on January 3, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    Hi Carey, great post.

    But doesn’t this mean that the tasks that drains you gets the “worse” part of you. Which means that those tasks are likely to not be completed well or at all! i.e. to start with, you don’t enjoy it, so it means you will not give your best, and if your energy levels are at its lowest, won’t it make it even worse?

  4. Eric Dye on January 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

    These are elements often overlooked in maximizing the quality and quantity of our bandwidth. Thank you, Carey!

  5. Jennifer McWilliams on December 25, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    My only pushback is sometimes my most energizing tasks aren’t the most critical in terms of kingdom building. Tomorrow I have to finish a sermon and prep slides. Slides energize me more, but if my sermon isn’t done well, I’m not being faithful in my call. Sometimes I do the more draining stuff first, then reward myself with the “fun” work (like playing with EasyWorship). 🙂

  6. calvin on December 17, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    What about placing energizing tasks outside your window to extend it?

  7. Derek Altom on December 17, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Carey: I find this post interesting. In my estimation, I feel that most are taught to do the things that they don’t like first and get them out of the way placing no consideration on energy levels and what one is best at. What you are saying is opposite on all those points. Did you find yourself coming from this type of mentality? If so, how big of a struggle was it for you to break free from that mentality?

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