Would you like to:
- Start a new business or make some extra money on the side
- Write a book
- Master a hobby
- Learn a new skill
- Have more energy
But you just don’t have the time or energy?
Are you so drained at the end of the day after getting up early, dealing with traffic, working all day, taking care of kids, your spouse, cooking, cleaning, running errands and the million other things you do all day – with no time or energy to take care of yourself?
Do you struggle with trying to manage your time only to feel more stressed by your inability to do so?
I was too – until I ran an experiment on myself.
My husband and I were brainstorming ideas for a book and he suggested the topic of managing your energy. I thought it was a good topic and the more we discussed it, the more I realized how much I suck at it.
I waste a ton of energy stressing about what I’m not getting done which leaves me with little energy to get those things done.
My whole life I’ve bought into the concepts of time that were thrust upon society during the Industrial Revolution (back in the early 1900’s):
- The work day is 8 hours long, generally from 9 to 5.
- I must be “productive” during those hours (or some elusive “bad thing” will happen to me).
- I must work before I can play (or more “bad things” will come my way).
Other assumptions that I’ve lived most of my life by:
- I need 8 hours of sleep each night.
- I’m a morning person and can’t possibly stay up past 10pm on a consistent basis (normally I get up around 4:30am without an alarm clock).
- I can only work during normal working hours.
I never questioned these “rules.” Without realizing it, I lived by the clock, even when I didn’t have to.
I ran around all day, feeling like the ball in a pinball machine, endlessly bouncing from one thing to the next, never really going anywhere and feeling completely exhausted at the end of each day.
I spent much of my day stressing about all the things I wasn’t accomplishing because of all the minutia I felt I had to take care of. At the end of each day, the hours had slipped by and I was left asking myself, “What did I accomplish today?” and answering, “not much.” And feeling stressed and negative about the whole thing.
On top of that, my husband was reminding me of how little time we spend together with our jobs during the day and three little kids to take care of. I usually couldn’t keep my eyes open after the little ones’ bed time.
Until I started my experiment.
My experiment was to:
- question all the “rules” I had been living by regarding time and time “management” (like we can actually manage time)
- notice how I spent my time all day
- most importantly: notice how I spent my energy all day
- see how much sleep I really need if I manage my energy differently
- stay up late to spend more time with my husband and work on my business
My results totally surprised me.
My initial struggle was to keep myself from stressing out about what I wasn’t accomplishing during “normal business hours.” (I’m very blessed to have a job where I work from home with a fair amount of flexibility.)
Every time I started thinking about what I should be doing, I would remind myself that I had the late night (between 10pm and 1am) to get things done. And this calmed me down.
I was able to be more present with my children and really focus on them. And it’s obvious that they have noticed this.
Now my husband and I have focused time together to connect. He tells me that my new schedule has allowed our 15 year relationship to grow much deeper and stronger.
By significantly reducing my stress during the day, I have much more energy at night. Something I always thought would be impossible for me.
I tested how much sleep I really need. Instead of the 8 hours that I always assumed, it’s actually more like 5 hours. Maybe that’s what happens as we get older (I’m 44) or what happens when we learn to live with the sleep patterns of our children (ours are 2, 5 and 7 years old).
I realized that there’s a huge difference in how tired I am the next day when I go to bed at 1am versus 2am (I’m fine with 1am and a zombie with 2am). My 2 year old still wakes me up around 6:30am every morning.
What I Learned:
Time Management = Time Wasted
Energy Management = Boundless Productivity and Happiness
Overall, I learned that my assumptions were just that – false assumptions. None of them held up to my experiment.
- By managing my energy (not stressing out all day, going with my body’s natural rhythms) instead of trying to manage my time (scheduling and worrying about what I do with each hour), I’m much more productive and have much more energy. There’s no internal judgment of the validity of my actions (i.e. how productive each one is).
- Trying to manage my time was actually stressing me out even more because I was trying to control my environment (impossible) to fit my arbitrary list of things to do. I wasn’t allowing for much flexibility. When was the last time your entire day went according to your plans?
- I do quite well staying up late on a regular basis.
- I can still fit in my daily yoga and meditation practice without getting up at 4:30am.
- It really doesn’t matter when I do my work. With technology, I can communicate with people at any hour. Emails and texts actually reduce the chat time that occurs on phone calls and in live meetings.
- I have more energy by not multi-tasking. By focusing on one thing at a time, I’m more relaxed and do a better job. When that one thing I’m focusing on is my kids or my husband, they really notice the difference.
- It doesn’t matter if I play before I work. Nothing bad ever happened. (Go for it! Have dessert before dinner!) We’re much more productive when we’re happy.
- All rules and assumptions are things we make up and can be changed.
On a cosmic level, we can’t manage time. It’s just a concept we created to help us organize our days.
All we can manage are our thoughts and actions which affect our energy. Without energy, we can’t do much.
What rules are you living by that don’t work for you?
How much energy are you wasting on trying to control your environment and stressing about not getting things done?
What big or little things can you change in your daily routine that would have a dramatically positive effect on your energy and productivity?
Question everything. There really are no rules.
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Learn how I manage three little kids, a husband, job, writing and taking care of myself - all with mindfulness. Check out my latest guest appearance: a podcast interview at Manifested Happiness: How To Be Mindful When You're Too Busy
The Mindful Body program includes many ideas that you can use every day to avoid gaining extra weight while keeping your energy and spirits high. It’s also a great gift to share with the special people in your life.