We might be better off managing energy than time, writes Marianne Choong
Have you ever wished that you could sense time?
Imagine that all clocks in the world suddenly vanished. No watches, mobile or computer apps.
We could telepathically ‘sense’ that it is now 11.46pm in Verona, or 7.23am in Mauritius. Our brains can sense time, like how our ears hear sound. We would not need to rely on external devices to tell us what time it because we would know time. If only!
Can we really manage something we cannot sense? What are we really trying to do?
Typically, when we talk about time management we mean trying to get more things done, in quicker and better ways. There are planning tools and checklists that we can employ to help us organise our tasks better. In addition to these tactical tools, what else could we do?
Here’s an idea – we could also re-tune ourselves to manage our energy levels. Unlike time, which is an abstract notion, we can sense how energised we are.
We know when our friend, or family member, or colleague, is being their best self – we feel their excitement, their convictions, their confidence. We know when we take delight in a particular task – we feel productive and have a sense of purpose.
Based on that awareness of self, we could use ingenuity to keep that energy gauge up. Much like keeping an eye on the fuel gauge of your car and knowing when to fill it up, which petrol station to stop at, with what fuel and to what level.
If we can grow even 1% of this energised state in our self each day, for a particular task – how much more can that 1% compound itself over the course of a week, a month, a year?
If we could encourage our colleagues to do the same, we would nurture an entire team of like-minded individuals. We would end up with teams that have an energised, resourceful, high-performing mindset.
The first place to start is with ourselves – self-awareness. Using the analogy of a car, we know we can’t drive across the Nullarbor without fuelling up. Trying to attempt complex tasks when we are already tired, say, like at the end of the day, is likely to result in lower quality work; leading to re-work and lost productivity.
Our brains have a finite amount of energy to use every day. Neuroscientists tell us that switching from task to task depletes mental energy more quickly. Hence ‘multi-tasking’ is arguably less efficient because we are skipping around our focus and attention, thus draining our brains quicker.
Our brains also try to conserve energy use by going on ‘autopilot’ mode as much as possible. For example, our brains love it when we drive to work on a familiar route – we do not need to invest more energy in navigating new routes (while multi-tasking by driving the car at the same time!).
The more decisions we need to make, the quicker we use up our mental energy stores. Hence, we achieve greater efficiencies by standardising our tasks and reducing variations or subjectivities.
Give these positive habits a go – do more self-checks, do less task-switching, and create more ‘autopilot’ tasks. Learn to understand energy levels and subsequently configure tasks to achieve greater quality of work. When we bring energised versions of ourselves to our work, magic will happen!
Marianne Choong is a management professional with over 13 years of management consulting, operational and project management experience, largely in the pharmaceutical industry. Marianne has a post-graduate research degree in chemical engineering and an MBA from Melbourne Business School. Marianne is a strategist and a change leader, who is passionate about driving continuous improvements and business transformations. Marianne is currently supporting the implementation of the LEAPP Dispensary Excellence program across Sigma’s pharmacy network. Marianne is Sigma’s Business Development Specialist.