Energy Management

Time management is popular and I have already written about it. However, even with the perfect tools and concepts, there are times when you sit in front of your work and you simply do not have the energy to do it. And then there are times when you are full of energy and manage much more than expected. Sounds familiar? It is surely one of my problems ..

The theory is simple: identify your energy levels and the energy needed to accomplish tasks. In practice, it is not that easy. Here is my try:

Tasks, which drain my energy: administrative meetings and work, email, homework and exam corrections. Those are really tasks, which do not only tire me, but drain me.

Tasks, which I truly enjoy: teaching and giving talks, discussions with students and colleagues about research, writing papers (yes, I am one of those weird people), writing research proposals (unless it is already the fifth time I am resubmitting it), doing research, reading and watching inspiring papers and talks, learning something new. I tried to summarize those here:

Task Energy needed to accomplish Energy drain Energy building
Low Middle High
Administrative meetings x x
Email and admin work x x
Homework and exam corrections x x
Teaching and giving talks x x   x
Conferences and workshops x x
Research discussions x   x
Writing papers x   x
Research proposals x   x
Research x   x
Learning something new x x   x

Energy levels: very high at the beginning of the week and during the mornings. Highly dependent on progress and on good news. This part is nasty because I cannot control it. So, I need to develop strategies how to build up my energy when bad news is coming in.

First, I decided to focus on my high-energy tasks, which also built up my energy during the mornings. What to do with the tasks, which require high energy, but completely drain me, like homework corrections? Some people advise to bulk such tasks together and to work on them only on some days. This does not work for me – I prefer “hiding” them. If I have 30 homework assignments to grade, I could easily spend a complete day on those and will be completely broken and annoyed at the end. I will be terrible company. But if I do one or two corrections every day between other tasks, my energy levels seem to overlook them :-). However, I will be ready in 5-6 days, which needs to be planned properly.

Tasks that do not need that much energy, like research discussions, I prefer scheduling in the afternoon or towards the end of the week. Even if I feel tired, I enjoy those tasks and I can easily motivate myself to address them.

Sometimes, I need to replenish my energy. I do sports and I do learn something new – I am practicing languages with my favorite learning apps (Duolingo and especially Memrise), I watch TED videos and I read books. I must admit, I read also a lot of time management and self-optimisation books!

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