Forget About Time Management. ‘Energy Management’ Is The Best Way To Protect Yourself From Burnout

Fortune Well December 31, 2023


Forget About Time Management. ‘Energy Management’ Is The Best Way To Protect Yourself From Burnout

Someone in your life has probably uttered the clichéd (but true) wisdom that “you can’t buy more time.” The art of managing the seconds, minutes, and hours we have at our disposal is a lifelong project—but what if we’re looking at things all wrong? What if, instead of focusing on building time management skills, we started bolstering our energy management skills? 

“We spend a lot of time talking about time. So, do I have time on my calendar? Do I have time to spend with my friends?” says social worker, author, and mental health educator Minaa B. “A conversation that isn’t had often is energetic management. Meaning, do you have the energy to participate in certain things—whether it be outings, tasks, or socializing? You can have time, but you may not have energy.” When we approach tasks with plenty of time but not much energy, we may find it more difficult to focus and tackle our to-do lists. 

How to practice energy management 
1. Recognize what gives you energy—and what takes it away 

Self-care rituals—like hanging out with a friend or going to a yoga class—are what Minaa calls “input.” This input gives you the energy to do things that actively detract from your energy levels, like leading a meeting or answering a deluge of emails. 

Learning what adds fuel to your fire (and what decidedly does not) takes time and presence. So try the variety platter of self-care rituals and note how you feel afterward. Remember: These don’t have to be expensive outings like a massage or a Pilates class. Maybe the form of self-care that truly fills you up is cozying up with a library book and a cup of tea. Keep a little journal where you record which activities fill you up. 

2. Look out for signs that you’re out of energy

According to Minaa, many of us aren’t even aware that we’re out of energy. We may think, Well, I have 20 minutes before my next meeting to answer my emails. But the truth is, we may have the time (but not the energy) to complete this task. Fortunately, there are tells that indicate we’re running on empty. 

One such tell is simply feeling unproductive, says Minaa. “Sometimes we’re doing and redoing, and then we realize that we’re doing a whole lot of nothing. That is why we still feel very depleted: because energetically, you’re pouring and pouring out of your cup without doing anything to replenish ourselves,” she says. 

Perhaps you get a little grumpy when you haven’t had enough input, or you start to make silly mistakes in your work. Whatever your “signs” are, learn to be aware of them so that you can pause and reenergize.

3. Prioritize your inputs 

The third step is simple: Once you know your inputs, you can make an effort to prioritize them every day—especially during periods when you may be susceptible to burnout. “When our batteries are dying, we need to know to plug them in,” says Minaa. 

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