Almost every leader I know has a task list. (Come to think of it, I think school children carry task lists these days.)
If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to track your to do list.
At various points I’ve used everything from a piece of paper, to sticky notes, to the notes app on my phone, to my calendar, to my inbox, to Evernote to track to dos, just trying to get better.
We could end the post there (just get a new app!), but chances are no matter how great your task management system is, you’re probably still feeling a bit overwhelmed right now as you look at your massive to do list.
No app can fix that.
But maybe this can.
What if you created an energy management list? It will take you very little time, and it has the potential to change everything from your productivity to how you feel about your job.
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.
You have several 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…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.
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 Visit the sick
5 Prepare new talks
3 Respond to email
1 Write reports
By the way, this week (on Wednesday) I’ll send out my personal Energy Management list to all email subscribers along with the apps I’ve tried for task management along with my current favourite. If you haven’t subscribed, you can do so today by filling out the box on the upper right of the blog. Plus you’ll get my free ebook, 5 Essential Strategies for Reaching Unchurched People).
Step Three: Put it All Together
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 canvass. The things that drain me will easily consume time, but they don’t have to consume my best time.
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?