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Managing Time for a Better Life, Part 2

Last week we suggested that it might be more useful to think of managing energy instead of managing time in this jam-packed age of doing-more-with-every-minute.

The key to human performance is energy, not time. We all have the same number of hours in each day, but we achieve very different things in those hours. We can’t add or take them away, but we can do things that make them seem to pass slower or faster. And we can change our energy levels.

More than any other time in history, this is important now because we are so busy cramming our days trying to feel productive that we fail to invest in the things about which we care the most. And we end up being less productive in the long run because we try too hard for too long and drain ourselves dry of creativity, focus and energy. Think about how you feel after a vacation, or even just the weekend: like a new person!

(And if you’re not going back to work on Monday feeling rejuvenated, you’re either not resting enough or you’re so exhausted to begin with that you need more time off.)

We can—and do—talk until we’re blue in the face about managing time, but the temptation in our society will always be to cram in more…because we can. However, when we start talking about energy, we recognize the true cost of all of it.

Managing energy as well as time helps us maximize the quality of our lives each day and over time. But how does one do this? It seems like there are so many places for energy to go…

First of all, know your priorities and stick to them. Take a breather from the rush of daily life and assess where you spend most of your time and energy. Is it on the things you care most about? Then, adjust if needed.

For example, if you believe relationships trump all else, don’t be multitasking on your smartphone around your peeps and don’t work so much that you hardly see anyone outside of work. Believe it or not, there is always an opportunity cost to everything.

Second, minimize what psychologist Susan Boardman calls “empty calories.” In an age where we are constantly bombarded with information, it takes a lot of energy just to sift through it all—much less to actively engage and question! It’s like the equivalent of our brains having to take in Times Square instead of a small, quiet town every day.

It’s the same concept that leads experts to say we sleep better when our bedrooms are clutter free: mental clutter keeps our brains from resting and focusing effectively because every pile or knickknack reminds your brain of something, and it must do the work to decide what’s important and what’s not. Our brains do this work whether we realize it or not.

And so the Facebook feed, the Twitter news stream, the slew of sale ads in your email inbox…these empty information calories soak up our energy day after day, more than we know. Before we know it, our brains are fat and sluggish with junk food. So before you spend a “harmless” 15 minutes surfing social media, think about the brain energy cost and the other things you could accomplish with that energy.

More on managing energy for a better life next week!

Sleep Tight, Urbanites.