If you find yourself feeling like you need more hours in the day, the answer to your daunting list of to-dos may not be a 25- or 30-hour day but, instead, using the time that you already have a bit differently.

It is easy to enter the mindset of “if only I had more time.” Leaders who focus on managing their energy rather than their time typically find that they didn’t actually need more hours or minutes; they just needed to do the right type of work when they had the most capacity. Once they recognized their patterns, they were able to organize their days accordingly.

Identifying Your Energy Patterns: An EQ Skill

Have you ever had a day at work when things were flying off your to-do list? That kind of productivity is energizing and fuels a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, have you ever had a day where it was challenging just to start a project or reply to an email? Time probably dragged by.

Hopefully, most days are closer to the first scenario, but in any typical day, you probably experience cycles of productivity and sluggishness. One of the most effective ways to manage your energy is to be aware of your patterns to make the most of your productive times and what drives them. It is also part of building your emotional intelligence (EQ).

Many leaders are most alert, creative and clear-headed first thing in the morning. Often, exercising — anything from a walk or run to a yoga class — before they start their workday helps them focus. They use this focus to address the most difficult task first, which removes the strain and energy drain of anticipating how challenging that work will be when they finally get to it. It can serve as an energy boost, because they have started the day with a meaningful accomplishment.

“Leslie” was recently promoted to a senior role in her Big Four accounting firm and was also a busy parent of four young children. She often felt behind and overwhelmed at work and struggled to manage all her tasks and responsibilities from day to day. Working with a coach, she decided to start each day by tackling one big, challenging task. After taking this approach, she experienced a noticeable increase in productivity and optimism. Her outlook improved, and she felt more accomplished and on-task. Her team and her family both noticed. Most importantly, she felt confident again and able to handle whatever came her way.

Helping Your Team Manage Energy

Once you are aware of and managing your own energy, you can start to coach your team to build the same awareness. Teams that effectively manage their energy experience a range of benefits, including higher engagement, increased productivity, improved collaboration, reduced stress, increased creativity, reduced unwanted turnover and increased innovation — all of which lead to better bottom-line performance.

If you are ready to learn how to manage your energy, a good place to start is by doing a self-assessment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want more energy? Are you looking to be more alert? To feel a greater sense of accomplishment? To have more capacity at the end of the workday for your family and friends?
  • What do you already know about your patterns? Are you able to focus and do your deep thinking early in the day, or are you more of a night owl?
  • What type of work and experiences do you find draining? What techniques do you use now to recover when you are drained?

Once you understand your goals and your patterns, you can do what Leslie did and make subtle shifts in how you approach your day.

If you are interested in exploring this topic further, there are many ways to dig deeper. You could work with an executive coach to take additional assessment on your goals and patterns. This approach can be especially helpful if you are looking to build this skill for yourself and then apply on your team. Just think of all you will be able to accomplish and the renewed energy reserves you will have for your personal relationships by making a few adjustments to how you use your time. After all, there are still only 24 hours in a day.