As the world becomes increasingly virtual and the boundaries between work and home increasingly blurred, this is perfect time to become intentional around using time for energy. As Tony Schwartz noted in his seminal Harvard Business Review article from more than a decade ago, time is finite but our energy is renewable.
When we leverage time for energy, we’re better able to fend off burnout and “burn bright” instead. Doing so gives us the ability to possess the focus, curiosity and emotional regulation required to thoughtfully explore the competitive horizon, creatively strategize about how to adapt and shape our business of the future and inclusively build alignment and commitment across the organization for our vision.
The following research-based tactics provide some simple and strategic ways to fuel your ability to burn bright as a leader:
Leverage Morning Time
Early morning time and how we put it to use often sets the stage for how our attention and emotions will unfold over the course of the day.
Delay the Email
Research from IDC suggests that close to 80% of smartphone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up every morning — with many checking it while still in bed.
This is the opposite of effective time and energy management. Think of it this way: Would you invite colleagues, clients and advertisers into your bedroom in the early morning to ask questions and make requests?
Checking work email, social media and texts first thing in the morning hijacks your attention and emotions, often activating anxiety before you’ve even got out of bed. Delaying your email responses is also a subtle and helpful way to practice delegation with your team, conditioning the team to not expect immediate answers and over time prompting them to problem solve on their own — which frees up your time for other things.
Time Your Beverages: Hydration Before Caffeination
Consuming coffee or tea immediately upon waking is an unexamined habit and routine for millions of people. However, morning is actually one of the worst times of the day to drink coffee. When you wake up, the energizing hormone cortisol is at its peak, and adding caffeine on top of that is like throwing a match on a fire that’s already crackling.
To get the most from your caffeine kick, delay consuming it by 30 to 60 minutes. Start your morning with water to spark alertness, give your brain a boost and begin the important process of hydration.
Make Time for Joy
Replace that early morning screen time and caffeine jolt with something else that sparks joy for you. Just a few minutes of movement — a quick walk, some yoga or even just stretching — and something mindful like journaling, reading or listening to music for a few minutes is a positive way to leverage your morning time in a way that sets you up for success.
For further focus, consider taking time each morning to contemplate these framing questions:
- What can I look forward to today?
- What has the potential to derail/worry me and how will I choose to respond to it?
- How do I want to feel at the end of the day and what do I need to make it a reality?
Manage Midday Time: Maximize the “Time Confetti”
Research tells us that we can harness our peak focus and attention for 60 to 90 minutes after which performance wavers and declines noticeably. Just like any high-performance machinery, you and your brain need regular refueling, maintenance and upkeep to avoid a precipitous breakdown.
At the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), we work with busy executives who often tell us they don’t have time for resilience and recovery practices.
Enter “time confetti.” Coined by Brigid Schulte in “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time,” time confetti speaks to the little pieces of time that we all have scattered throughout our days. Time management and intention around using time for energy merge when we use those small pieces of time scattered throughout our day for resilience rituals that boost energy and positivity.
That could be a six-minute walk outside or around the apartment, five minutes spent sending a few thank-you texts or letters, three minutes listening to a favorite energizing song or two minutes to stretch, move around and breathe deeply. These are all ways to use small pieces of time for an energizing impact. When performed regularly and consistently, these small but impactful actions create conditions for us to burn bright instead of burning out.
Make Time for Deep Work
Where many of us fall short in time management is in allowing our days to fracture into countless small bursts of busyness and distraction. Time, energy and productivity coalesce powerfully when we’re intentional about carving out space for deep work.
Set aside at least 15 minutes and intentionally build your deep work “time bubble”:
- Remove technology distractions. Turn off alerts and move away from any unnecessary technology. If you can work on something without your computer, leave it behind.
- Change locations. Would the porch or an empty cube or office help minimize your desk distractions? Find a location that provides a respite from the daily clatter.
- Find peace and quiet. Use noise canceling headphones to quiet your environment or try ambient music. Create your sense of peace.
With practice, you can lengthen your deep work time. You’ll be amazed at how much strategic thinking, deep data review and forecasting you’ll be able to accomplish.
We thrive and show up as our best selves when we adopt a mindset and a toolset around leveraging time for energy instead of simply managing time and calendars. Add just one or two of these tactics to your daily routine and rituals, then notice your experience. You’ll spend more time burning bright and showing up as the leader, colleague, friend and family member you aspire to be.