Often when it comes to scheduling our day, we block off chunks of time for allotted activities, we jot down to-do lists of items, and we’re lucky if we get to half the items on the list. Is our time management fundamentally flawed? What can we do to be more productive and feel less mentally drained at the end of the day? This has been a question going on in my head for many months during the pandemic. My motivation was at an all-time low, yet I had several activities that needed to be completed. I also felt that, even though I was doing everything from planning my day to using all the tools in my toolbox when it came to producing meaningful work, I wasn’t fully satisfied with the way I had used my time. Moreover, for more mentally taxing work that happened later during the day I took significantly longer to complete them and felt grumpy and unsatisfied by the end.
However, I’ve come across an excellent article in Harvard Business Review that shed some light on the way that I can improve my routine. Some of these tips might be valuable for AU students who are struggling to fit more and more into their day and falling short of expectations.
What if, instead of organizing our days based on one or two hour time slots, we organized them based on the energy levels both physical and mental required to accomplish those tasks?
What does that look like?
Unlike time, which is consistent and continuous, mental energy fluctuates throughout the day. For example, I am someone who is highly productive and energized during the early hours of the day. This means that, during those hours, I can channel my motivation to finish just about any task. If I were to use this time for activities such as cleaning or cooking, it may be a poor choice given my capacity to complete an essay or finish a report at the time. Therefore, having an understanding of where that mental energy is high and times when our mental energy is low is a better, more effective use of our day. If you’re a night owl, perhaps those hours are the times when larger projects and activities can be completed.
This is highly dependent on the individual, and requires you spend some time analyzing yourself and how you perform. Be honest. And then write it down.
Like our mental energy, our physical energy is also highly limited. If we’re using our physical energy to work out at the gym for forty minutes, that same energy cannot be used to walk the dog for another forty minutes. Therefore, it is critical to consider where that resource can be spent. For example, my peers enjoy morning workouts whereby they can check off this activity early in the day and not worry about it for the rest of the day. This might also prevent them from skipping on a gym day if they feel less physically energetic l