However, most time management tips and tricks fail to provide the benefits we expect. In fact, sifting through clunky productivity tools and experimenting with “hacks” often wastes more time than it saves.
Recently, our friends at Remote Works shared their approach to productivity, which they call energy management.
The team told me about their energy tracker — a kind of daily diary tool — that records energy levels before and after activities in a given week. At the end of the week, you can look back on your biggest energy boosters and drainers and make changes to make to optimize your workflow.
Why focus on energy instead of time? Because not all time is created equal. If you’re trying to complete a task when you’re low energy, it may take hours. If you’re in a flow state, it may take minutes.
Always eager for a new experiment, our team at Gather gave it a shot.
For one week, Gather prompted us in Slack to jot down all of our daily activities in our energy trackers — both work-related and personal. In the tracker, we recorded a variety of details about each activity, including:
Then, we selected our energy level — between low, medium, or high — before and after completing each task. At the end of each day, we reflected on what we were noticing in a communal #energytracker Slack channel.
After keeping track of meetings and tasks throughout my week, I noticed a few key trends in my energy levels that inspired me to make some changes:
💡 Insight: I knew taking small breaks throughout the day helps me reset in between tasks, but I found that specifically midday breaks were more of an energy booster for me.
💙 Improvement: I committed to a 12:30-1pm walk outside, instead of taking breaks at a different time every day.
💡 Insight: My afternoon meetings — typically one-offs / not routine — tended to drag on longer than their allotted times and were big energy drainers.
💙 Improvement: I started adding tighter agendas to my afternoon meetings and being more diligent about keeping track of time.
We also learned about each other’s energy, and in turn, how to work better as a team:
💡 Insight: Most of us felt drained after intensive morning Sprint Kickoffs and All-Hands meetings.
💙 Improvement: We moved our standing all-company calls to the afternoons, after our teams had time for lunch and deep work in the morning.
As we continue to navigate the employee burnout and mental health crisis, it’s critical that we manage our mental bandwidth just as seriously as we do our calendars.
In contrast to many of the time management tools in the market, energy tracking is a simple, unflashy way to become more aware of all the activities that compete for our attention on a daily basis. Furthermore, it shows us where we can make small yet impactful changes so we can maximize our time (and energy) for the things that matter.