NCET Biz Tips: Manage your energy, not your time

Ellen Goodwin

Ellen Goodwin

Summer is here, and the open road beckons. You’ve scheduled an ambitious 10-day road trip, with stops to see such fantastic roadside attractions as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, Carhenge, and the Corn Palace. The coolers are filled, the car is packed, and you are ready to go.

But there’s one small problem. Your gas tank is empty, so your road trip is called off before it can even get started. No Ball of Twine. No Corn Palace.

The same thing happens when you attempt to schedule and manage your time without considering your energy. The concept of Time Management is commendable, but it’s nothing without Energy Management.

You are obviously not a car, despite your bright finish and graceful lines. But, the parallels are clear when it comes to energy and performance. What works for vehicles works for you.

1. Know how much fuel you have to work with. While you don’t have an external gas gauge, you can have the next best thing. Take a few days to track your energy levels to determine your highs and lows. Pinpointing when you have the most and the least energy gives you the rockstar ability to utilize (and conserve) it to your best advantage. As a bonus, it minimizes the chance of running out of power when you need it most.

2. Don’t use high-octane fuel on low-octane tasks. With gas prices being what they are, it’s more important than ever to conserve what’s in your vehicle’s tank. It’s the same with you. Once you’ve identified your personal energy level schedule, plan your day around it. Use your high-energy levels to work on high-energy tasks. Match low-energy tasks to your low-energy levels.

3. Watch out for obstacles that can burn through the fuel in your tank. Road construction, traffic jams, and unexpected detours not only slow down forward progress but also gobble up energy in unexpected ways. The same thing happens during your work day. Meetings with no clear agenda, repetitive busy work, and exasperating technology can all stop you in your tracks and rapidly burn through much-needed energy. Prevent this from happening by taking some time to think about the obstacles you continually encounter, then come up with ways you could work around them. Think, “IF this happens, THEN this is how I will respond.” Having a plan before you need it enables you to cruise past the energy-sucking traffic jams and detours and keep your day on course.

4. Stay off the side roads. Freeways are where you usually get your best mileage, as long as you avoid taking off-ramps to slow-moving side roads. Your daily distractions are energy-consuming side roads. Each time you get distracted, it can take up to 23 energy and time-burning minutes to refocus and return to what you were doing*. Eliminate potential off-ramps by preventing distractions from showing up in the first place. Whether you remove distracting apps, hide your phone, or block websites you visit just a little too often, you have the power to avoid the energy-swilling side roads.

5. Multiply the fuel you do have. Much the same as having a tail-wind to push you ever so gently on the freeway, use energy-enhancing tools whenever possible. Put decision-making on cruise control by building and using habits for tasks that don’t deserve deep thought. Take strategic breaks to pause and refresh mentally and physically. Eliminate energy-draining multi-tasking by using dedicated focus sessions and expand your ability to get things done with minimal energy expenditure.

Your vehicle needs power to run, and so do you. When you manage your personal energy, you ensure you have what you need to fully embrace your day. Just as you can’t see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine if there’s no gas in your car, you can’t manage your time if you don’t manage your energy first.

Learn more about Managing Your Energy, Not your time at NCET’s Biz Bite on Wednesday, July 27th. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More info at
Ellen Goodwin is the Head Productivity Consultant at ( She helps to equip the ranks of self-employed, remote, and hybrid workers with the tools, strategies, and unconventional approaches to conquer productivity-killers of all kinds.

NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that helps people explore business and technology. (



Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment