Do you know at what times of the day (or night) you are at your absolute “sharpest”? You know, at your highest possible level of performance?
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In the last weeks, “energy mapping” has featured regularly in my coaching. So I thought I might share what we learned.
There are so many books written about time management, prioritization and differentiating urgency from importance. We’ve now found there’s a growing emphasis on “energy management” instead.
You may know that we all have individually different “biological” ultradian rhythms, circadian rhythms and infradian rhythms by which we live each day. I needed to look up their differences:
• circadian rhythms complete one cycle daily,
• ultradian rhythm is a recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour day
• while infradian rhythms such as the human menstrual cycle have periods longer than a day.
You probably know that I’m no scientist or psychologist, and so I don’t do all these fancy terms very well. However, what I’m interested in discussing today, is our awareness that we tend to have “energy patterns”. Those by which we feel more energized or drowsy at different times in the day. And around the same times or cycles every day.
This goes beyond just thinking you’re more of a “morning person” or a “night owl”. It goes to establishing when you are at your highest (and probably “sharpest”). And when at your lowest energy levels and at what times in the day.
So Why Would That Matter?
Have you ever found that, irrespective how well “you knew your stuff”, that there were times you came out of a meeting and felt you just “didn’t cut it”? Whereas others you really “blitzed it”? Could one factor perhaps have been that in the former you were in a “low energy” period? And perhaps the latter occurred in one of your “high energy” periods? Don’t you think that may be worth exploring? Just in case it were true? And you could leverage that knowledge in your favour in future?
What if you could?
Capturing When You’re Most Likely To Be At Your Sharpest
I’ve found some very simple tools that can easily help capturing how you’re feeling in 90-minute chunks across each day. Preferably over a few weeks. So you can be sure you pinpoint these different “energy zones” accurately for your preferred daily energy patterns.
Perhaps you’ll simply set up a spreadsheet using 90 minute time-chunks, for instance 6h00 – 8h30, 8h30 – 10h00, 10h00 – 11h30 etc all the way until you typically retire of a night. The key is to do so over numerous days, and preferably for a couple weeks. That way you pick up your most accurately typical daily cycles.
It’s just about setting an alarm for every 90 minutes and capturing on a scale of 1 (lo) to 5 (hi) how energetic you felt in the past 90 minutes. Of course, this is where we assume that, in the main, you’ll probably be “at your sharpest” when you are at your highest level of energy, right?
What matters is how you’d rate your energy level in that period. Not what you were or weren’t doing. Mapping those patterns across the day over multiple days will give you pretty good insight into your preferred energy patterns. What we’ll call your “energy map”.
What you’ll probably find is that there are multiple periods in each day where you’re at your “sharpest”. Which is probably in your periods of highest energy. And also when you’re at your “lowest” energy levels.
For instance, there may be a typical energy lull perhaps just before lunch or maybe after lunch, when you have a full tummy. Or again around 4pm. While coffee might help kick you through that, I’ve found that can never be as powerful as knowing and leveraging your higher and lower energy times best.
Mapping Activities into Relevant “Sharpest Energy” Period
Once your energy maps are understood, you can not only plan your day in terms of what needs to be done. But also when the best time is to do certain things.
For instance, perhaps responding to emails is something you’d want to do in periods of low energy. They probably don’t really need that higher degree of intellect or creativity, right?
And if there’s an important or content or outcome critical email or presentation or meeting? Your preparation probably requires a higher degree of influential deftness or “political dexterity”, yes? Necessitating more careful thought or wording. That’s when you might diarize a slot to do justice to that in one of your “sharpest” periods.
This will also go so far as (where possible), influencing the times you set for critical outcome meetings or negotiations or presentations etc, into those times where you know you’re usually at your “sharpest”. And you may be surprised how well you might influence the delay of an important meeting scheduled by someone else in one of your “low” periods, into a more sharper energy time-zone.
Good leaders, focused on developing their team, will also see the value of coaching their direct reports in the appreciation of this for them and your collective outcomes also.
Making sense, yes?
You establish and map our typical “high energy” and also “low energy” periods into chunks of time across each day. Based on a few weeks of representative data.
Wherever possible, critically important stuff gets allocated into the “high energy” periods. Those where we’re at our “sharpest”.
And ensure less critical stuff doesn’t clutter those “high energy” periods.
No rocket science, right?
Just plain common sense, supported by some simple personal assessment.
And the results will probably astound you.
As I write in The 5% that know WHY, everybody can do this. But usually only about 5% (that is 1 in 20) will.
Which camp will you be in?
Francoise Garnier says
Great insights, Heiner. I definitely have high energy and low energy moments, with some clear patterns. There are also noticeable shifts over time as a result of life and work events overlaying other energy patterns. Being aware of all the patterns is very important as it allows you to manage your time and use the whole days as effectively as possible. My “To Do list” is always longer than I can handle, even with prioritising, delegating…. so it is critical I do not waste time and keep managing my energy cycles!