One of the occupational hazards of my job is thinking too much about the intersections of work and life and all the programs that employers utilize to help employees effectively manage the demands of both. One of the innovative ways one employer is thinking about this is focusing on helping employees mange energy, rather than managing time. The theory behind this is that there is only a limited amount of time in the day. 24 hours. That’s all you have. But, if managed correctly, energy can be renewed.
When I first heard this I thought it was brilliant! I know that when I only watch the clock and am only worried about getting X number of things done by 5, I’m solely focused on that list and honestly probably couldn’t vouch at all for the quality of the products that get made the closer it gets to 5. But when you think about managing your energy to get your things done, it’s amazing how much more work you get done and how much better that work is. Giving yourself permission to take 5-15 minute breaks throughout the day to take a walk, check Facebook, get away from your computer is fabulous. It helps me to focus, gives my brain a rest, and helps me to come back to the task at hand with more creativity.
However, after taking this advice to heart for a few weeks, I realized something. You have to manage time as well. I’ve found myself working well past the day’s end and even when I get home because I’m so focused on the task at hand. I’ve discovered that managing time is incredibly important if you want to have a life as well. Calendars, scheduling, planning, coordinating. All of these things are important in order to organize your life outside of work. Managing energy is still important because, lord knows, as a 20-something DC resident, it takes a lot of energy to do everything I want to do in a day.
One of the things that is definitely important is to translate those 5-minute creativity breaks from work to your life. I can hear you thinking “What?? But your life outside of work is supposed to be fun. Why would you need a break from that?” One of the hardest lessons that I’ve had to learn lately was that there is no way you can do everything without taking time for yourself. You do yourself, and those around you, a disservice when you don’t take the time you need to renew and refresh yourself. Taking a night or a few minutes a day to just unwind, reflect, do nothing will go a long way. After realizing this, I’ve found that I’m more patient, more alert, more fun to be around because I’m not about to drop from exhaustion from trying to do it all.
So it’s really not just one or the other. It’s important to be conscious about your time and your energy, both inside and outside of work. As usual, it’s a balance of focusing on the internal (energy) and external (time). I really wish it was easier…