Productivity Tips from a Procrastinator
We understand the value of resources based on availability. In economics price is always dependent on supply and demand whilst in entertainment a talent is highly valuable if it is rare. Two things have infinite demand and finite resources – time and energy. Balancing these two factors is the core focus of many global issues, most notably climate change. The clock is ticking as we approach a potential global energy crisis. The focus of this issue is sustainability. Often we neglect this principle of sustainability in other areas of our lives too. We talk about maximising our efficiency and productivity – getting as much done as possible or making the most money we can – but we must not neglect the importance of rest and self-care. Ultimately there is no point in being super efficient and successful if you don’t integrate built in systems to help you maintain your energy. Short term achievements are meaningless if they don’t result in sustainable futures.
“Forget Time Management. It’s About Energy Management” – Alan P. Brown (Productivity Coach)
In lockdown I am starting to realise that time is not the limiting factor in almost any area of progress or personal development. Things that I had previously ignored with the “I don’t have time” line of defence I have still pushed back in lockdown with no excuse to fall back on. I struggle really badly with procrastination and have done a lot of research into this topic as a result. Reflecting on this predicament I recalled learning about the concept of energy management (as opposed to time management). It dawned on me that this is crucial as without energy we will never have the motivation to stick to our beautifully colour coded schedule. There is no point in being ultra organised and efficient with time management if this will only last a couple of days before you crash and slump back onto the sofa to scroll through Netflix.
“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.” – Tony Schwartz, CEO The Energy Project
In psychology this theory of energy management is most commonly used to help patients with ADHD. In those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder the difficulty with energy management is even more significant. According to the latest research this comes down to lower dopamine transporter density within the brain. This means that the brain does not have the proteins it needs to get dopamine – a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulation and reward. In a neurotypical individual (a person without a mental health disability) when an action is carried out that causes the individual to progress towards a goal or reach a desired outcome then the brain is rewarded with a dopamine spike. However this is not received as effectively in those with ADHD making it much harder to have motivation since they will not receive this internal reward from their brain chemistry. To combat this issue ADHD coaches can use energy management techniques to form habits and trick the brain into enjoying challenges.
“You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy!” – K. Kruse, Forbes
I believe we can all learn something from this technique since I’m sure many of us feel we could benefit from learning about how to sustain effort towards our goals without getting burnt out by stress. While reading the articles by Marla Cummins (ADHD Coach) and Alan P. Brown (Productivity Coach) I discovered the research into the 4 types of energy – Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. Each of these energy types can be boosted or depleted and all of them are critical to performance – if you are low in just one of these areas then you can experience exhaustion.
- Physical energy is focused on diet and exercise. Getting what the body needs in terms of fuel and activity is critical. The benefits of these are well documented within medicine and psychology. However without the other types of energy management in place it is virtually impossible to find the motivation to maintain healthy habits.
- Emotional energy is based on our social interactions and mental well-being. To improve emotional energy levels be kind to yourself and surround yourself with positive people who care about you. Perhaps have a digital detox if social media is something you struggle with and spend time focussing on things you enjoy. Having fun is the most important step towards improved emotional well-being.
- Mental energy is what we tend to need the most for studies. To optimise mental energy have a mental declutter – dumping your thoughts onto paper or a notes app – then focus on each thing one at a time to avoid overwhelm. Taking regular breaks is critical to improve mental performance and maintain mental stimulation. Managing distractions where possible will also help to conserve mental energy by focussing on the task at hand.
- Spiritual energy is very personal. I have a faith so Christianity is my spiritual fuel and I get energy from time spent with God. For others it is simply having a passion or a goal that you care deeply about. Some suggestions to help could be to try a gratitude practice – whether that is through prayer or simply as a mindfulness exercise that is up to you, or perhaps to find a charitable cause you care about and volunteer, fundraise or donate. The purpose of dedicating time to the spirit is to be more outward looking and to take time to reflect on your values.
Whatever you do remember to be kind to yourself and have fun! The best way to improve your energy levels is to do things you love more and try to enjoy even the mundane things as much as you can. This is a very difficult time and for many this may be a time of sadness, loneliness or difficulty so if you don’t feel that this advice will make you feel better then feel free to leave it alone. This article is for inspiration if you want it but I want you to know that just by staying safe and looking after yourself you are helping out and anything else is just an added bonus. Often the world pressures us to achieve or to improve and that is great but if you are not feeling up to it right now for whatever reason then know that you are enough just the way you are!
Time image: https://www.ionos.co.uk/digitalguide/fileadmin/DigitalGuide/Teaser/totp-t.jpg (07/01/21)