Early Career Professionals

Energy vs. Time Management

Time management has been a go-to focus within many work environments for years. In courts, certain processes and procedures need to be followed as we navigate our workday, so we need to be aware of where our time is spent. Often, I get a lot of my court work done in the morning. These tasks are almost rote at this point, and it’s easy to glance at my day and know what I need to accomplish. However, if there’s something more creative that needs to be completed (such as writing an article for Court Manager), I tend to have a better chance of accomplishing that in the afternoon. Based on that information, there are those who would tell me to do the most highly creative activities in the afternoon where I can focus and accomplish the more high-level tasks. The morning can be spent allowing the coffee to kick in, and I can do those things that are bit more “mindless.” We all know that this varies from person to person and can cause conflicts in office environments when meetings get scheduled at times not conducive to someone’s mental awareness.

Many moons ago, I was the program manager for an employee assistance program at a large health-care entity. One thing we saw over and over were people heading toward burnout. They were dealing with work performance issues or having concerns in their personal lives. Either way, we knew that there was something underlying the reasons they were seeking our services. Many managers assumed it was poor time or project management. An article that we often shared with those who came to our office, or the teams we would provide training to, was “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” published in the Harvard Business Review in 2007.

Often, we feel that the more work we do and the more hours we put in, the higher quality the product. This really is not true. There are articles (both scholarly and not) that state we are not as capable of multitasking as we’d like to think we are and that the majority of us are highly productive for about three hours of every workday. (See Jon Hamilton, “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again, ” NPR, accessed July 1, 2019; Grace Pinegar, “49 Productivity Statistics That Put Progress in Perspective,” G2, accessed July 1, 2019.)

One of the most helpful tools found in the Harvard Business Review article is a “quiz” (see below) that rates which areas you really need to focus on. This will assist in making sure you can increase the energy in a particular area to become more productive. When you know where to focus your time to increase your energy, things will slowly progress in a positive direction.

Now that you have taken the quiz, you know the areas you need to focus on. If you need more “body” or physical energy, you can try setting an earlier bedtime. I have heard some using an alarm to tell them when to go to bed, with other alarms leading up to it, so it’s in front of one’s mind. I think the biggest enhancer to physical energy is exercise—just going for a 15-minute walk is beneficial in refocusing your energy. If you find yourself yawning or becoming restless, stand up, stretch, go to a restroom further away from where you are, anything to mix up the routine a bit.

There are a few things you can do if your mind is lagging. Try to reduce interruptions by doing high-concentration tasks away from e-mail or your phone (this one can be difficult some days). If you find yourself constantly on e-mail, set specific time frames when you will read and respond. I understand this can be a challenge based on your position, as there are often items that need to be dealt with immediately. However, compartmentalizing your day in this way can clear up some mental capacity to allow your mind to focus on tasks that require attention to detail.

When I get overwhelmed, I can become irritable and impatient. That’s when I know my emotional energy is becoming depleted. The one thing I know to help increase this is to stop and take deep breaths. I will breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds and exhale for four seconds. I do this about 10 times and find that it helps to calm my nerves. Other ways to increase your emotional energy are to focus on positive emotions by thinking about the things you are most grateful for, like the sun shining or being able to enjoy a cup of coffee. If there’s a difficult conversation that you’re going to need, which is affecting your energy, write it down or talk it out. Even if it’s just a difficult decision or task, sometimes pretending that we’re talking to a trusted friend can clear up some space and provide us with some insight.

To increase spiritual energy, think about the things that give you a high feeling of effectiveness and fulfilment. Find ways to do more of those things that make you feel that way. Allocate more time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, I love to learn (as in I’d stay in school forever if I could) and also love to read. However, with an almost five year old, a husband working in a stressful job, and running a court, I find that I don’t quite have as much time to read and learn as I used to. My answer? Podcasts. I can easily listen to them when I’m driving or when I’m taking a break. They provide me with the knowledge I seek and help me to feel like I’m still learning. Most importantly for spiritual energy, live your core values. What are those things that are most important to you? Carnegie Mellon University has a great list available online to assist you in determining what these values could be. Once you know your core values, you can work on ways to enhance them. As I mentioned, learning/knowledge is a core value for me, so I found a way to enhance that value for myself by listening to the podcasts (including the Court Leader’s Advantage podcast from NACM) and attending NACM conferences and webinars.

The beneficial thing about this quiz is that you can take it whenever you are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, when you feel like your energy is becoming depleted, or when you just want to see where you are in life. It can be used for all aspects of your life and should help in gaining insight into those areas that you may need to reconfigure. And, as always, if you find that you just can’t seem to enhance an area of life, reach out to a professional—be it a life coach, counselor, or trusted confidante—often others are able to truly see the areas we may be struggling in better than we can ourselves.


Angie VanSchoick is court administrator for the Breckenridge Municipal Court in Colorado.