Is it more important to manage time or energy?

“The most precious resource for business people is not their time. It's their energy. Manage it well.” Robin Sharma

Most of us are so time poor that we’re constantly trying to cram as much as we can throughout each day. We turn to time management to maximise productivity, however, it’s impossible to make more hours in the day because time is fixed. On the other hand, our level of energy isn’t fixed because it can vary. Therefore, is it more important to manage time or energy?

Let’s start with clarifying the differences between managing time and energy. Time management looks to maximise efficiency while determining a plan that will best utilise the available time to achieve targeted objectives. Whereas, managing energy is about realising we can only be productive for a certain period and our output is also impacted by what we eat, how much we sleep, relax and exercise.

In the early 2000’s I was guilty of managing time without really considering energy. I worked long hours, didn’t sleep much and consumed enough caffeine to keep me going. The outcome of doing this for several years was it had a disastrous effect on my health in 2006 when I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). What did CFS feel like? For me, it was like permanently having the flu, a hangover and jet lag all at the same time!!! While I was fortunate to overcome CFS in 2007, I can still remember the feeling of CFS as if it was only yesterday!!! 

When thinking about managing our energy, jet lag is a good example to use. How well do you function while suffering jet lag? Are simple tasks harder to complete and difficult tasks virtually impossible, even if we have no time constraints? Don’t be surprised if you don’t function to the level you normally would. A study of hamsters suffering from extreme chronic jet lag found the number of neurons born in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that has a major role in learning and memory) reduced by 50%. Essentially, the hamsters found it harder to learn and remember information.

To be truly productive we must manage both time and energy. For instance, we need to understand when our energy is either low or high. When energy is low, time is likely to be better utilised working on the simpler menial tasks. Whereas when energy is high we’ll be more effective if we focus efforts on the more complex important tasks.   

Is managing time or energy more important?

From my CFS experience I learnt the hard way. I hope others don’t make a similar mistake and wait until it’s too late to realise that it’s more important to manage energy. Ensure you:

  • Eat healthy and regularly (don’t skip meals because your too busy)

  • Get enough sleep

  • Relax and unwind

  • Exercise regularly

Those who achieve targeted outcomes over a sustained period manage both time and energy. Always remember that time is fixed and energy is flexible. Flex it in the right way and you’ll be more effective with the time you have available.