Manage your energy, not your time

Discover how creating lists of energy generators and drainers can transform your approach to managing daily challenges and interactions

June 9, 2024

Manage your energy, not your time

As a coach working intimately with startup founders and CEOs, I have observed a troubling pattern: founders often neglect their own needs. This self-neglect swiftly leads to overwhelm, which in turn spirals into burnout. The relentless hustle culture of startups, with its glorification of ceaseless grind, rarely makes room for the founders’ personal well-being.

In my practice, I advocate for a paradigm shift—one that pivots from the traditional obsession with time management to a more holistic focus on energy management. Time, after all, is finite, an immutable constant ticking away. Energy, however, is malleable, ebbing and flowing with our activities, interactions, and intrinsic motivation. Emphasizing personal energy—how it is cultivated, maintained, and expended—can be the linchpin in not only preventing burnout but also elevating overall performance and inspiring those around you.

Consider the familiar scenario: after a day spent in a luxurious office, engaged in back-to-back meetings and countless conversations, you return home feeling as though you’ve run a marathon. How can such physical exhaustion stem from a day devoid of physical exertion? The answer lies in energy depletion. Emotional and mental demands drain our energy reserves, leaving us spent despite our sedentary tasks. Balancing these demands is crucial.

To help founders better manage their energy, I recommend a practical exercise. Start by creating two lists. The first list should detail your energy generators—the activities, people, and situations that inspire you and boost your productivity. These could range from spending time with family and enjoying a solo coffee break to engaging in a favorite hobby or sport. These simple, often overlooked joys are vital for replenishing your energy.

The second list should catalog your energy drainers—the tasks, interactions, and challenges that sap your vitality. Once these lists are in hand, the next step is to critically assess the balance between them. Are you leaving enough time for activities that energize you? How can you reduce the impact of those that drain you?

A frequent revelation is that energy drainers often come in the form of people—colleagues, clients, or stakeholders. While it’s impossible to eliminate such interactions entirely, it is possible to recognize these drainers and prepare for them. Allow yourself a buffer period post-interaction to decompress and recharge before diving into the next task. This strategic scheduling can prevent energy depletion and maintain your equilibrium.

For instance, if you anticipate a draining meeting, avoid scheduling a demanding task immediately afterward. Instead, carve out a moment for relaxation. This small adjustment can have a profound impact on your energy levels and overall productivity.

To wrap up, shifting focus from managing time to managing energy is not just a tactical change, it’s a strategic overhaul essential for the well-being and sustained success of startup founders. Embrace this approach, and you may find yourself not only surviving but thriving, inspiring your team, and driving your startup to new heights.

Stephen Stynes

Stephen Stynes

Founder and Scale-Up Team Coach

Bio

Stephen is an executive coach with 30+ years experience working with entrepreneurs and senior executives.

Stephen Stynes

Founder and Scale-Up Team Coach

Bio

Stephen is an executive coach with 30+ years experience working with entrepreneurs and senior executives.

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