Woman checking her watch while working

What Is Time and Energy Management, and Why Does It Matter?

You’ve probably read articles about managing your time or how to get more done during the day. Those articles offer a variety of tips and tricks that focus on how you can save time, do more in less time, find shortcuts, or automate decisions. But time management is only one component of being productive. We must help our teams become better at time and energy management. 

Learn more about the differences between time management and energy management, why you need to think about energy as part of time management, and how Whole Brain® Thinking can help this process.

Energy Management vs. Time Management

Time and energy management aren’t opposites, but they reflect two different ways of thinking about productivity. In short, time management is about expending yourself to make the most of the finite time available. Energy management starts from within so people bring their best selves to whatever they engage in — including deadlines and time management.

What Is Energy Management?

Energy management for individual productivity in the workplace is the process of proactively monitoring and managing your energy levels throughout the day. This productivity concept was popularized by the book “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal” by James. E Loehr and Tony Schwartz. 

Energy management aims to ensure that we use our energy in the most effective and efficient ways as we pursue our goals. It involves understanding our individual needs and limits — knowing when to rest and when to push ourselves. Energy management encompasses emotional and mental energy, not just physical energy.

What Is Time Management?

Time management is the practice of prioritizing and completing activities within a specified period in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

Time management requires conscious decision-making about how to use your time. This includes setting realistic goals and objectives, planning activities to reach those goals and objectives, and ensuring that all tasks are completed on time. Additionally, it requires people to be aware of their abilities, resources, and limitations so they can effectively prioritize tasks and manage deadlines and other commitments. 

Herrmann Energy Levels (1)


Why Managing Time Is Really About Managing Energy

The default response to declining productivity or complaints about too much work is to look at how people can better manage their time. And while time management is one way to view productivity, simply assigning a time slot to each task isn’t enough. 

Managing your time isn’t the only consideration. You must also assess the energy available to complete tasks, especially those that are cognitively draining or require deeper focus. The time of day, your current energy level, and your like or dislike of the task all affect your ability to perform well.

If you’re an analytical and structural thinker (Blue and Green, respectively, in Whole Brain® Thinking), you might have the most energy during the daytime. Consequently, more experimental (Yellow) or interpersonal (Red) activities might be more challenging to embrace, especially if you’re asked to tackle these activities late at night. 

While scheduling is important, it’s not the only variable. Time management can give you a tidy schedule but not help you align high energy levels with the most difficult tasks based on your personal preferences. 

How to Manage Time and Energy With Whole Brain® Thinking

When you understand how you and your colleagues think, you have a better chance of lining up energy with tasks to improve productivity and results. The Whole Brain® Thinking framework helps people understand their thinking preferences after taking the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI®) assessment.

Backed by over 40 years of practice, Whole Brain® Thinking helps uncover how people think and what types of work closely align with them. The HBDI® assessment helps to pinpoint a person's thinking preferences as grouped by four quadrants: Analytical (blue), Structural (Green), Relational (Red), and Experimental (Yellow). 

While everyone has a higher thinking preference in one or two quadrants, we use all four quadrants daily and have aptitude in each. No quadrant is better than the other, and no combination of thinking preferences is superior to another. 

Here are five ways to start using Whole Brain® Thinking in combination with personal energy management techniques so you and your teams can bring your best energy to work.

Understand Your Energy Patterns

An effective energy management plan starts by understanding your energy patterns and how they affect productivity. Herrmann’s Whole Brain® Thinking dashboard offers guidance on whether you have more energy early or late in the day (or fall in the middle). But even if you don’t have the HBDI handy, you can still self-assess your energy patterns or help your team do the same. 

For example, note when you feel most energized during the day and when you feel your energy flagging — mark the time, the activity, and where you were physically located. Also, be mindful of environmental factors affecting your energy levels, such as temperature, noise, and lighting. 

Once you've identified your energy patterns, you can create a plan to leverage your energy for maximum productivity. Schedule your most difficult tasks for when you have the most energy. Break up your day with frequent pauses to give yourself mental and physical rest.

Identify Mini-Goals

When you schedule your tasks based on energy patterns, you’re not simply aligning tasks with times. You’re also looking at how your energy affects your productivity. Your personalized energy management plan can use “mini-goals” to break up large tasks into manageable chunks. 

One example is if your team oversees a new product's launch. The product launch is the end goal, but there are many smaller tasks and milestones along the way, covering research, design, prototyping, testing, marketing, and the launch day. 

While considering each employee’s skill set and schedule when assigning tasks, you can also look at energy levels. If specific tasks require small groups to develop creative ideas, you might consider grouping experimental (Yellow) thinkers who brainstorm best later in the day. Or suppose a group has a mix of thinking preferences and energy levels. In that case, you might allow each team member to work in the manner that best suits them while agreeing to communicate asynchronously whenever possible. 

These examples illustrate how Whole Brain® Thinking can encourage collaboration while empowering people and making progress toward goals.

Take Regular Breaks

No one is at their best all the time. Taking regular breaks throughout the day helps people maintain focus by allowing them to step away, reenergize, and come back mentally and physically ready to work. There are countless ways to take short breaks, including short walks, socializing, or listening to music or a podcast. 

Many methods are available for taking structured breaks, such as the Pomodoro technique, which advises working for 25 minutes and stopping for five minutes — with every fourth round resulting in a 15- to 30-minute break. 

Manage Your Cognitive Load

There are limits to how much information our brains can handle, especially considering all the screens, apps, and distractions we encounter each day.

One well-established technique to manage cognitive load is chunking out specific work within defined time windows, known as “time-boxing.” This technique involves blocking out specific times on your calendar for particular activities.

You can improve this method by organizing these “time boxes” based on the type of Whole Brain® Thinking required. You can even color-code those activities based on the thinking required — one-on-ones with your employees might be shaded red (relational and interpersonal), while analyzing the latest reports might be colored blue (analytical).

For example, if you have the most energy in the mornings, you should do the work that requires the thinking you least prefer when you start your day. This is because your preferred thinking style is relatively easier to embrace when you have less energy — and it could even re-energize you. If you leave the work you least prefer to do when you have the least energy, chances are you won’t end up doing it (or will do it poorly).

Create Flow-State Routines

Creating routines around specific types of thinking helps you manage your energy while reducing decision fatigue and procrastination.

For example, if you’re a designer who concentrates on creative tasks in the morning and meetings in the afternoon, set up your schedule that way. That removes a barrier to starting your work day and knowing what to expect. 

To better align with your team, you can also use the Whole Brain® Thinking framework to create flow states with colleagues. For example, if an engineer on your team who's primarily a blue (analytical) thinker is fatigued while analyzing data, suggest taking a 30-minute break and focusing on a less complex task. For a red (relational) thinker stuck behind their desk all day with reports, help them schedule active breaks or conversations with colleagues so they can recover with an activity that’s more their preference.

At Herrmann, we emphasize flow states with meeting-free, four-hour blocks — protected time that no one can book.

5 Ways to Manage Your Time and Energy

Maximize Your Time and Prioritize Your Energy 

Great teams work better together when they recognize and embrace their cognitive diversity. The same goes for each team member’s time and energy management approach. Whole Brain® Thinking helps teams understand their energy levels and those of their teammates, then work to make the most of everyone’s energy, thinking styles, and strengths.

Time management is still an essential component of productivity. Combining it with energy management maximizes productivity and well-being, creating better results for people and the organization.

Explore more ways to maximize time and energy to boost productivity on your team. 

The four-color, four-quadrant graphic, HBDI® and Whole Brain® are trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC.

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