There may be literally thousands of ways to manage your time, from Covey’s matrix to Charles Glikey’s productive flourishing systems, and these are some genius ideas to suit every personality under the sun, but at the end of the day as former Prime Minister John Key is fond of saying, there are only 24 hours in every cycle. A new body of thinking, however, is suggesting that time management and efficiency is really a question of personal energy. Harvard Business Review authors Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy write in their paper titled Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time available here for further reading (itll be worth your while) that the core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story.

Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals behaviours that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.

One of the rituals described by the authors is to take brief but regular breaks at specific intervals throughout the workday by leaving your desk.

The value of such breaks is grounded in our physiology. Ultradian rhythms refer to 90- to 120-minute cycles during which our bodies slowly move from a high-energy state into a physiological trough. Toward the end of each cycle, the body begins to crave a period of recovery. The signals include physical restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating, but many of us ignore them and keep working. The consequence is that our energy reservoir our remaining capacity burns down as the day wears on.

A 2014 study (available here), reported on by the BBC (available here) by social networking company The Draugiem Group used a time tracking productivity app to find out what set the most productive people apart from everybody else.

Surprisingly, the top 10% of employees with the highest productivity didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else often they didn’t even work eight-hour days. Instead, the key to their productivity was that for every 52 minutes of focused work, they took a 17-minute break.

Other key factors identified by these studies include advice on how to build up emotional energy through meditation and positive reinforcement of others, reducing the drain on mental energy by how we manage our emails and the energy we take from meaning and purpose.

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