“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven”
(Eccl. 3:1, ESV).
We all have an equal number of hours in our day, but not all hours are created equal.
I am writing this at 7 a.m. I am most creative when I first wake up. Can I write at other times? Yes. But an hour of early morning writing often equals two or three hours later in the day and my morning writing is often livelier.
Afternoon is my low-energy time. I try to avoid scheduling creative work for the afternoon because I know if I do, it will probably be slow slogging and my work may be uninspired. It’s a lousy use of time.
Many of us are so used to thinking in terms of office hours that we take it for granted that we should work from 9 to 5. If you have freedom to manage much of your own schedule, you can do better than that. Much better.
A key to getting more done in less time is getting in touch with our own energy rhythms and aligning our work with those rhythms. What times of the day is your energy highest? When are you most creative? Are there times when you typically feel tired or your brain turns to sludge?
As a church staff member, I have a lot of evening and weekend meetings and activities. I do have a day off, but I also shouldn’t be working morning, afternoon, and evening the other six days of the week. I encourage full-time church staff members to think of their weeks as 21 time blocks—3 mornings, 3 afternoons, and 3 evenings. Then to limit their work to 14 time blocks a week.
I recently gave myself permission to take more time off in the afternoons. I use what would otherwise be low-productivity time to rest and recharge. I still schedule some afternoon team meetings and coaching sessions and that works for me. Why? Collaboration energizes me, so in those meetings I can “borrow” energy from others and what would otherwise be low-energy time becomes productive.
My overall energy level is lower today than it was 25 years ago, yet my ministry is more fruitful. I am working fewer hours with greater results. A lot of that, of course, is the fruit of experience. But it’s also because I’m learning to master the more-with-less workday.
- What time(s) of the day is your energy highest? When is it lowest?
- What parts of your work require the most creativity? How can you schedule those for high-energy times?
- What are the best uses of your low-energy times?
- Do team meetings and coaching sessions give you energy or drain your energy? In light of your energy rhythms, when would be the best times for you to schedule those if others’ schedules permit?