February 14th, 2017

Occasionally I find a post—rather than a comic—from Scott Adams worth repeating. This post on managing energy to manage time resonates with all the reading I’ve been doing from Cal Newport since I finished his Deep Work last year. The key challenge to the strategy is that most people do are not self-employed and able to set a schedule that best fits them and not their bosses, their co-workers or their clients. Still, I think at least making he attempt is valuable.

Scheduling Your Energy, Not Your Time

If you plan your schedule around your availability, you’re probably doing it wrong. Years ago I learned that planning my schedule to match my different energy states works far better. Here are my usual energy states during a typical day. And by that I mean my mind and body are optimized for different tasks at different times. These energy states are fairly predictable in my case, so I build my schedule around them.

Creative energy (best between 4-10 a.m.)
Social energy (best between 4-11 p.m.)
Communication energy (phone calls, email, texts) (best between 10-11 a.m.)
Learning energy (any time except afternoon)
Physical energy (exercise) (Best at lunchtime)
Sexual energy (Testosterone is highest in morning, trails off all day. Sooner is better.)

Your energy profile might differ, but I think you will find that most writers use the early morning to do their best work. The secret sauce is that you can accomplish more in less time if your energy is right for the task. I can do more creative work between 4-5 a.m. than I can get done in an entire afternoon.

Everyone is different, so pay attention to your own energy states and plan accordingly. And if you don’t have a flexible schedule, think about how you could work toward it in the long run, because happiness is influenced by when you do things, not just the nature of those activities. If you find yourself exercising when you are already tired, and eating when you are not hungry, that’s a bad schedule.

Adams is right about early mornings. Sure there are plenty of writers who are night owls, but for every night owl, my observation has been that there are 10 larks.

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