Home Startup Your Real Problem Isn't a Lack of Time. It's a Lack of Energy

Your Real Problem Isn't a Lack of Time. It's a Lack of Energy

An executive coach flips the conventional thinking about time management on its head -- with near miraculous results.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Go and ask an entrepreneur how he or she is doing, and there's one answer you're likely to hear more than any other: some version of "slammed." A shortage of time is the perpetual complaint of not just busy owners, but the modern American adult. 

"When researchers surveyed Americans before 2011, about half said they almost never had time on their hands and two-thirds said they sometimes or always felt rushed (though a more recent study suggests things may be improving a bit)," reports Greater Good Science Center

So far, not surprising. But I have news for you -- and please don't shoot the messenger here. Careful studies of how Americans actually use their hours suggests most of us have a lot more free time than we think we do. 

"From 1965 to 2003, the average American workweek actually declined by three hours, while leisure time increased," reports the same Greater Good article. According to up-to-date Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average American has around five hours of leisure time per day. 

Now, many entrepreneurs are far from average in their work habits. And there are plenty of people working multiple jobs to make ends meet who will find these statistics to be dark comedy. But the overall picture is still clear. Time use surveys reveal that most of us have hours of slack time we use for activities like TV and social media. So why do so many of us feel so short of time? 

"Energy makes time"

This is a complex question, of course, and one that speaks to deep issues around how you conceive of your days and whether you are facing up to the inherent limitations on your time. But a recent blog post by executive coach Mandy Brown cuts through some of that complexity to offer one of the clearest explanations I've come across. Helpfully, her analysis also leads straight to a possible solution. 

Your problem, Brown insists, isn't actually lack of time. It's lack of energy. 

Which isn't to say that time management is a total waste of time. Tricks like blocking time in your calendar or assigning themes to days can be helpful. But these techniques are just the sprinkles on the cake. The main issue isn't how you organize your hours, it's how you recharge your batteries. Or fail to. 

"We all know that time can be stretchy or compressed--we've experienced hours that plodded along interminably and those that whisked by in a few breaths. We've had days in which we got so much done we surprised ourselves and days where we got into a staring contest with the to-do list and the to-do list didn't blink. And we've also had days that left us puddled on the floor and days that left us pumped up, practically leaping out of our chairs. What differentiates these experiences isn't the number of hours in the day but the energy we get from the work. Energy makes time," Brown writes. 

Take the example of the amateur artist who loves to draw, paint, or sing. After a long day of work and home responsibilities, they rarely feel like they have time for their artistic hobby. They get in a rut where they feel like they're running on a hamster wheel of to-do list items with no hope of ever reaching the end. When they do have time off, they just sleep or mindlessly watch Netflix to recover from that endless spinning in place. 

"Then one day they say f**k it all," Brown imagines. "They eat leftover pasta over the sink, drop mom off at her mahjong game, and go sit in the park to draw. They draw for hours, until the sun goes down and they're squinting under the streetlights. And, lo and behold, the next day they plow through all those lingering to-dos. They see clearly that half of them were unnecessary when before they all seemed critical. They recognize a few others as things better handed off to their peers. They suddenly find time for attending to that one project they'd been procrastinating on for weeks."

Your passions give you energy

If a light bulb of recognition is blinking like mad in your brain right now, you're not alone. I very much recognize myself in this hypothetical example, and I am sure a lot of entrepreneurs out there will too. Doing what you love -- whether it's art, or gardening, or mountain biking, or running your local PTA group like an utter boss -- gives you energy that makes time seem to expand. Drudgery eats energy and makes time seem to contract, just because you're too beaten down to do anything with the hours you do have.

This is a simple insight, but it's also a true one. The Greater Good article offers a bunch of research to confirm and explain the phenomenon if you're interested. But you don't need to sift through a dozen studies to figure out how to fix your feelings of time poverty if you're not keen on a deep dive. 

"The question to ask," Brown insists, "isn't, 'How do I make time for this?' The answer to that question always disappoints, because that view of time has it forever speeding away from you. The better question is, how does doing what I need make time for everything else?"

Rather than look for scraps of time to squeeze in all the things you need and want to do, despite your exhaustion, do more of the things that you're passionate about. You'll discover you somewhat magically have the energy -- and therefore the time -- to rocket through just about everything else life throws at you. 

Photo credit: Getty Images.

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