Where Your Energy (and your money) Go

Much like money, personal energy is slippery.  Does your free time ever pass and leave you wondering where it went?  Have you ever sat down at the computer, intending a quick check of your email, only to get up an hour (or more) later?  Have you ever traveled somewhere where you have to pay for Internet use and realized how much you can do without?

If you took a calendar from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and marked your time off in 15-minute increments, what would a pie chart of your time look like?

The key with energy is that we don’t have an infinite amount.  That’s right, you’re not made of magic! We are always making choices about what to do with our energy, and when we don’t, outside circumstances decide for us. Let’s see what is possible when you divide your energy among meaningful things.

Here’s a great exercise I read about recently that will help you understand more about where you’re spending your energy. When you’re finished, you’ll have a clear look at how to prioritize some tasks:

  • Take a stack of cards and on each one of them write something that you need to do, hope to do, wish you could do, or feel like you have to do. These cards should include everything from “Learn Italian” to “Clean out my email inbox.”
  • When you are finished, divide the cards into two piles: Important and Not Important.
  • Go through each of those piles to form 2 more piles (when you are finished, you will have four). Decide if those Important and Not Important piles are then Urgent or Not Urgent.
  • Now you can prioritize in a way that makes sense given your limited amount of energy. It looks like this:
  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not important and Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

It might be a toss up whether to call a friend who’s going through a divorce (#2), or whether to check your new voicemails (#3). But you can also see how quickly your energy drains away when you focus on replying to personal email (often #4) instead of researching plane tickets for your upcoming honeymoon (#1).