What To Do When Your Time Management Techniques Fall Apart

Have you ever felt crazed by all the stuff you have to do?

Is the stuff you have to do managing you?

Do you have so much stuff to do that you want to go home and hide not only under the covers but under the mattress?

If so, maybe you are managing the wrong thing. I recently read a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy titled Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.  I talk to people about time management nearly every day, so this article really hit home with me.

Here a few pointers I derived from the article:

  • Working longer hours is not time management.
  • Time is a fixed resource. Although you can work longer hours if you like, you will eventually run out of time.
  • Energy, however, is renewable. Pay attention to the four main sources of energy in humans — body, emotions, mind, and spirit — and reap the rewards.

“Yeh, right!” you may say. “But I’m too busy for that!”

“But there are payoffs,” I’ll argue. “Read about the Wachovia study that Schwartz and McCarthy refer to in their article if you need more convincing. I’ve cited the source below so you can access the article. You’ll find out that you actually cannot afford NOT to renew your energy!

If you just want the bullet points, stick with me. I’ve got you covered:

  • In a 2006 Study linking capacity & performance at Wachovia Banks, Dr. Tony Schwartz and his team of researchers studied 106 employees at 12 regional banks in Southern New Jersey through a curriculum of four modules, each which focused on the 4 dimensions of energy – the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.
  • Modules were delivered at 1 month intervals to groups of 25, each attendee was assigned a fellow employee as source of support.
  • The researchers used Wachovia’s Key Performance Metrics to prove their points.
  • They even had a control group – a group of employees at similar levels at a nearby set of Wachovia banks who didn’t go through the study.


  • “On a measure called “The Big 3” – revenues from 3 kinds of loans – participants showed a year-over-year gain that was 13 percentage points greater than the control groups within the first 3 months of the study.”
  • “On revenues from deposits, the participants exceeded the control group’s year-over-year gain by 20 percentage points during the same period.”
  • “When asked how the program influenced them personally, 68% reported it had a positive impact on their relationship with clients and customers and 71% said the program had a substantial impact on their health.”


Still don’t believe you benefit from managing your energy and not your time? You can stop reading here, if you like, and go use your time elsewhere because, well, tick tock!

For the rest of you, read on for a few pointers from the article regarding how to renew your energy.

Here are some of the highlights of information given to produce these gains in productivity and health in the Wachovia treatment group —

  • The Body: Physical Energy
  • Develop routines for renewing your energy. Eat better food and make sure you incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
  • Take brief but regular breaks
    • Pay attention to your ultradian rhythms, which are 90 to 120 minute cycles during which our bodies slowly move from a high-energy state into a low-energy state.
    • Watch for signals that you are moving into a low-energy state. Are you hungry, physically restless, etc.?
    • Take short, intermittent breaks, which will result in higher, more sustained energy levels. Breaks may be counterintuitive to you or countercultural to your workplace, but take them knowing that there will be a payoff in increased energy and concentration.
  • The Emotions: Quality of Energy
    • Defuse negative emotions by simply taking a deep breath. Defuse. Breathe in and breathe out a few times before reacting to stress.
    • Express appreciation to others.
    • Change the stories you tell yourself about the events in your life. Schwartz and McCarthy outline the following three points about “lenses” or ways of getting perspective on events in your life:
      • Reverse Lens – “What would the other person in this conflict say and in what ways might that be true?”
      • Long Lens – “How will I most likely view this situation in six months?”
      • Wide lens – “Regardless of the outcome of this issue, how can I grow and learn from it?”
    • The Mind: Focus of Energy
      • Create more effective focus by paying attention to your ultradian rhythms. Focus in “ultradian sprints” or 90-120 minute intervals.
      • Reduce technology distractions.
      • Check email at certain times during the day, not all the time.
      • Spend time planning at the end of each day. Identify your most pressing tasks and do those first thing the next day.
      • Focus on activities that have the most impact. Do those first.
    • The Human Spirit: Energy of Meaning and Purpose
      • Ask: “What do you want to be remembered for?” Do you really want to be that mom who fell asleep at her child’s school play?
      • Clarify priorities and then take one more step: Establish rituals in those three categories so that you are paying attention to what matters the most to you.

If your t ime management techniques have fallen apart, maybe you’ve been focusing on the wrong thing.

Focus on energy. The rest will follow.

By the way, if you want to talk more about this stuff, contact me here and we’ll set up a time.

Get coaching. Get more stuff done. What have you got to lose other than a lot of stress?



Schwartz, Tony and Catherine McCarthy. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time, Harvard Business Review, pp. 61-78. Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 2007.