Getting Things Done Better With Energy Management

Posted by Fitz Villafuerte under Productivity on May 12, 2011

I’m a big fan of To-Do lists.

In fact, I even have “Make your To-Do list” on my To-Do list. How funny is that?

But seriously, when it comes increasing one’s productivity, having a To-Do list is important.

Not only does it makes sure that you don’t forget anything, it also gives you a bird’s eye view of everything at hand so you can properly manage your time.

However, I know that pulling off a tidy and efficient schedule is not easy to accomplish. Being able to make your To-Do list and put a date on each task is just half the battle, we still have to fight through two of the worst enemies of productivity – laziness and procrastination.

While there are ways to help yourself stop at being lazy and combat procrastination – I think that I recently discovered one great secret to boosting one’s productivity…

… and that is Energy Management (yes it’s so great it has to be capitalized).

What is Energy Management?

It’s all about studying and knowing your daily energy allowance, and creating your To-Do list schedule based on how your efficiency changes throughout the day.

Slightly hard to grasp? Let me give you an example to explain this further.

Let’s say it’s Wednesday, and your Thursday To-Do list looks like this:

  • Make a presentation for Friday’s meeting
  • Do follow-up calls to clients
  • Go to the bank to pay bills

If this list was mine years ago, my schedule would look like this:


  • Get reports from department heads
  • Sort the data
  • Analyze the data

Noon Time

  • Go to the bank to pay bills


  • Do follow-up calls to clients
  • Make the Powerpoint Presentation

Looks good, right? Time properly managed with all tasks accounted for – well, except that you didn’t consider possible bursts of laziness and procrastination and of course, the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

It’s one of the most famous laws of economics, and in terms of personal productivity – I believe that there’s a point in time when continuously doing more, will result to lesser output.


It’s like running on the treadmill, no matter how good a runner you are – there will come a time when you’ll get exhausted and your speed will slowly decrease no matter how hard you try to push forward.

Reworking the Thursday To-Do list with Energy Management

The first step to doing Energy Management is knowing how your energy levels fluctuate all throughout the day. Here’s how mine might look like when I was in the corporate world back then:

As you can can see, my energy levels start low in the morning but increases towards lunch time. It goes down after lunch and peaks in the afternoon then slowly decreases towards the night.

If I did the data analysis in the morning, I wouldn’t be very efficient because my energy levels are still not optimum. Also, since I just sorted the data, I may experience “information overload” during analysis and produce “diminished returns”. (This doesn’t happen to everyone though, but for me it does)

I make my calls in the afternoon, when the client may either be still out for lunch, or already stressing out from the day’s work – this makes it less favorable for me to get a positive response from them.

Then when my energy levels peak in the afternoon, while I’m doing the Powerpoint presentation – I’d probably realize some possible refinements in the analysis and “waste time” redoing the analysis.

By considering how my energy (and efficiency) changes throughout the day, my Thursday To-Do list would now look like this.

Energy-Managed Schedule


  • Get reports from department heads
  • Do follow-up calls to clients

Noon Time

  • Sort the data


  • Go to the bank to pay bills
  • Analyze the data
  • Make the Powerpoint Presentation

The rationale for this new schedule is that, since my energy levels are low in the morning, I put the least demanding task of simply collecting reports. Furthermore, I might also catch my clients in a good mood since it’s still the start of the day.

Then, I take advantage of the first peak of energy during noon time by spending it on sorting the data from the reports. I can have a late lunch or turn this into a working lunch.

In the afternoon, I go to the bank while my energy levels are down so I can take my mind off work momentarily and enjoy a change from the office ambiance. You’ll be surprised how many bosses would allow you to do this if you ask nicely. 😀

Anyway, as my energy peaks in the afternoon, I spend it in doing the most mentally demanding tasks of analyzing the data and making the Powerpoint presentation.

In Conclusion

There are three things you need to realize and understand here.

First, making a To-Do list is important, and breaking down big tasks into smaller ones is even more essential.

Second, all of us have our own rhythms. Listen to your body and determine how your energy and efficiency levels change throughout the day.

And lastly, rather than simply assigning dates and times to your To-Do list, it’s far more better if you also consider and match your daily energy levels with the tasks at hand.

If you think about it, Energy Management is more than just a productivity tool, but also a very good way to discover who you are and how you work. So I encourage you to try and do it today.

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Photo credit: adambowie


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4 Responses to “Getting Things Done Better With Energy Management”

  1. Yes, you hit the nail on the head. That’s why I really love Tony Schwartz’s approach to time management. Have you ever read his book “the power of full engagement”? That’s where he talks about energy management and how that related to productivity.

    It’s important to keep yourself fit because the limiting factor to getting things done is oftentimes yourself. By identifying your peak hours you can schedule when you want to work on your high value activities. My peak hours are a little different than yours, I’m totally energized in the morning, have a major slump between 2-6 and then 7-10 have a lot of energy. Good thing I nap nowadays in the afternoon 🙂

  2. this is great. But one additional and I believe very important factor in energy management is fusing it with fitness activity…exercise in the morning, for example, has a positive impact in my energy level throughout the day.

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