This piece originally appeared in The Productivityist Weekly newsletter. I have a new weekly newsletter called ATTN: that I’d love to send you. You can either do so at the bottom of this post or click here to make it happen now.
The start to my year (which begins for me in September) has been hectic to say the least. Between travel and working on projects, I’ve barely had a chance to collect my thoughts – let alone relax. I’ve not been as productive as I’d like, but I’m still making progress on all of the things I need and want to do.
There are three simple ways to tackle your to do list when you’re tired and still want to get the right things done. It takes some initial setup, but once you use these techniques you’ll be able to be productive regardless of energy and time available.
1. Working By Energy
The first way I’ve been able to tackle my to do list – even when I’m zonked – is by tagging my tasks with energy levels in as many instances as possible. Whether I use “Deep Work” to represent high energy or “Shallow Work” to represent low energy, these energy-based modes can help me quickly determine whether I can do a task at a particular moment or not. Most of the tasks I need to do when I travel are low energy, so I’m still able to accomplish them and by labelling them in Todoist (personal tasks) and Asana (team tasks). This allows me to sort tasks quickly and get them done as well.
It’s also possible to analyze at your high energy tasks and determine whether or not they can be broken down into smaller tasks that will take up less energy.
Keep in mind that tasks that are new to you (such as something you’re learning) will likely take more energy to do at the beginning. But over time, the energy required will be lower. That’s why it is important to regularly review tasks that have energy-based modes assigned to them so that they are representing what it takes now to work on them instead of what it took beforehand.
2. Working By Time
Time is also measurable, just like energy. But it’s far easier to manage in that you can watch the minutes tick by far more than you can feel the energy well run dry. I’m not an advocate for using time-based modes as a driving force for your task management, but there are moments when assigning modes like “5 minute” or “30 minute” can make a whole lot of sense. If you know you only have 15 minutes between one meeting and another, having tasks with a time-based mode attached can help you quickly decide what to work on during that brief period of time. When you’re tired, knowing how much time you’ve have is one thing, but knowing what you can do within that timeframe can be a big boon for your productivity.
3. Working By Energy and Time
Now imagine partnering up these types of modes per task. Wouldn’t that be phenomenally effective? I mean, if you’ve got tasks that have both low energy and 5 minute modes attached to them, then you not only know you can do them within the time period, and they won’t be too taxing on you either. Even high energy tasks that you see can be done in 10 minutes is powerful. Whenever possible, adding both a time-based and energy-based mode to a task gives me two ways to tackle a task when I’m tired. And that, quite frankly, can be more than just valuable to know – it can be rejuvenating and propel you to accomplish more than you thought possible.
If you’re having difficulty tackling your to do list when you’re tired, try using energy and time-based modes. Whether you thrive in the mornings or just need something to get you moving in the morning (because you’re just not as “awake” as you need to be), these modes can really help you take your task and time management to a whole new level.