We tend to throw around the concept of “time management” pretty freely these days:
“Do you have time to meet with me today?”
“Is there enough time for me to finish this report by Friday?”
“Will my family understand that I won’t have much time for them this week?”
The funny thing about time is that you actually can’t manage it. Time is constant. No matter how many projects you take on, meetings you schedule, or deadlines you assign, there will always be 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 8,765.81 hours in a year. Time doesn’t stretch to meet our professional and personal commitments (if only!).
But perhaps this truth—a seemingly inconvenient truth—is rather a blessing in disguise. You see, while I can’t manage my time, I can manage my energy. It may be easy for me to waste time (hello, Twitter), but I have no desire to waste my energy—I simply can’t afford to do so! Experience has taught me that sometimes saying “no” actually benefits everyone. I focus my energy on things that matter to me—people, projects, goals. I say “no” to the rest. Which, when you think about it, has a ripple effect.
Imagine if the workplace was centered around projects and initiatives that really mattered to the people involved. I will say “no” to an offer to speak at a conference related to an issue that is not of utmost importance to me. While the conference organizers might be hurt at first, they’d be smart to realize that the event’s success is heightened by only selecting individuals devoted to the topic at hand, rather than those who prefer to focus on other issues. Suddenly, I’m only devoting my energy to projects that are meaningful to my career goals, and, also as a result of my energy management, there’s a successful, inspiring conference being supported by a passionate group of people elsewhere.
This is not to say, of course, that we won’t have to make energy-sacrifices for the big picture dream. This is true of any profession. We can, however, avoid excess energy waste by saying “no” when it is an option.
Energy, not time, is of the essence.
For more on managing your energy, check out Erica’s slideshare: How to Get Noticed, Get Hired, or Get Just About Anything Else You Want Too
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