The Time Academy Podcast: A Unique Time Management Podcast!

The Episode at a Glance

  • Not all hours are created equal and yet we often act as if they are, randomly scheduling activities throughout the day.
  • And yet this seemingly simple task of scheduling what when can have a direct impact on the outcome.
  • So consider building a set of questions you can use to increase self-knowledge:

    Who and what give me energy?

    What do I find easy to concentrate on?

    When am I typically most productive?

Further inspiration: HBR Article – Manage Your Time, Not Your Energy by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy

Listen to the Episode


My name is Tom O’Leary and this is the Time Academy podcast. Today we are talking about how Not All Hours Are Created Equal.

Let me repeat that:

Not All Hours Are Created Equal.

This is based on the fact that most of us only have a small number of hours of truly top-quality work in any given day. This is the sort of work that you feel called to do, that will set you apart, that will get you noticed, that will make a difference to clients. In some cases it may even be the work you were hired to do but that the organisation strives long and hard to distract you from. Having the know-how and skills simply isn’t enough. To truly bring them to bear we also need to bring the full power of our energy and attention. The world won’t allow us to do this all the time, particularly if we’re in an organisational setting – but the more we can do it the more we will accomplish of what truly matters to us.

And yet, many people seem to randomly schedule activities and meetings throughout the day without any particular regard to what is being scheduled when or what was on previously or is coming next. And yet this seemingly simple task of scheduling what when can have a direct impact on the outcome.

The invitation is thus not to think in terms of time management but in terms of energy and attention management, an approach originally spawned by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy in their 2007 Harvard Business Review article.

Now, energy isn’t just limited to physical energy although that is key – it is also about emotional and spiritual energy so being careful not only about the activities themselves but also who we engage with at certain times is absolutely crucial. Some people can suck us dry while others energise us so whenever a meeting is requested, consider when might be optimal having regard to your day as a whole. Depending on what else is going on, scheduling meetings in the morning or afternoon may be better but it is rarely neutral so see what works best for you.

In truth, however, this is really inviting us to be mindful of when we basically do any activity – from client proposals to reports and email. Even in an organisational setting, where you mightn’t have full autonomy about what gets done when, there will likely be parts of the day where you can take control.

So how do we apply all this? Well, the crucial first step is building up our self-knowledge and on this score daily reflection can be really helpful. Here are some questions I use:

  • Who and what give me energy?
  • Who and what suck energy from me?
  • What do I find easy to concentrate on?
  • When am I typically most productive?
  • Indeed, what does being productive even mean for me?
  • When does my energy naturally dip?

All this information can be mined to create your ideal day each and every day depending on what is to be accomplished. Now, the word Ideal implies that your day will probably not always play out how you imagine and that is perfectly natural. Nevertheless, creating a rough blueprint will probably allow you to have the day more flow in a way that benefits you than not.

Creating your ideal day involves looking at the activities from across your life you would like to accomplish that day and, as I say, imagining how they might flow. When might be the best moment to tackle each activity given where you energy levels will be? Given how focussed or distracted you might be? Also, are there rules you can put in place to concentrate likely distractions and other people’s priorities. For example, I have one client where the company only allows calls and emails from 10 to 3. From 10 to 3 the work consists of what might otherwise be seen as interruptions and distractions. Outside of that, you get to organise the other work you were hired to do as befits your energy and attention.

So in closing – based on these ideas, what might you do differently over the coming days?

Thanks for listening to the Time Academy podcast. I hope this has offered you a slightly different perspective. If you find it helpful please share! I’d also love to get your feedback and hear your stories so please feel free to email me.