How to Manage Your Energy

by | May 22, 2024

A few weeks ago, I woke up at 5:30 AM, and the moment I opened my eyes, I had a profound thought that I knew was meant for the book I am writing at this time. I reached for my phone that was on the nightstand and began tapping out what was in my mind. My brain is completely different at 5:30 AM than it is at 5:30 PM and I’ve learned to manage this to my advantage.

One of the most valuable habits I have is protecting and managing my energy. This becomes all the most important as well, the older I get. But even if you are a twenty year old leader reading this, trust me…you need this. I only wish I would have known this principle earlier in life. There was a time I let the tail wag the dog, so to speak. I allowed whoever and whatever cried out to me first thing in the morning to determine my direction. I would get to work and open my emails right away, or return phone calls. This was a terrible idea.

Later on in my leadership journey I discovered I am a morning person, and as such, but my brain power is optimal in the mornings, and it deteriorates throughout the day. We all have a time of day that we have the most energy, when we are at our peak ability to produce. This time needs to be carefully guarded. We hear a lot about time management, and in fact it’s something so important to me, I have written a book on the subject. However, there’s something that’s equally or even more important and that is managing energy. All time is not equal time. We often speak of being morning people, or night people…we all work best during varying hours of the day. So, because all hours are not created equal, we need to protect the ones that are when we are at our best, to get the best out of ourselves.

Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr wrote a book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.” In the book they say that to be a consistently high performer, you have to manage your energy, not your time.

Proper rest is key

If you are a morning person, it’s better to go to bed earlier and start again the next day rather than stay up late and produce work that is of lower quality. It is not big news at all that sleeping right, eating right, and exercising contribute to our overall health. But, our ability to manage all of that as well as our energy translates into an ability to better manage our emotions and focus on the projects at hand.  Regarding his success as a artist, da Vinci wrote:

“It is a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation. When you come back to the work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment.”

Keep quality in mind, not just quantity

We can put out gobs of work, but what is the quality of it? We can work longer hours but produce less work, and definitely less quality work. It’s amazing to me the typos that are in the projects I work on late at night that I notice the next morning. Sometimes I’ll even look at it the morning after and think, “Wow, this makes no sense.” I’ve cut out entire chapters of books I’ve written when I was tired and have discovered that 15 minutes of writing when I’m rested is of more value than a few hours when I’m exhausted.

Protect your best hours

Identify the times when you work best, and protect those hours. We need to start talking about this with those around us. We need to be able to speak up whether we are a manager/supervisor or someone who is working for one and we need to say, “This is my best time of the day to get the most quality work done…and so I need to be laser focused on the most important things during this particular time.” That means working uninterrupted during those hours, and having that time protected, which translates into setting boundaries and keeping them.

Back when I worked for my boss, Cornelia Bernard who was director of corporate communications for the company I worked at, she would tell me to never interrupt when she was writing important news releases or her articles for the company newsletter. She explained that when she was in a rhythm of writing and got interrupted, the thoughts would leave her and she may not regain them back in quite the same way. In effect, she was managing her energy well. She knew what it took to get good work out of herself, and set a boundary with me.

I believe most leaders start their day checking email or returning calls, because they feel pressure from people to do so. Jim Loehr says:

“A growing body of research suggests that as little as 5 percent of our behaviors are consciously self-directed. We are creatures of habit and as much as 95 percent of what we do occurs automatically or in reaction to a demand or an anxiety.”

Although it’s important to always answer in a timely fashion (in our department, our rule of thumb is 24 hours of a business day) unless answering those emails is the most important thing first thing in the morning, then don’t do that. Protect those hours. I am much less productive in the afternoon, so what I like to do with that time is answer emails and return phone calls, or sometimes I even relegate phone calls to my commute.  On the contrary if you do your best work in the afternoon by all means, tackle things like email in the morning. If people ask for a few minutes of my time, or longer period of time, I will often schedule them in the afternoon. I save my mornings for anything I need to create or for decision making.

There are exceptions. If I am making or returning a call that requires a lot of brain power – solving problems, or handling something or someone delicately –  afternoon hours are not the best time. If I have a difficult conversation with someone, afternoon is not the time. I want to be at my best to do that.

Identify what doesn’t need your attention

We spend far too much time on things God never intended for us to do.

Jim Loehr says:

“We grow the aspects of our lives that we feed – with energy and engagement – and choke off those we deprive of fuel. Your life is what you agree to attend to.”

On a regular basis we need to ask, “What do I need to stop doing?” Most leaders focus on what they need to start doing, but what we need to stop doing is just as important.

A caveat is needed here because there will always be someone who goes straight to the ridiculous. For instance, if you’ve been hired as a music pastor but you go and tell your pastor, “Hey, I need to stop doing the music. I feel like my energy would best go toward Marriage Ministries….” that’s great but the pastor may not be able to pay you to do Marriage Ministries. If you’re willing to switch to a different role for FREE, fantastic. If not, you need to change jobs, not tell your boss you need to put your energy elsewhere.

When I refer to figuring out what we need to stop doing, I’m talking about cutting the things that are not effective in getting you toward the goals you need to hit for your current assignment. A lot of people blame others as the reason they are not getting things done but truth-be-told they are not managing their energy correctly.

Jim Loehr says:

“The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become. The more we blame others or external circumstances, the more negative and compromised our energy is likely to be.”

Managing our energy is an issue where to not decide is to decide. If you do nothing about this, your energy goes toward whoever is grasping for your attention. You can leave it to chance, leave yourself open to the whims of others, or you can be intentional.


  1. Laura Elizabeth Flora

    OH’ WOW Deanna 😮.
    This is so Good!!!!

    I to have my best brain in the morning and that’s without caffeine at that!

    Now after being up a few hours then I need caffeine.

    I find it I need to clean the apartment I do the best job in the morning…

    now I can read a book throughout the day but I get my best reading done in the morning…
    If I don’t read in the morning I get more easily distracted in the later part of the day….

    My Gym time now that I’m best at in the afternoon after the caffeine and I pump up my Christian Music and I’m good to go…

    I wake up every morning between 4-5am so I’m always so tired at night but would force myself to stay up late most nights, yet I wake up on and off throughout the night so that wasn’t good.

    My energy has been lacking Alot because of it

    SO lately not every night but a few nights a week I go to bed around 6 -7 it may seem ridiculous but it works!!!!

    Love you and praying for you my friend 🫂 💞.

    • Dr. Deanna Shrodes

      You’re improving so many things in your life! I am proud of you. You are just getting started.


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