Whilst there's huge value in adding some structure to your day when you're self-employed or working from home, in order to maintain boundaries, focus and rest - not everyone's day looks the same, and not everyone has the same needs when it comes to motivation and energy - so before you start redesigning your day, make sure you've got the information on your own personal needs and energy levels, by completing an energy diary for a few weeks.
Structuring your days around energy requires knowing your energy
Structuring your day around your energy levels, your ability to focus, your motivation and drive to get things done is just one approach to actively designing a way of working that works for you - but without understanding what affects your energy and motivation, or how that changes over time, it can be frustrating.
Perhaps you start out with a plan, but when you don’t manage to stick to it, it can feel like you’ve failed - but perhaps your plan in the first place was only based upon your idea of what might be right, rather than how you’re actually feeling.
Keeping an energy diary is one way of collecting tangible data on your own working style, so you’re able to spot patterns over time. It’s not just about the time of day either - whilst the time of day have a significant impact on your energy levels (we all know the mid-afternoon slump), it’s also about the type of work you’re doing in that moment, or other things which might be influencing your motivation or energy.
How to keep an Energy Diary
1. In the morning, commit a page in your notebook, and throughout the day, jot down a score of how you’d say your energy levels are in that moment. Perhaps 1 for low, 2 for so-so and 3 for high.
2. Take the time to write down what tasks or activities you’re undertaking, and how you're feeling in the moment.
3. At the end of the day, note down any other factors you think might have had influence your energy level that day.
4. Try and do this regularly each day to build up a picture of your energy levels over time. Whilst you don't need to complete each day in detail, try and keep the times you check-in the same each time, so you can start to see patterns. It can help to set a diary or calendar reminder.
5. At the end of the week, take 15 minutes to add any additional notes from the past few days, or just review your scores to see if this still feels a fair representation of the days.
6. Once you have a handful of pages built up (perhaps four weeks of the same day of the week, or two whole weeks), review the data you've captured, and reflect upon what you see.
Are there any patterns you spot?
Do you on average feel low energy at any particular time of day or day of the week?
Are there tasks which always seem to accompany high energy moments?
Are there activities which seem to precede changes in your energy?
Don't change your habits just yet
Techniques like this don’t require any changes from you - we’re not trying to encourage you to change your habits or re-structure your day, but they do give you information on what changes might be valuable, or where there are habits you might want to look deeper at.
In fact, we'd recommend you don't make any changes until you've gathered a better insight on where things are working, and where they're not. All too often good intentions, like new years resolutions, fail because you're aiming at the wrong thing, or fixing things which aren't broken - only leading to frustration. So figuring out where you're starting from is valuable in the long term.