Time and energy management

I’d like to do more to develop this forum, but there’s so much stuff going on that I have a real problem allocating my time and energy to all my projects and “construction sites” appropriately. This certainly isn’t an exceptional problem, it’s something that probably nearly everyone knows. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Creating the Fractal Future Network has had a positive effect on my life. This is not the first time I tried creating an online community, but this time I get the feeling that this is something that the FFN is just the right thing to do and that it’s more appropriate to some of my needs than most other platforms. I could even regulate down my daily computer gaming time from about 2-3 hours to about 1 hour per day, on average. Granted, I sometimes tend to watch YouTube videos or some other passive activity during the time I gained if my energy levels are low, but that’s just another more or less normal thing that I feel annoyed by. Ideally, I wanted to have a high energy level all the time, so that I can engage with the really interesting activities and people.

This paragraph is more of an excursion, but I think it somehow fits into this topic: Quite recently, I got an interesting insight: Good leaders don’t really want to be leaders. They become leaders, because they want to change something. Ideally, they would act as catalysts: Triggering a wave of activity like the first domino block in a long chain (that ideally forks into a field of domino blocks). Bad leaders want to lead, because they want to enjoy the feeling of power. But good leaders are not like that. They have a mission and want to achieve it as effectively as possible. This means that they even want to make themselves superfluous by creating the momentum or the structures that enable others to move on with the things that they themselves have started. Most leaders, however, won’t admit that, because they fear that this statement will make them look bad, or unmotivated, or reluctant. But now I have the insight that this is what is happening all around with leaders who don’t want to play dictators (even with those who don’t see themselves as leaders). It’s a tragedy that happens again and again all around the world, wherever groups of people are involved. Almost nobody who is engaged in a group is content with the level of activity within that group. There’s always that vast majority of more or less passive members, while the real action comes from a small core of over-proportionally active members. It’s almost a mathematical necessity that is has to be that way. But it also always feels dismaying, unless one realizes that this is the way the world works, at which point it only becomes just another disappointing realization. I don’t even want to complain here – I merely want to share this insight, because I think that far too few people talk about it. Perhaps it is helpful to address it head on, because it’s such a universal problem that seems to appear everywhere where people come together to do something.

But this got a bit off-topic. What I wanted about are time and energy and how to manage it, because that is an even more universal problem that’s also very hard to get a firm grip on. Getting more time is not a solution, because then a lack of energy might kick in, and vice versa. I’ve made a surprising recovery health-wise this year, which means that I have a lot more energy than I usually have at my disposal. While this is great news, it just means that I do more stuff (more different projects) to use that energy, which means that each single activity still have a fairly limited amount of time and energy that I can (or want) allocate to it. I don’t apply a strict time-management or energy-management system. I’ve tried those. Sometimes they worked for me, rarely even very well, but somehow they don’t tend to be sustainable for me. Effectively, I use a few guidelines which I can stretch out so much that they sometimes tear apart, when it comes to my management of time. Luckily, energy hasn’t been a big problem for me over the last few months, which I find very surprising. I blame it on my excessive use of antioxidants and my commitment to stay as relaxed as possible at all times (which doesn’t always work in practice, but the intention counts for much).

Sometimes, my activity here on this forum suffers from my being occupied by other projects, for example the second Transpolitica book, Envisioning Politics 2.0, which was released this month without a large media event and the attention that it should have deserved. Merely writing a chapter for it, and helping with the editing, unfortunately isn’t really enough. Such crowd-sourced books also need crowd-sourced marketing, and we all seem to be rather new to that area, so we need to do more and become better at this. Of course, while still balancing half a dozen other projects.

Time- and energy-management are really crucial, but seemingly inherently different things. Different approaches seem to work for some people, but not so much for others. And for me it’s even worse: What works during one week, fails in the next week. Sometimes I get the feeling that I change my strategies more often than my underwear (which I actually do change daily, btw). And then there’s these emergency sprints that appear when things get really urgent, and throw the nearly ordered system you just established right out of the window. Oh, how I hate those, but avoiding them seems to be even harder than enduring them and accepting their existence. It’s not hard to come up with a time- or energy-management strategy, it’s consistently sticking to it – that is the true challenge! I guess the logical conclusion is to just come back to a system that empirically worked for you for some time, after some interference of any kind.

What seems to work for me is set up saved time slots for work, and saved time slots for leisure activities. These slots must not become to large or too specific. Forcing yourself to go through the same hard, and actually optional, routine every day can be torment. Being less strict on the kind of activity that I am supposed to do feels much better, and is actually sustainable. What remains undone just remains in the background until it gets urgent, or until I accept that it’s actually not so important after all.

What doesn’t work for me is being 100% strict with about anything. There are days on which something just doesn’t work, so I don’t beat myself up (very much) for just getting 95% on average, where I want 100%. It’s hard to acknowledge that getting it right “just” 90% of the time is “good enough” (or even actually fabulously great from a more modest and realistic perspective). And it’s mostly just about mundane stuff like eating the right food, exercise, flossing, and so on.

What are your experiences with what works and doesn’t work for your time-management or energy-management?