In my professional experience until now, I've always used time as a measure for everything. I needed to work at least 8 hours everyday, I needed to log the hours I worked on a specific task, I needed to give estimates in days or hours, etc. This has never felt natural to me, it led to some uncomfortable situations like forcing myself to be in front of my computer for 8 hours, even if I was not being productive.
Everything changed when I joined The Agile Monkeys and they started talking about working based on energy levels. But...
I like to think about our energy levels as the stamina bar in video games. Let's call it our Energy Bar. You need to be aware of the level of your energy bar at all times, and it will work differently for each person. Some people wake up full of energy and other people charge their energy after a few hours. Start paying attention to your energy levels and you will learn how they work for you.
Find that moment of the day when you have more energy and use it for the most complex tasks or the ones that require more energy. You will be able to do other less complex tasks when your energy levels are low.
We wanted to work based on our energy levels, and now we have identified when our energy levels are high or low and how we can work based on them… There is just one little problem in that plan, energy is a limited resource and our work is not the only thing that consumes it.
Taking your kid to school, commuting, traffic jams, not sleeping well, arguing with your significant other, etc. will drain your energy. Due to some of these situations, or many others found in this Life Change Index, some days you will run out of energy when your Energy Bar would usually be full. That's life, and you can't do anything about it, if your energy alarm is beeping it's time to...
In most situations, this Energy Bar will recharge automatically, when you rest or sleep, but like mobile phone batteries, after some time you will notice that the bar is not fully recharged just by resting.
There are some things that work well for me to help me fill up my Energy Bar:
- Spend some quality time with my family
- Doing sport
- Get some fresh air
- Socialize with friends
- Play video games
- Solve a Rubik's cube (the trigger for creating this article)
The important part to remember here is that not all of them work in the same way for everybody. It depends on the person and the situation. Some of them will give me energy while others will drain it. You need to find out what activities work for you and try to integrate them into your routine, to be sure you have your energy levels controlled.
You may experience a lack of energy for a long period of time and no technique to recharge it is working for you. This is known as burnout and you need to stop. Just take some time out, find what you need and eventually return full of energy.
Don’t feel frustrated or guilty if you don’t have energy for multiple days in a row. Ask for help. Someone will be able to help you, or you can get help from a professional who specializes in burnout (everyday it’s becoming more common to find therapists offering their services for this kind of situation, since it’s happening more often due to certain practices like crunch in the video games industry).
Remember, everything in your life will be controlled by your energy levels. What you do or how you feel will be different depending on them. If you make the effort to take control of your energy management, I'm sure it will pay off in multiple aspects of your life, not just as a developer.