Why working on the same task with different energy levels will have different outcomes

Jul 05, 2022

Table of contents:

  1. Mismatched tasks require more effort
  2. Matching tasks to your fluctuating energy

A common misconception is, working on the same types of tasks will have the same type of outcomes. Your current energy level has a disproportionate impact on the outcome of any task you take on, yet we so often neglect to be mindful of choosing what to work on next.

This can mean attempting to complete a task that does not match your current energy level could require more effort and will take longer to complete than if you chose to tackle it at a different time.

In this article we’ll be looking at how your current energy level impacts the outcome of completing tasks, and how you can be more mindful about how to choose what to work on next.

Mismatched tasks require more effort

Imagine the scene, you sit down to tackle that big, important creative project that will push you closer to your longer term goal, but instead you end up procrastinating on Twitter or YouTube. No matter how long you sit there, you just can’t seem to find the focus to get started. You end up being distracted, irritable, and you waste your time that could be put to better use.

This is such a common scenario I can guarantee it’s happened to you too.

Sometimes attempting to complete a task feels like a breeze, whilst other times trying to tackle the exact same type of task feels like a slog. The type of task is the same, so why the huge disparity in effort?

A task can feel insurmountable when the required energy to complete it is mismatched with your current energy level. When this situation arises, the task will require more effort, will take longer to complete, and it will likely drain any remaining concentration or energy reserves you are holding.

In the same vein, completing simple, or routine tasks that do not require a lot of energy when you are feeling energised is a waste of the opportunity. Imagine what you could have completed if you had only been more mindful about what to work on next.

Matching tasks to your fluctuating energy

The amount of energy you have fluctuates through the day. Typically it will be the highest early in the morning and will slowly deplete throughout the day. There are ways to restore your energy, such as rest, exercise, or fun activities, but over the normal course of a day you would expect your energy level to drop.

Choosing the right task to work on next isn’t as simple as ordering your tasks by priority, or due date and picking the next task from the top of the list. Even if you are using one of the well known productivity methods, choosing an incompatible task for your current energy level will mean you are not going to be as productive as you could be. Matching the required energy of your tasks is the key to being productive. Neglecting to do this can mean you choose a task that would be better suited to a different time of the day or day of the week.

For example, you might have a large chunk of time available to concentrate on completing tasks. Your productivity method might suggest you work on your most important creative task that will push you closer to your goals. But what if that chunk of time was 2pm to 5pm on a Friday afternoon after a particularly gruelling week at the office, are you really in the right energy level to tackle this kind of problem?

In this scenarios you will likely find that you make some progress, perhaps you procrastinate a little, or perhaps you just stare at a blank page until it’s time to go home. Making any type of decision in this scenario will likely be affected by decision fatigue.

A better suggestion might be to use this as an opportunity to clear a lot of small, simple, routine tasks from your plate so that on Monday morning, after enjoying a weekend break you can hit the ground running with a clear task list and a mind full of energy ready to let the creative juices flow.

It’s the same on the other side of the spectrum too. When you sit down on a Monday morning full of energy after a weekend of relaxation and fun activities, working on simple, routine tasks might give you a dopamine boost, but you’re wasting the opportunity to tackle the most important tasks that will move you closer to your longer term goals.

Philip Brown


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