Let’s be real, we might really like what we do…maybe we even love it. But if we’re all being honest, we don’t love every second of every day. That’s part of being a business owner, and that’s fine. 

Some days we are on top of the world…and other days…not so much.

Productivity can dip on those “not so much” days and I even wrote about how to manage productivity on our worst days here. But what about generally managing the peaks and valleys in our productivity on a regular basis when it’s neither our best or worst day?

That’s where this energy categorization system comes into play. 

If you’ve been following me for a while, you already know that I believe that self-awareness is our greatest productivity tool and that is relevant here too because the things that are givers and those that are thieves will be different for everyone so this article is about:

  1. Figuring out YOUR specific energy givers, neutrals, and thieves.
  2. Leveraging the energy category system to optimize your productivity.

Sound good? Let’s get going!

Figuring out YOUR specific energy givers, neutrals, and thieves.

1) Energy Givers 

Hopefully this is obvious, but this is anything that gives you energy. You might almost get lost in these tasks. If you spent a whole day doing this, maybe even a very long day, you’d have plenty of energy left at the end. 

You might even sometimes think to yourself “wow, if I could do only this, I would not even feel like I was working!” — that would be an energy giver.

In other words, the amount of energy spent on this is disproportionately lower than the amount of time spent. (8 hours of work on this might feel like 2 hours of energy spent [or you might even have more energy than when you started].)

It’s that “time flies when you’re having fun” feeling.

2) Energy Neutrals

Energy neutrals neither give nor take energy from you. Maybe they’re little administrative tasks or mindless tasks. If you spent a very long day doing these, you’d feel like you had, well, a very long day, because you did. 

In other words, the amount of energy spent doing this is almost exactly equal the to the amount of time spent. (8 hours of work on this feels like 8 hours of energy spent.) 

A long day feels like a long day. A short day feels like a short day.

3) Energy Thieves

Energy thieves are things that are extra exhausting for you. They often come in the form of aspects of your business that you absolutely hate to do. Just the thought of having to tackle that thing can sometimes make you feel tired before you even start. 

A very long day spent doing only this would be nearly impossible to get through as it would just be far too exhausting. You might even spend just a few hours on this and feel like you already worked a 12-hour day and absolutely have to either work on something else or stop for the day. 

In other words, the amount of energy spent is disproportionately greater than the amount of time spent. (8 hours of work on this feels like 18 hours of energy spent.) 

These are those frustrating days where maybe you don’t understand why you feel the way you feel after what might feel like little output. It’s because an energy thief stole your energy!

Here are mine for reference:

Energy givers: Brainstorming, strategy, and working ON my business. This includes coming up with marketing ideas. I also get energy from systematizing aspects of my business or others’ businesses and can easily lose myself in this.

Energy neutrals: Mindless activities which also don’t take much time individually like reviewing my assistant’s work, emailing a file I owe someone, etc.

Energy thieves: Troubleshooting technical issues, invoicing, bookkeeping, data entry and mindless activities that take longer such as video editing or uploading. 

Leveraging the energy category system to optimize your productivity.

Time to figure out your own! 

Step one: If you have never spent any time thinking about this, it will be hard to sit down and make a list like the above. Instead, spend a couple of weeks being very mindful of everything you do in your business and which of the categories each fits into. 

Some things to keep in mind as you decide your own energy givers, neutrals and thieves:

It’s OK to be wrong. It is a living system but one we need to update regularly to optimize productivity.

It’s OK for things to change categories as your business grows. Right now something might give you energy and in 5 years it might steal your energy. Stay self-aware.

Step two: 

Create a list of your tasks and assign an energy level to it (giver, neutral, thief).

If you are using ClickUp, my favorite tool, you can even add tags that list the energy category for each item and adjust them as you get more data but if not, just make sure to highlight or include this information in whatever system you are using.

Step 3: Next, you’ll need to match up these tasks with your day-to-day and hour-to-hour energy levels:

It’s time to ask yourself if you have any specific days or times of day where you have extra energy? Are Mondays particularly low energy for you? High energy? Do you find you’re riding high on Friday or already checked out for the weekend?

Keep in mind they might be:

  • Recurring days (e.g., every Monday)
  • Recurring timeframes (e.g., every morning or afternoon)
  • Recurring after or before another activity (e.g., after I work out, after I finish an energy giver task)

High energy periods

These are times or days that you have TONS of energy and you feel unstoppable. You have a couple of options with these periods. You can capitalize on them to spend on your energy giver tasks. A combination of a naturally high energy time period combined with an energy giver task can honestly mean a whole week of work done in a single day. These are those superman/superwoman opportunities. 

OR if you have been building up a lot of energy thieves you need to handle because you’ve been having a lot of neutral and low-energy days, consider whether it’s a good opportunity to knock them out and create space for the rest of your day or week. 

Neutral energy periods

As above, this is a time when you don’t feel like you have extra energy or that you’re energy depleted. If possible, focus on energy givers and energy neutrals. Only tackle energy thieves if you must. Remember that energy thieves mean a negatively disproportionate energy-to-time ratio. If you start at your energy baseline (neutral) and go down from there, it could end up being a rough day. 

Low energy periods

These are those days where you’re just not really feeling it. If it’s extremely bad, check out my article about worst days but if it’s just a less-than-optimal level, focus on energy givers if you can and sprinkle in neutrals if you must. Avoid thieves at ALL costs because if you start below neutral and then take yourself down from there, not only is it likely your productivity will plummet to the point your time might have been better spent taking the day off, you could cause a second low energy day the following day or even a whole week. This is very personal and won’t affect everyone the same so again, tap into your self-awareness and just proceed with caution.

In summary…

Often, entrepreneurs think they can “mind over matter” anything and everything. That works…until it doesn’t. Instead, use this sustainable system to capitalize on the best times and mitigate the low times and continue to grow your business and optimize your time. After all, time is our most precious resource; don’t waste it!

Bookmark this article if this felt like reading a LOT of information and reference it as you go through your week. For example, when you’re having a high energy period, review the above section and decide which direction to go and note if that felt like a good decision or not, and adjust accordingly. 

This is a living system so don’t be afraid to keep tweaking it!

Do you use anything like this for your business?

Note: I always review products independently and love sharing what I love. I also reach out to companies I love to earn a few bucks while sharing those things (and you should too!). That means if you purchase something after clicking on links on this site, I’ll probably earn a few bucks from it.

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