Energy Management and Productivity

Palm trees, a lake, and a shrub. Energy Management and Productivity.

Recently, I was on a trip to a warm, tropical location (my favorite) and the scenery got me thinking about energy management and productivity. Usually, when it comes to productivity, I think about making the most of our time and resources. However, looking at the palm trees sparked a new thought: one of our greatest resources is our energy, and managing this energy is key for leading a productive life.

What exactly is “energy?” Energy is the power and focus we bring to an endeavor. It consists of a combination of various elements, including:

  • Physical strength, and stamina
  • Emotional state
  • Mental health

As you might expect, the amount of energy we have is impacted by many factors. For instance:

  • The amount of quality sleep we have gotten
  • Our diet and general physical condition
  • The presence/absence of stressful conditions in our home, job, or family
  • Politics
  • Our stage of life (e.g., new parent, relocating, starting a new job)
  • Relationships (e.g., loneliness, grief, infatuation)
  • Addiction, chronic illness, depression
  • Our age

Unlike the resource of time, which is the same 24 hours each day, energy surges and wanes. On any given day, we may be roaring to go or struggle to get out of bed. Sometimes, it is easy to identify a reason for feeling more or less energy, while other times the reason for our energy level is fuzzy. Regardless, each individual has a limited quantity of energy, and each day we must choose how we will “spend” it.

I live in the northeast. In my town, many of our trees go through seasons. We can visually watch them transition from new growth to bloom, contraction, and eventually winter rest. In contrast, in the tropics, the trees (particularly the palm trees) are more “evergreen.” They are in a constant state of energy management, simultaneously sustaining new growth and shedding that which is no longer wanted. I think these trees provide a good model for how we can manage our energy to maximize our productivity. Here are a few takeaways to ponder.



As long as we are breathing, new things will be coming into our lives. In some seasons, these will be positive, welcome things. These are happy times. In other seasons, we may be faced with challenges and difficulties. Either way, “new” requires energy. Look at the spiky palm frond emerging in the photo above. That frond is demanding food and water to grow. It will also take up space on the tree.

I frequently see this type of enhanced energy need when working with clients. For example, when a new baby arrives it requires a lot of space, around-the-clock care, and boundless attention. Similarly, a surgery or illness is typically accompanied by physical discomfort, dietary restrictions, trips to the doctor, medications, and therapy visits.

Lesson: New situations demand significant energy.



Since energy is finite, increased energy given to one endeavor will naturally require that it be drawn away from another. Looking at the second image above, it is easy to see that the lower palm fronds are being starved for energy. They are no longer “top priority” to the tree and are therefore drying out and dying.

Most people don’t have an extra cache of energy just waiting to be deployed. Instead, we tend to find that our energy is getting spread thinner and thinner across an increasingly complex collection of commitments and interests. It is when we sense an “energy demand overload” that we need to clarify our priorities.

Lesson: We have limited energy and must choose where we will focus it.



Past, abandoned, unfulfilling, postponed and otherwise ignored pursuits can weigh heavily on us. When I walked by the tree in the photo above, I noticed that this largely “dead” frond was clinging on, even though it was clearly no longer relevant to the tree. I was surprised to see it hanging there, day after day, given that its connection to the tree was so small. I kept thinking the wind would blow it down, but day after day, there it remained, pulling the tree downward, even though it was clear that this frond was never going to be able to regrow.

This can happen in life. Relationships, activities, responsibilities, hobbies, and other things that require energy can linger, even when we no longer need or want them. We can feel reluctant to cut ties with them because we feel awkward, don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, hate to let others down, or don’t want to close the door on possibly reengaging in the future. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good setup. We end up feeling dragged down, bothered, annoyed, or guilty about our lack of commitment, and whatever is left hanging receives less than our best effort.

Lesson: It can be hard to transition our energy away from one thing and onto another. It is tempting to hold on too long.



Eventually, things we ignore will fall away. In some cases, this will happen at a convenient and desirable time. At others, the break may cause damage or leave a mess. When we take charge of trimming off things that are draining our energy, we increase the odds of a clean and manageable break. We have a measure of control over the manner and timing with which the break is made. For example, we can give people notice of our decision to exit a volunteer role and help the organization find a replacement. Another benefit of proactive “trimming” is that we are mindfully making the choice to free up more energy for what matters most, rather than waiting around to have the energy “someday” in the future.

Lesson: We all have a breaking point. We can choose when and where to trim to maximize the energy we have for our top priorities.

*     *     *

Do you feel drained of energy? Is there something you could trim to free up energy for what matters most to you today?

Seana's signature

22 thoughts on “Energy Management and Productivity”

  1. Welcome back from your tropical vacation, Seana! I love what you wrote and how your time away inspired the thoughts in this post. Like you, living in the northeast, I’m hyperaware of the change of seasons. With those changes come shifts in energy too. Spring is a time of growth and renewal. Winter was more about conserving energy and planning.

    The sequence you took us through with the palm tree and the lessons learned are apt. I appreciate the distinction you made between energy and time management. I hadn’t thought about it that way before, and it makes so much sense.

    1. Now that I am back up north, I am looking forward to watching the explosion of energy (renewal!) take place outside my kitchen window. The air may still be cold, but new life is definitely in the air. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad it resonated, Jan! I look forward the changing season up here, but did find the process of the palm tree thought-provoking! Have a great week. 🙂

  2. I have been thinking about energy as a resource for a while. There are foundations to energy like you mentioned as sleep, hydration, and fuel (food). There are times that require significant energy to start a project, less energy to coast during that project, and again significant energy to finish a project. The same is true for emotional regulation with increases and decreases in energy. Matching our energy to a task is the best case and something we learn as we go about ourselves. Thank you for bringing this to us to think more about.

    1. Such a good point, Ellen, about matching energy to our tasks. This is an ongoing adjustment process for all of us, right?

      I also love your thought about there needing to be an increase of energy to finish a project. I think we tend to disregard this reality, somehow expecting the finish to be easy, but it typically is not! I have felt that many times, and is a good truth to keep in mind when working, keeping my expectations honest, and then planning my energy (and time) accordingly.

  3. What interesting philosophical points you’ve made. New starts definitely require energy, and endings (projects coming to fruition) often give us a burst of energy to start new things…followed quickly by the adrenaline drop once our bodies and brains realize the big project is over.

    Choosing where to place our energy requires a step that is often the hardest — realizing that it is, in fact, a choice we must make. Too often, we feel that we have no control, and while we may lack control over how much energy we feel, we must always be cognizant that we are the ones in charge of how much energy we spend on which things. Thank you for the wisdom!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Highlights from the 2023 Task Management & Time Blocking SummitMy Profile

    1. I was thinking about this again as I woke up in the dark. Getting up in the dark requires more intentional expense of energy for me! As you say, we make the choice on where to allocate our energy, whether we realize it or not. Somedays (like today), I need to choose to get up when I planned to ensure that I won’t need to rush around later. The bonus: I am watching the sunrise right now!

  4. I love the way you used the palm trees to talk about energy. The lessons you share are so valuable. I have multiple projects going on right now and feel a bit like a juggler. It requires constant attention to keep all the balls moving and in the air. Understanding the rotation, how long one can be suspended in the air before I have to catch it, and toss it back up, has taken lots of planning, preparation, and bursts of energy from me. It’s a work in progress. Sometimes I drop a ball but if I pick it up quickly enough it’s OK.
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…How To Downsize Your Home Without All The DramaMy Profile

    1. I have those seasons, where everything is working fine as long as there are no unexpected “flies in the ointment.” Then, it is sort of meltdown. I can sustain that kind of energy temporarily, but then I need a break. My “dream” situation is active, but with balance for downtime. This comes and goes for me, but it is a goal.

  5. So much to think about. I love how you demonstrated your thoughts with the visual of the palm trees. I personally know that sometimes my energy must go toward the care of my husband. What is difficult is acknowledging that means that I have to give less energy to other projects.
    Thanks for your post.
    Jonda Beattie recently posted…Spring Cleaning – Yeah or Nay?My Profile

    1. That is a hard compromise. I imagine it feels like a loss, to have to step away from other things. This is the season in which you are currently living, and knowing your skills, you are able to handle more than most people. Still, caregivers need to be mindful of their energy. It can easily get worn thin. What a blessing you are to your husband, Jonda!

  6. Great stuff! We do only have so much energy in the day. This post is a great reminder to reevaluate the energy spent on different things. As I am self-employed, I must reevaluate often and ask myself if what I am doing right now will get me to my goal or the next step.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Garage Organizing ChallengeMy Profile

    1. I ask myself that question all the time, sometimes in a shallow manner, and periodically I dive deeply into it. For instance, I’ve recently been pondering the value of weekly blogging. Is this providing the benefit I desire? Is it worth the effort? It is important to ask these questions, and to allow the honest answers to guide our choices for how we spend our energy.

  7. Excellent reminders. It’s so true that undone tasks can weigh heavily. As I make my weekly task list, I always feel frustrated by the tasks I failed to complete the week before. On the flip side, seeing a page full of crossed-off tasks lifts my spirits and makes me feel accomplished. As you pointed out, some tasks ultimately fall off the list completely, either because I missed a window for getting the job done or because my priorities change.

    1. Every now and then I will find that a task falls off the list because it no longer needs to be done. When that results from a decision by someone else, it feels like a true win! Like you, I love a page of completed ‘boxes.’ However, I’ve learned to be content with my effort, more than my results. (At least, most of the time LOL!)

  8. This fascinates me – especially the more holistic way of looking at it. It’s more than physical limitations, and even age. It also has to do with spirit and stress. I always find that during smoother times of life, I’m more ambitious and energetic, and the amount of sleep I get doesn’t really affect my energy levels as much as I’d expect. And anxiety uses up a lot of energy, but also gives me a bleaker outlook, so it’s like a double whammy. I refuse to believe that age means more tired. I mean, maybe it’s true, but I hate that thought. As an older mom now, I don’t have less energy than when I was postpartum with Scarlet or Des. It’s just different. Totally jealous of your warm and tropical trip. I need one!
    Tamara recently posted…I’m Crazy, But I Get the Job DoneMy Profile

    1. Wish I could have bottled up the warm/tropical and brought it back to everyone!!

      I completely agree that stress damages energy. There is no doubt about this. Mental health is a huge part of our energy supply. I’ve definitely gone through seasons where I didn’t have an ounce extra.

      I was physically exhausted when my children were little, largely from lack of sleep. Now (at an “older” age), I notice that I do get more tired, although adrenaline can largely compensate. I suppose I will see what comes next!

  9. This was a very thought provoking post and an in depth look at life in general. It’s wise to think about these things and the palm trees are an excellent visual to demonstrate your point. Palm trees take a lot of stress from the wind and sun and the way the lower fronds die slowly over time are really a good example of life-birth to death. Thank you for those thoughts.

    1. I agree, Dianne. With palm trees, you can really “see” the entire process. They provide a helpful image for thinking about our energy and where we assign it!

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