How to actually manage your time at work

One major thing we get wrong: work isn’t about tasks and targets. It’s about energy. There’s only a fraction of the day (honestly) that you’ll be really successful at those tasks and targets, and you need to figure out how to maximize it. Unfortunately, this is what often happens: e-mails. Meetings. E-Mails. Meetings. Rinse and repeat.

The dirty little secret of most workplaces is that we really only do about 590 actual hours of work in a given year. The rest is mostly BS like e-mails and meetings. There’s some validity to the idea of ‘A Corporate Athlete,’ whereby you focus and train for the big moments — but that’s really hard to achieve in most jobs and in most roles. Most people chase the tasks that their boss tells them to chase, plain and simple.

But as you’re chasing those tasks, how can you manage your time the most effectively? Thankfully, here’s a manager at Google — a place that mostly understands people — with some ideas.

Here’s a post on Fast Company about managing your time, and here’s a video that might help you understand it:

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown, conceptually.


  • Energy ramps out from the weekend, so …
  • Low-demand tasks, including…
  • Scheduling
  • Organizing
  • Setting goals

Tuesday and Wednesday

  • Peak of energy here, so …
  • Tackle your most difficult problems, including …
  • Writing
  • Brainstorming
  • Solving actual problems
  • Scheduling your “Make Time” — when you do work, as opposed to talking about work (meetings/e-mails)
  • You should have the fewest number of meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, all told


  • Energy begins to ebb — almost the weekend! — so…
  • Schedule most of your meetings here, with an eye towards …
  • Consensus-building
  • Planning for what’s on the docket next week


  • This is your lowest energy level, and many people barely take this seriously as a work day, so…
  • Do open-ended work
  • Look at long-term planning
  • Focus on people and relationship building
  • Leave a little bit early (you earned it, right?)

Now, this doesn’t work for everyone in every job — not everyone even works M-F, obviously — but it’s useful if you view it as a framework of how a five-day stretch could unfold. Sure, things come up — fires are set, ironically often by senior managers — and you need to deal with them, but the above list and bullets can at least help you think about how to maximize your energy to do the most effective work at the most relevant times.

And hey, while you’re at it? Take a vacation once in a while.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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