With Martin G. Moore

Episode #210

Managing Your Time and Energy: Master this or burn out!

We still get a seemingly endless stream of questions from leaders who feel as though they’re heading towards burnout, and have very little idea about how to stop the decline.

This ultimately comes down to being able to manage your time and energy effectively. Often, burnout is a slow creep, and it just chips away at you over time until you realize you’re not functioning at the same pace, and achieving the same performance that you used to.

You get that jaded feeling… you lose your zest and enthusiasm, and find it increasingly more difficult to keep up the energy for your team. Days that used to feel effortless become a real chore, and then you feel guilty about not bringing your best for your people.

In this episode, I give you strategies in three distinct areas that you can use to manage your time and energy, and rebuild your enthusiasm for the job, regardless of how you feel about it at this moment!

Generate Your Free
Personalized Leadership Development Podcast Playlist

As a leader, it’s essential to constantly develop and improve your leadership skills to stay ahead of the game.

That’s why I’ve created a 3-question quiz that’ll give you a free personalized podcast playlist tailored to where you are right now in your leadership career!

Take the 30-second quiz now to get your on-the-go playlist 👇

Take The QuizTake The Quiz


Episode #210 Managing Your Time and Energy: Master this or burn out!

Often, burnout is a slow creep, and it just chips away at you over time until you realize you aren’t functioning at the same pace and you aren’t achieving the same performance you used to. You just get that jaded feeling – you know, the one where you lose your zest and enthusiasm, and keeping up the energy for your team is even harder. Days that used to feel effortless become a real chore. And then you feel guilty about not bringing your best for your people.

One of the things I’ve learned to do really well over my long and varied career is to manage my time and energy. Now, I found that it was relatively easy if I followed some simple principles and listened to my inner voice about when I had the capacity to keep pushing and when I needed to back off. But it certainly wasn’t always that way. It took me a good 20 years to get the hang of this. And it wasn’t until my last corporate CEO role that I feel as though I really started to get it right.

The balance is that you want to work hard, but not so hard that it wears you down. You want to guarantee high performance and streamline what you do, so that everything but the most important work simply becomes extraneous. And you want to be able to do the same for your team. You want to make everything the team does really count, not demotivate them by assigning huge volumes of work that don’t appear to make much difference to the overall outcomes of your organization.

There are strategies that you can use in three distinct areas to manage your time and energy, and rebuild your enthusiasm for the job – regardless of how you feel about it at this very moment:

1. Work on the right things (and let the rest of it go).

2. Set the right standards for your people (and enforce them diligently).

3. Build a capable, high-performing team (and once you have, let them do their jobs).


One of the most common topics you’ll hear me talk about is value. Why? Because value should be the central focus for every leader, in every organization, at every level – and remember this isn’t just financial value. It covers all areas of performance across all stakeholder groups:

  • Shareholders

  • Customers

  • Employees

  • Suppliers

  • Communities

  • Regulators

 … the whole box and dice. And your primary job as the leader is to define what value means to you, right? So that requires a little bit of consideration and a lot of effort.

The principle is pretty simple: understand what really creates value for your team and organization. And once you understand what brings value and how, you need to work out how to capture it. So for a start, don’t just prioritize stuff, rank it. Go through that discipline.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t take on any more work. I already have six priority ones.”? Of course, this is just a breeding ground for laziness and poor outcomes. That lack of clarity leaves a lot of dark corners to hide in. But if you clearly rank your work program, it enables you to have the right conversations, do the right analysis and make the right choices about what to work on, when.

The most important thing is not to create the perfect ranked list. The most important thing is that you’ve done the work to provide the basis for conversation and debate. That way, when any new work item comes your way, you can assess its relative priority against the standing work program. Then, of course, you can assess if there’s any reason to change the existing work program. Once again, you are not after the perfect list. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” 

The object of the exercise is to keep your workload in check. This is absolutely fundamental to managing your time and energy. But if you don’t really understand where the true value is derived from, you won’t know what to sacrifice. You’ll end up working on the wrong things, and missing some of the most potentially valuable work items. The concept of being able to tell your boss you’re going to do less only works if you are delivering exceptional value by focusing on the really big ticket items.

For me, this was my primary means of containing the size of the potential workload for both me and my team. And you can imagine how much impact this has on a large organization if you have a CEO who thinks like this!

I learned to protect the work program. The things that normally creep in to distract us simply didn’t get a start, and this is something I had to do from all angles. People below would come up with good ideas for projects they’d love to work on. Well, unless they could communicate what value would be delivered and commit to delivering it, we weren’t going to throw any resources at it. If they could, no problem! It’s not about being inflexible. But more than this, I had to protect the work program from all the “good ideas” that came to us from our board and shareholders.

You have to hold the line and really guard the high value stuff, minimize the distractions and make sure that you’re working on the main game. If you can achieve this, you effectively cap the amount of work that any team or individual takes on and you only do the right things.


1. The Eisenhower Matrix

We can use the Eisenhower Matrix to classify the work we are doing – you may have seen this as the Urgent/Important Matrix. This tool maps the relative importance and the relative urgency of any work item on a two by two grid.

On one axis, you have Importance: high and low. On the other axis, you have Urgency: high and low. So you end up with four quadrants:

  • Urgent and important

  • Urgent but unimportant

  • Not urgent and unimportant, and

  • Not urgent but important.

We spent a lot of time working on things that are urgent, but unimportant:mapping them on this matrix helps us to see those better. You’ll often be pushed to do those types of tasks, but you should consider them really carefully before you commit. This is a simple and fun way to open the debate with your boss and your team with questions like:

  • “Are we getting distracted by things that are urgent but unimportant, in relative terms, when we compare them to the other things we could be doing?” Or,

  • “Do we have options to push back on the leaders above by explaining where the true value lies?”

2. Limit the exposure of individual teams to big ticket items

Quite often, certain teams take the brunt of the high value workload and the supporting cast are under-utilized in relative terms. The concept of resource leveling is a common discipline in project management.

For example, when you create a Gantt chart, or use a similar planning tool that shows the dependencies in a work breakdown structure, it can look like everything hangs together really nicely. But you need to look at the schedule from another perspective altogether – and that’s the resource commitment view of the plan. Any major anomalies are going to show themselves pretty quickly. You’ll see some people who, on a given week, might be working only 15 hours on a project that they’re allocated to full-time. While there may be others who are allocated for over a hundred hours in the same week.

Think about this principle, and work out where the bottlenecks and squeeze points are. Don’t centralize the exposure of any individuals or teams to unrealistic workloads, just because you haven’t thought through the implications of the resource allocations that fall out of the work program you’re taking on. So the rule of thumb is: measure twice, cut once.

3. Don’t let any task assignments be open ended 

There’s a great little hack that I picked up from the book, The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney et al. Think about the principle of simplicity and focus: organizations that limit major initiatives deliver more value over time. Think of all task assignment in terms of progress, to a point, by a date. So, our commitment is stated as: “We are going to move this initiative from A to B by date X” – this is a Four Disciplines of Execution tool.

We have quite a sophisticated value ranking process in Module 1 of Leadership Beyond the Theory, and it can be incredibly complex to value rank your work program for the first time. So this is going to help you to get it right faster. Once you know what to work on, you’ve got to quarantine and contain your work program. As I said, plenty of good ideas are going to come from above and below. You won’t want to say “No” to good ideas because you’re hardworking and ambitious, but you have to be totally ruthless about what you allow in, and say “No” to anything that isn’t clearly of greater value than the things you’re currently pursuing.

Containing the work program is the number one thing. Without this, you won’t have a hope of managing your time and energy.

Have the confidence to say “No” to virtually anyone without the guilt. Listen to Episode #61: Learning To Say No.


You have to make it really clear what good looks like. You have to set ambitious, but achievable goals for every person on your team. No exceptions!

Remember, weak leaders lower the standard to meet the performance, but strong leaders lift the performance to meet the standard.

You just have to decide which you are: it’s totally your choice. But if you choose to be a weak leader and accept whatever performance people decide to turn up to work with, you deserve everything you get. There’s no other way to put it. Stop shooting yourself in the foot by not holding your team to account for meeting the right standard of performance.

Most people will set a low bar if you let them. Even your very best people on any given day will give you maybe 80 to 85 percent of their true capacity. Not because they’re lazy. Not because they’re evil… Just because we like to have the ability to comfortably achieve what we set out to do. So, stretch your people. How much? Well, just until you see the lump in their throat – you can always ratchet back later if you need to.

People are happier when they achieve difficult things: this is how they build self-esteem. If you don’t stretch your people, you rob them of that opportunity and your team will never reach its potential.

There has to be the right standard for ownership of outcomes. So, creating a no blame, no excuses culture is the name of the game. You want to maximize your chances to deliver work to the right scope and quality. These are the first things to be compromised when the pressure is on. People like to protect the highly visible lag indicators like cost and time. Instead they compromise quality and–even more so–scope. So in effect, when scope is compromised, people deliver less than they committed to while using up all the allocated time and spending all the allocated money. This effectively dilutes the value that you thought a particular investment might yield.

I can honestly say, as I reflect on my corporate career, that this was the biggest factor in my success. Setting the standard so that everyone knew what it was, and they had the opportunity to choose whether or not they wanted to meet it. That’s the forerunner to high performance.

Anyone who wasn’t prepared to meet the standard could find a less demanding job somewhere else – and there are plenty of those. Why? Because there are plenty of leaders who don’t demand a high standard of performance. This sounds pretty harsh, but it’s actually the kindest thing that you can do for someone who isn’t a fit for a high performance culture.

Once I learned how to set the standard and hold it, my work profile changed dramatically. I had a team of people where everyone was focused on meeting the standard I was setting, and working towards getting the agreed outcomes. Meanwhile, I could shift into coach mode, spending time on communication, feedback, and active problem solving. This really kept my work hours in check and it enabled me to manage my time and energy so that I was able to give my people my best on any given day.

It was also a much more productive way to spend my time as I was truly able to leverage the talent in the team and add value to each individual.

Put the decision-making processes in the hands of the accountable people and inspect the outputs regularly. This can be a bit tricky to do without hovering over your people and having it feel to them like micromanagement. It relies on a strong leadership dialogue and a good structured meeting cadence.

Now, there are a couple of podcast episodes you can check out to help you with this:

No matter what, set the standard and enforce it if you want to be able to manage your own time and energy.


You might find it interesting to have a proper look at how you are spending your time. Module 4 of Leadership Beyond the Theory, offers more extensive tools, but I’ve also created a free PDF ‘A Leader’s Time Audit’ that you can download here.


If you’ve set the standard properly, then you just need to make sure your people do the jobs they’re paid to do. It sounds easy, right? But we know that it’s anything but.

An interesting application of the Pareto principle here is that you need to spend 80% of your time with the top 20% of your people. If you actually pay attention to the way you spend your time over the coming days and weeks, you may be surprised to learn how much time you put into people who aren’t doing their jobs. You should focus on the ones who are. Just remember: it’s a lot easier to reign in stallion than it is to flog a donkey.

But we are all compassionate leaders who want to serve everyone in our team, right? Well, only to a point – our people have agency. We still have to hold everyone accountable for the choices they make.

The thing is, spending an inordinate amount of your most precious resource –  your own time and energy – on people who aren’t producing isn’t going to yield the best results. Even if they do decide to step up and perform, the marginal improvement from the team’s perspective is going to be negligible. On the other hand, think about the best performers in your team. They don’t produce five or ten percent more than you’re under-performers. They produce 200 percent more than your under-performers.

You can spend a lot of hours trying to corral the unwilling. You usually end up over-functioning for them, holding their hands and occasionally intervening to wallpaper over the cracks they leave. But think instead of how you can add value to your highest performers and remove the organizational obstacles for them so that they can deliver at their best… To manage this effectively, you need a basic day-to-day toolkit – and of course, this is the Challenge, Coach, Confront framework.

For all the complexities of human interaction and the almost infinite number of permutations and combinations of individual perspectives, people are relatively simple in their needs. They like certainty. People want know three things when they come into work each day:

  1. What are your expectations of me?

  2. How am I performing against those expectations?

  3. What does my future hold?

You’d be surprised how few people that I talk to have certainty around those three simple things. If you employ the Challenge, Coach, Confront framework effectively, you can give people the certainty they need and give them the opportunity to succeed and perform in a way that meets your standard and builds their job satisfaction.

Learn more about how you can get the best from your people with Episode #57: Challenge, Coach, Confront. You can take a much deeper dive in Module 8 of Leadership Beyond the Theory.

I found during my career that this was fundamental to me being able to manage my time and energy. I was able to do the work of leadership, which was to guide, influence and clarify my people’s objectives. Even in the most demanding and high pressure executive jobs, I could limit my work hours to, on average, 50 to 55 hours a week. Without a capable team, there was no chance I could have done that. I would’ve been forever getting involved in my team’s work because they wouldn’t have been able to produce the results themselves.

All of these tools and principles I talk about are relatively simple, but they’re incredibly powerful. So don’t be fooled by their seeming simplicity. If you can work out how to apply them consistently, you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve.


  • Ep. #44: The Standard You Walk Past is the Standard You Set – Listen Here

  • Ep. #57: Challenge, Coach, Confront – Listen Here

  • Ep. #61: Learning to Say No – Listen Here

  • Ep. #111: The Leadership Meeting Cadence – Listen Here

  • Join the Crush Your Career Challenge 2022 – Here


  • Explore other podcast episodes – Here

  • Take our FREE Level Up Leadership Masterclass – Start Now

  • Check out our 8-week online leadership program, Leadership Beyond the TheoryLearn More


Here’s how you can make a difference:

  • Subscribe to the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast

  • Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts

  • Repost this episode to your social media

  • Share your favourite episodes with your leadership network

  • Tag us in your next post and use the hashtag #nobsleadership