Time vs Self-Management

At the same time a comparison of the Freedom Compass (M.Hyatt) with the Energy Level Approach (Dr. Förster)

Introduction: Aporias of Time Management

“I don’t have time for breakfast in the morning,”

one of my students said to me the other day as he bit into his roll at the beginning of my class.


I took up the ball,

“We all have the same amount of time, but you have decided not to use it for breakfast in the morning!”

This small dialogue reflects the inaccuracy of the term “time management”: We all have the same amount of time per day – we can only manage ourselves! “Self-management” is therefore the more precise term. Instead of tools for this, I would like to focus on a second variable that is of decisive importance for self-management – one’s own energy.

(c) DALL-E

More appropriate: Energy Management

Also old master David Allen assigns the own energy balance its function – when doing: The Next-Action-List is first sharpened with the filters Contexts1 and Time Duration2. Then logically comes the penultimate filter: How much energy do I have available right now?

Time Blocking, Weekly Big Three & the Importance of Energy

In my experience, the importance of contexts has decreased considerably as a result of digitalization, so that the filters time and energy gain greater relevance. Since the factor time is not changeable, I have already blocked it in the best case in the calendar for my important tasks3. The decisive factor is therefore: Do I have the necessary energy at this planned time for my really important tasks – and what are the important tasks that even give me energy and promote my development?

Michael Hyatt: Desire

Time is fixed, but Energy can flex.4

Michael Hyatt approaches the topic of self-management consistently from the energy side: In his clever book “Free To Focus. A total Productivity System to Achieve more by Doing less” from 2019, he explains right in the first part that it is important to do the right things. His “Freedom Compass” consists of four quadrants, which result from the two factors “Passion” and “Proficiency”. The goal should be to move more and more away from the “Drudgery-Zone”5 and more and more into the “Desire Zone”: Tasks for which I am competent and for which my heart also beats. If I spend as much time as possible in this zone, I will develop positively, Hyatt promises.

Dr. Nikolaus Förster: Flow

To my great surprise, Dr. Nikolaus Förster presented exactly this concept in the podcast by Lars Bobach “Hallo Fokus. Focus on the right energy level”6, which I already knew from Michael Hyatt: Here the four fields are called “Frust”, Obligation, Scattering and Flow. They arise as with Hyatt from the combinations of the variables Competence and Passion.


As a theologian and teacher, I naturally wondered whether one of them had “served” themselves from the other, or whether both had independently come up with the same idea. But unfortunately I do not have enough information about that. With Michael Hyatt I have followed since 2017 how his approach has developed, from Dr. Förster I lack the necessary information. Who of both is now egg and who is hen, I do not know. I interpret this strange coincidence as an emphasis on the importance of this concept 😉.

Conclusion: Energy Management instead of Time Management

It is worth giving this concept a chance and sorting your own tasks according to where your own competence lies and your heart beats in order to refocus yourself and your work. Direction “Desire Zone”, where the “Flow” can be found.

(c) DALL-E

  1. What tools do I have at hand? What tasks can I only do at this place/with this colleague? ↩︎
  2. How much time do I have available? ↩︎
  3. The Weekly Big Three. ↩︎
  4. M.Hyatt (2019),67. ↩︎
  5. Tasks that I don’t feel like doing and that I am incompetent at. ↩︎
  6. Episode from Januar 27, 2024. ↩︎