How to Redesign Your Schedule for a Healthier, More Productive and Energetic Life

I will never forget that financial year-end period when my team literally worked until 2am in the office to get the financial reports done.


We followed the Japanese financial year calendar, which was between 1 April to 31 March. So our peak period was the first week of April. What was more amazing? Daylight saving ended on the first Sunday in April for us in Sydney, which meant we got an extra hour… to work.


I was tired.


Physically, and also tired of life generally.

💀 Toxic Productivity

It’s one thing to work on something you like and enjoy doing to the point you forget about time (a.k.a. being in a “flow state”), but let’s be honest, who enjoys sitting in the cubicle punching figures 9-6 Monday to Friday?


Gone are the days when we have to be in a place for 8-9 hours to “work”. Not to mention nowadays most of us engage in creative work that requires planning, strategising and managing. That’s a lot of brain power involved.


We’re way past the industrial age.


One good thing about the pandemic is that it made us rethink “work-life balance”, and the possibility of 4-day work week.


If you have multiple side projects going on, you might have come across those “productivity bros” on Twitter who brag about working for 8 hours non-stop after their day job and signal you to do the same if you want to succeed.


Is that true?


In the beginning stages, maybe. We have to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and double down the effort.


But we are not robots.


We are human beings, not human doings.


If you’re always feeling tired and exhausted, you can’t find time to do what you truly enjoy, or you experience bedtime procrastination… this post is for you.


Let’s figure out what really is going on, and redesign a lifestyle that best suits our needs.

🤔 Self Awareness and Productivity

You know what I’m going to say: there is no self-development without self-awareness.


We need to know where we are at, where we want to go, and how to get there.


In regards to productivity and lifestyle, there are 3 things we need to constantly think about. Before we dissect each area, we need to understand this:


To truly live a schedule that works for us while balancing our needs and responsibilities, it’s not just about time – but our energy as well.


Time and energy – the limited resources we have, to “spend” every day.


They direct where we put our attention to, which is another scarce resource that we give away too easily nowadays.


One notification, one tap on the shoulder can instantly pull us away from what we are (supposed to be) focusing on.

How can we be productive if we don’t use our time, energy and attention wisely?


Let’s first define productivity, on your own terms.

📏 How Do You Define Productivity?

Wikipedia will tell you that productivity is the efficiency of production of goods/services expressed by some measure, for example:

  • The number of assignments you can finish in a week
  • The number of projects you can complete in a month
  • The number of videos you can publish in a year


So the simple equation of productivity would be “Output / Time”.


This is, however, just a basis.


The reason is two-fold:

Are You Working On the Right Things?

Imagine putting 5 hours on a project then realising your boss actually assigned it to your colleague.


Imagine spending 5 years on building a product that nobody cares.


It sucks, but it illustrates an important point: it is only fair that we work on the right things given our limited resources (time and energy, remember?).


Doing the right things, or working towards the right direction is more important than speed.

How Much Do You Care?

Let’s talk about emotions for a second.


Remember that we are human beings? We all have emotions.


You might be productive at work – but if it’s a job that you hate, no matter how much effort you put in, how much output you churn out, it will not sustain in the long run because you don’t enjoy the work. You will have to rely on extrinsic motivation (like a pay rise) or willpower (”I have to get up and go to work”) to keep going.


How much do you care about the output?


Are you grinding, or having fun in the journey?


When I was an accountant, I couldn’t care less about my company’s marketing budget. But now as a music therapist, every day I work with clients I care about in a fun way to support their health goals.


When you care about something (like me writing this article now), you are naturally inclined to put in the work.


You begin to show up consistently.


You enter flow state while being productive.



It’s your turn now: how do you define productivity?

🗓 How Does Your Current Schedule Look and Feel Like?

Let’s get to the practical part.


Now, you can’t manage something if you don’t have a full picture of what’s going on.


That applies to time, money or even your emotions.


Take a good look of your current life.


How do you spend your time? Which area do you spend most of your time on?


If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend tracking your schedule for at least one week. Even if you have irregular work (that’s me with my casual contracts), you will still benefit a lot from understanding where time goes.



Pro tip: I love colour-coding my life areas – it’s the quickest way to understand how I spend my time in areas I care about from a bird’s eye-view.


P.S. The unblocked time shows you how much time you haven’t allocated/spent on commuting. They do add up, see.


This is also the part when you probably realise you spend way too much time scrolling on social media apps before you sleep #guiltyascharged.

Are you still with me? Good. Hope this doesn’t sound too overwhelming.

The Energy Cycle Reflection

We don’t just want to track our time, but also our energy level.


Yes, the two scarce resources we keep talking about.


Apart from tracking your time, also ask yourself: do I feel energetic or drained with my current schedule?


I came across this Energy Cycle Reflection from Chris Sparks’ newsletter a while ago and I’ve gained massive insight from it (template included below).


According to Chris Sparks, there are two complementary approaches to maximising your energy:

  1. Capacity – optimising diet, sleep, exercise
  2. Utilisation – match most important activities to highest energy times


I found this immensely helpful. Let’s take a look at my current approach:

  1. Capacity
    • Intermittent fasting (on most days I do 16:8 or 15:9; occasionally skip in weekends)
    • More homemade food
    • 7ish hours of sleep
    • Exercise 1st thing in the morning
  2. Utilisation
    • Peak: 8-10am (post-workout, with coffee) → creative work
    • Most other time I’m fine with doing whatever as long as I get started (recording, filming etc.)
    • 3-5pm: analytical/editing work
    • dip: 12pm; 5pm-6.30pm (usually I’m driving or eating during this period)


For me, the “ideal day” would be to schedule long form content creation in the morning. I can then film some videos in early afternoon; then edit, distribute and schedule content in late afternoon to early evening.


I said “ideal” because I guarantee you that won’t happen every day. Our energy levels are influenced by many factors – I will discuss a particular one in detail in the next section.



You can download a template here (from Chris Sparks) to track your energy cycles.



Useful reflection prompts:


  • What activities bring me joy and energy?
  • What (or who, depending on your work type) makes me feel exhausted or inadequate?
  • Around what time during the day do I feel the most energised and productive? How can I schedule the most important task during peak energy state (more on that later)


P.S. Do you feel energised after you scroll social media and news? I don’t. it’s on my energy-sucking list. So I replace scrolling with learning French and Turkish on Duolingo. Hurray to my 876 days streak (after many times of missing one day)!

TL;DR? Save this image as a constant reminder 🙂

📈 A Productivity Management Plan

Now we understand our current routine and energy level, we can manage productivity by allocating time and energy in an efficient manner.


Think of it like allocating tokens in a poker game.


We need to assign our resources in a strategic way to maximise gains and benefits.


#1 Prioritisation > Productivity

In a nutshell, productivity is all about doing the RIGHT things. That means at any given time as long as we are working on the important stuff we are productive.


That’s why, prioritisation is KEY.


Prioritise before you produce.


I’m fully on board with the idea that if you have more than 3 goals for the day, you are not going to achieve much.


You don’t have laser focus on the things that truly move the needle. As illustrated in the definition section above, productivity is about producing useful outputs (the right things, and things that you care about).


This is also why keeping a to-do list might not be a productivity hack (as Nir Eyal rightfully explained here).


Here’s what you can do:


Write a brain-dump list.


Get every task out of your mind on a paper (or Notion, if you’re like me). Then you can prioritise based on the importance and urgency of each task.


I talked about how I use the exact method to get things done in one of my newsletters.


By the way, you can get more ideas, tips and tools to help you live a better life by subscribing to my weekly DO-RE-MI newsletter (which stands for DOable ideas, REflection prompts and MIndfulness).

#2 Time Management is Pain Management

Let’s talk about mindset for a second.


One of the most common problems we face about productivity is procrastination.


Think about the last time you delayed completing a task. Why was that? Not “in the mood”? Was the task too difficult?


The further you delay a task, the more pain and headache you have to deal with later.


Procrastination is avoiding short term pain for long term torture.


And it’s not really fun – when you’re engaging in other tasks, that particular task is at the back of your mind, daunting you, making you feel guilty about not starting it earlier.


Thus, time management is pain management. This is coined by Nir Eyal in his book “Indistractable”, which I highly recommend.



Further reading: time management is closely linked to stress and anxiety. I have an article here that you might find helpful regarding stress management.



Now that we know what we should be working on, let’s talk about allocating tasks to your internal body clock.

#3 Are You a Lark, an Owl or a Third Bird?

Daniel Pink, the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, talked about how we can better manage our time and energy by understanding our internal clock.


If you have been tracking your schedule, you might have found patterns of your activities. For example, I seem to create more good quality content in the morning; and I never make good decisions at night.


Here’s how you can find out which “bird” is dictating your internal clock:


Mark your general bed time and wake up time, and find the midpoint of your sleep.


If you generally go to bed at 10pm and get up at 6am, your midpoint is 2am.

  • If your midpoint is earlier than 3.30am, you’re a lark
  • If your midpoint is later than 5.30am, you’re an own
  • If your midpoint is somewhere in between, you’re a third bird


Then refer to this table to determine how you can allocate different types of work in your schedule:


What bird are you? How can you leverage time and energy better to work on different types of tasks?

🤏🏻 How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Schedule ?

I know, you might have this big question in your mind so far reading this article: what if I don’t have control of how I allocate my time and energy on a normal work day? I’m stuck in office all day, and my boss expects me to be productive 24/7.


At work, look at your schedule and tasks. Outside compulsory meetings, you can work on creative tasks (writing, creating, anything that doesn’t have “absolute” end points) when your energy is at its peak; and analytical work (data reports, even learning how to play a song on piano) later on during the day.


You might be “stuck” in the office all day, but you always have downtime. Instead of scrolling your phone, you can squeeze in 5 minutes here and there if you have passion projects outside work. This is what I did all those years when I was on the train or waiting for my team to finish their parts. I was always brainstorming video ideas and writing.


This is the secret of churning out blog posts and video every single week when I had a day job. Don’t underestimate those 5 minutes of idle time.


You DO have control.

🏃🏻 Adjust Your Lifestyle Based on Hormones

This is my favourite part.


The modern society is dominated by masculinity. Males can hustle 24/7 without switching off. Not that I believe in it, it’s just how the society portraits hustle culture these days. But now that people start normalising talking about mental health, the importance of sleep and play, it’s time to take this to the next level and talk about… hormones.

Roller Coaster Ride of Productivity and Emotions

Females are not weak. I repeat: we are damn strong.


We just have more fluctuations of our hormones and energy cycles than our counterparts.


I’ve always been bothered by serious period pain, but I dared not to take sick leaves if my period began on a work day. Why? I thought I would be fine if I took painkillers. I cared about how my boss and colleagues would think of me. I vividly remembered how I nearly fainted on the train if a gentleman hadn’t offered me a seat.


It took me years to make peace with myself. After the pandemic and my master studies, I chose to prioritise my health (both physical and emotional) at all costs. That means going for part time (and ignoring the male colleagues who work full time) and maintaining an active lifestyle. Being a therapist is demanding, and it’s only fair that I prioritise pouring for myself before I give my best to my clients.


That means finding and designing a lifestyle that works FOR you.


That means understanding your energy levels and productivity, based on how your body functions.

To People Who Menstruate: This Will Improve Your Life

If you’re someone who menstruates, read this book. It’s life-changing. “The Period Power” suggests checking in with yourself every day regarding your moods and energy levels so that you understand how you “normally” feel and behave at different points of your cycle.


Think of Your Cycle in Seasons

We are not here to talk about dopamine, oestrogen or progesterone don’t worry.


One big takeaway from “The Period Power” is to think of your cycle in seasons. The day your period begins marks “winter”; the follicular phase is “spring”; around the time you ovulate means “summer”; and luteal phase is “late summer” to “autumn”.


You can read the book for detailed descriptions of how you might feel and what you can do during each season. Here are a few of my own examples after tracking everything religiously for a few months:

  • Spring: I feel energetic and hopeful quite early on (usually day 6) and I make plans to leverage high energy
  • Summer: I feel super good like I’m the queen and I’m ready to conquer the world. I can always push myself further in my workouts, my abs are popping, I stick to my intermittent fasting without resistance, and it’s easy for me to focus on important tasks
  • Autumn: I feel reserved and reflective. Most nights I just want to stay home and reflect on my routines and productivity in the past 2 weeks. My anxiety spikes in certain areas of my life, and I find myself scrolling social media more (which spikes more anxiety and creates a negative loop)
  • Winter: sometimes I feel weak. Most of my attention and energy is drawn inwards to deal with the pain I feel, and I take it easy by skipping a workout or indulging in a cup of hot dark chocolate or an extra scoop of peanut butter. I try not to move much at work if I can. I identify and get the “bare minimum” work done if I’m really not feeling it.


I hope that’s not TMI. I’m being honest and transparent here since I know many people experience similar problems and I want to tell you that you are not alone.


Please – work with your hormones. Go for a check-up if you suspect anything.


Self-awareness is key, as I always emphasise.


Start tracking your mood and energy level today. It’s super helpful and insightful. I strongly believe that data tells stories. It will benefit you a lot, not to mention your work life and relationships. If you’re a tracking nerd like me, you can do that on Notion. Here’s a snapshot of my recent energy and mood levels (number refers to the days in my cycle – you will see how your emotions make sense):

Implications: Professional and Personal Lives

What’s the takeaway for you in terms of understanding hormones and moods to guide your schedule?

At work:

  • Planning is everything. If you have multiple tight deadlines, match them against your cycle to boost your analytical/creative skills during certain period and time of the day. If you leave projects till last minute but you’re also in winter, you will suffer a lot.
  • Adjust routines based on your needs. During your spring/summer, you might swap your afternoon coffee with tea or decaf. You might squeeze in a cheeky 5-minute outdoor walk after lunch during autumn to clear that brain fog.

Outside work:

  • Plan your next 30 days during spring. Take action and go socialise during summer. Have some time to reflect on your life in autumn. Schedule more rest in winter.

💪🏻 Productivity Affirmations

I hope this article helped you reflect on your own life and challenge how things don’t have to be “how they used to be”.


Key points:

  • There is a lot you can try to boost your productivity, through managing time and energy levels
  • Your diet, mood, body shape, energy level can all be affected by hormones. It’s important to be mindful, check in with your body sensation often, and decide what’s best for you
  • Practising gratitude and self-compassion will get you a long way
  • Rest is part of the productivity equation


We’re playing the long game here. We only have one body, and limited time and energy. We are only doing ourselves a favour by creating sustainability – a lifestyle what works for us, and constantly monitoring our physical and emotional responses, knowing that our needs will change over time but we are flexible.

It's time to take control of your life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed & stressed about life. Neither do you have to chase after things that don’t matter to you. 😉


If you’ve benefited from this article, you will like this free 5-day email course I created for you to set the tone for the coming 6 months so that you can:

1 Clarify your goals

2 Boost productivity

3 Maintain good physical and mental health



I believe that you already had what it takes to succeed. All you need is a little push. 👀 


I want to see you thrive, not just to survive. Are you ready to go the next level?