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Many people are overwhelmed, overcommitted and overworked doing exactly what they thought they wanted to do with their lives, notes Carey Nieuwhof, a pastor and leadership writer in his new book, At Your Best.

Often, he says, their excuse is that the situation is just temporary – a season in their life. But seasons have beginnings and endings. If your busy season has no ending, face reality: It’s not a season – it’s your life.

And you need to build an alternative life you don’t want to escape from.

He argues that won’t come magically by changing jobs. Instead, you need to change yourself. He recommends borrowing from top performers, who do what they are best at when they are at their best. That means their time, energy and priorities are in sync.

Mr. Nieuwhof says we are all “time rich.” You actually have the time to do everything you want to do, but ironically that will only happen when you accept there are only a limited number of highly productive hours in the day. Some hours will produce better results for you than others, so you need to honour their importance to you, which will increase productivity.

He urges you to abandon balance as a goal, since that just means cutting things back – less work, fewer commitments, or less effort. Instead, embrace passion. “Balanced people don’t change the world. Passionate people do,” he writes.

Figure out what those passions are by writing a dream list. On one half of a page, list people or tasks you wish you had more time for. Beside them, on the other side of the page, indicate the approximate hours per week needed for each. Now you have your priorities and time required.

Next, find your green zone – the hours of the day when you will tackle those priorities because you’re at your peak energy level. Most people, he says, have only three to five deeply productive hours a day when their energy is at its peak. You need to uncover when those hours are by watching your stamina and productivity. When do you get your best ideas or are most adept at brainstorming? When are you most focused?

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Patterns will emerge: The green zone will be hours of high energy, yellow zone is mid-level energy, and red zone is low energy. Make sure not to waste those green zone hours, spending them unthinkingly and randomly, as he once did. For example, Mr. Nieuwhof says he was the king of breakfast meetings. But those sessions would gobble up two-and-a-half hours, including time driving to the restaurant and to his office. And most of it was precious green zone time.

Bring your passions and priorities into the best hours of your day and slot other stuff into the less productive time zones. Seek impact in the green zone: Activities that will make the greatest differences, not just in the moment but in the long run. The yellow zone is a good time for meetings, if you can arrange it. The red zone is fine for clearing e-mail, holding lower-stake meetings and exercise. “The biggest red zone mistake you can make is to leave important decisions or critical tasks for this zone,” he warns.

You may feel you don’t control your calendar. But he argues you have more control than you believe. When he coaches people, they often realize there are only 10 to 12 hours of meetings or appointments they truly have to attend in a week. That leaves lots of time for leveraging your energy. “How much better can you do with the hours you do control?” he asks.

As much as possible, do what you are best at when you are at your best.

Quick hits

· Here’s a diversity test, from cross-cultural communications professor Omekongo Dibinga: What do your seven closest friends look like? Who are the authors of the last seven books you read? Similarly, list the sevens for what your closest neighbours look like, your last seven teachers, the cast of the last TV shows or movies watched, and your last seven hires at work.

· To find energy for a job search when you’re already exhausted, career coach Marlo Lyons recommends closing your eyes and visualizing a time when you were excited about a new job or happy in your current one, and what about those images excite you? Now visualize how you will feel when you find your dream job.

· Newly promoted supervisors tend to follow the role model before them: their current manager. Leadership coach Jennifer Miller says that means that if you’re a newly promoted supervisor and your boss is a jerk, you are more likely to act like one too. Be careful of what behaviours you choose to emulate.

· Jen Fisher, chief well-being officer at Deloitte, notes nobody has yet invented a pop-up box when you reply-all on an e-mail that asks: “Do you really want to send this to everyone?” But that doesn’t stop you from pausing and asking yourself that important question.

· We write in sentences but speak in words, contends speech coach Gary Genard. So beware in presentations when working from a manuscript as it can make you too wordy. Instead, grab the phrase or idea you need to convey, look up at your listeners, and share it. Then look down and get the next one. He says listeners won’t mind the second or so it takes you to do this.

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