The GTD Energy Level Averages Equation

Calculate your energy level
wrote this on March 4, 2013
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* GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. IQTELL is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.

Knowing just the right amount of energy (GTD energy level) required to perform a task might make the difference between done and didn’t.

You can always find an “Energy required” section on my lists because understanding how much energy an item on my list requires helps me sort that list according to the energy.  I can then quickly zoom in on the right tasks…Thanks David Allen.

In IQTELL, I have an option to sort my lists according to context, priority, energy and other task/project specific parameters.  Using energy as a factor for prioritizing and scheduling a task helps me tackle difficult tasks when my energy levels are high; at the same time, making sure I’m still productive by tackling easier tasks when my energy level is low.

To determine the GTD energy level required, I use a little calculation I call fondly


“The GTD energy level averages equation”.


It’s a quick average calculation that consists of 10 parameters that helps me sort my daily/weekly tasks according to a defined and accurate energy level. The parameter weight range is from 1 to 3 and the sum is divided by the number of parameters answered (which, for me, is usually 10).  Certain parameters may impact more or less, but that’s a subjective preference that’s up to you. Here’s how to calculate your action average energy levels:

1# Is it a tough physical action?

The amount of strength you need to invest in a physical action.  For example, shopping at the mall on Black Friday may be a 3 while checking email may be a 1.

2# Is it a tough mental action?

This represents the mental capacity you need to have while doing this task.  Solving Fermat’s theorem may be a 3 while giving the dog food in the am may be a 1.

3# Are you fit?

Studies show that if you are physically fit, you have more energy.  So this is a negative parameter.  The more fit you are the lower number.

– If you exercise more than 3 times per week in the past year, your answer should be 1.

– If you’re not exercising, your answer should be 3.

4# How well have you slept?

A good night sleep makes a night and day difference when it comes to action completion; also, an inverse parameter.

– If you sleep less than 4 hours, pick 3.

– If you sleep more than 7 hours, pick 1.  BTW, you are very lucky ;-)

5# What’s the time of day you’re planning to do it?

Again, this is subjective since some people are more productive at night.

– Morning or midday, pick 1.

– Afternoon, pick 2.

– Evening, pick 3.

6# What day of the week it is scheduled on?

Studies show that you’re much more productive during the week and that the day you pick to do an action also plays a role when it comes to your level of energy.

– Monday – Thursday, pick 1.

– Friday, pick 2.

– Saturday – Sunday, pick 3.

7# How Hot Is The Iron?

For me, there’s a difference between energy I’ve got for immediate tasks and energy for postponed tasks.  So I add this to the equation.

– If you can do the task now, pick 1.

– If you need to do the task today, but it’ll have to wait until you finish other tasks, pick 2.

– If you need to do the task today but it’ll have to wait for tomorrow pick 3.

8# Amount of time a task/project might take?

According to the length of an action, I can estimate the amount of energy it’ll require.

– If it take somewhere between 2-15 minutes, pick 1.

– If it’ll take 30 minutes, pick 2.

– If it takes more than 30 minutes pick 3.

If the duration of the task is longer, you’ll need more energy.

9# Love/hate the task/project?

You don’t need as much energy for things you love as compared to those tasks you abhor.

– If it’s a task you hate, pick 3.

– If it’s a task you love, pick 1.

10# Will your environment support or interrupt?

This section is a bit like context but is calculated as a factor of energy because context (in case you haven’t noticed) influences your level of energy.

– If the context is right to support the task, pick 1.

– If the context might prevent you from completing the task, pick 3.

Quickly add up your sum and divided it by 10.  That’ll give you the true energy level you need for the task.

Here’s my real example.

Action: writing a post for IQTELL.

1# Is it a tough physical action? 0

2# Is it a tough mental action? 3

3# Are you fit? 1

4# How well have you slept? 1

5# What’s the time of day you’re planning to do it? 1

6# What day of the week it is scheduled on? 1

7# How Hot Is The Iron? 1

8# Amount of time a task/project might take? 3

9# Love/hate the task/project? 1

10# Will your environment support or interrupt? 1

Sum: 13

Questions answered: 9

13/9= 1.4

You can use the template above to quickly calculate your energy levels, and it might be a good practice (at least at first) to always round up as means of not underestimating the amount of energy required.

* Use this equation to get a more accurate estimation of the energy level your actions require and the process will run smoother. Use it only to clarify the amount of energy you need to invest in an action that you’re uncertain about. 

Until next time.

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5 responses to “The GTD Energy Level Averages Equation”

  1. Guest says:

    This is a joke…right? The only person I could imagine using something like this would have OCD tendencies, coupled with anxiety and self worth issues, and would feel obligated to spend inordinate amounts of time and energy using this formula in an attempt to ascertain how much time and energy a task requires, only to discover they don’t have the time or energy because they blew it on this formula!

  2. braincutlery says:

    This is why GTDers get a reputation for loving complexity!

    I admire the scientific approach you’ve taken here, but I wonder if there’s an adaptation of it – some kind of visual decision tree – that might make it feel less like you need a PHD to execute it!

    Keep pushing the envelope!


    • Once everything is in a formula, there’s no need to make decisions. This frees your decision making pool to tackle actions that require creativity and gives you an accurate Energy level parameter, not an estimate.

      That being said, I never use it more than once or twice for the same action and only on complex actions. Once you do it once, you can (with little deviation) adjust it to actions that are similar in nature.

      Equations work for me, but I can definitely see myself creating a decision tree (this also requires a template).

      Thanks BC :)

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