Our work rhythms are as unique as we are. But one thing that’s true for all of us is that we each HAVE work rhythms.
Our energy levels vary, and so there are times of day when we are naturally more energetic and, therefore, more productive.
Our daily rhythms are known as Ultradian. They’re cycles repeated within a 24-hour span. In an Upstart Business Journal article titled ”Find your rhythm and you’ll crack the productivity code” Lisa Nicole Bell, writes:
Here’s a secret of highly productive entrepreneurs and creatives: they respect their ultradian rhythm. You’re probably familiar with the term circadian rhythm, which describes the cycles of waking and sleeping periods. Ultradian rhythm refers to recurrent physical cycles within a 24-hour period. These cycles include blinking, urination, heart rate, and hormonal release. It also extends to the high and low tides of your energy levels. Focusing on your ultradian rhythm is an untapped, yet powerful way to work with your body’s natural tides of energy and get more done.
Your Work Rhythms: Mindfulness Helps
Bringing your full presence to your moments helps you notice how your energy ebbs and flows. In fact, you can create your own ‘personal energy map’ by observing and recording the peaks and valleys of your work rhythms over the course of a couple of weeks.
If you’re like many of us, you may be subconsciously aware of your work rhythms. But rather than adapt to them, you may have tried to shoehorn them into an 8 or 10 or 12-hour day. That’s what many of us do – to our detriment.
What if, instead of that, you proactively harnessed those rhythms and made the most of them? You can start with awareness and see where it takes you!
Work Rhythms: Time and Energy Management
In his recent excellent article titled ”The Origin of the 8 Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink It” Leonhard Widrich quotes Tony Schwartz on the importance of respecting human rhythms. It’s a lengthy passage, but worth quoting in its entirety:
How many hours we work every day is barely important in today’s creative economy. Instead, the right focus is your energy, according to famous author Tony Schwartz:
“Manage your energy, not your time.”
Schwartz explains that as humans we have four different types of energies to manage every day:
- Your physical energy — how healthy are you? (We’ve written about that part before)
- Your emotional energy — how happy are you?
- Your mental energy — how well can you focus on something?
- Your spiritual energy — why are you doing all of this? What is your purpose?
One of the things most of us easily forget is that as humans, we are distinctly different from machines. At the core, this means that machines move linearly and humans move cyclically. For an efficient work day, that truly respects our human nature, the first thing to focus on are ultradian cycles.
As you become more familiar with your own unique work rhythms you may notice that certain times of day are better suited to certain tasks. Another thing you may observe is that you have different ‘limits’ for different kinds of tasks. And these limits may be mental, physical, or both.
Many people swear by the Pomodoro Technique – which uses a timer and prescribes a rhythm of regular work periods punctuated by regular breaks. Your focus is enhanced by the periodic breaks which allow you to step away and return to your work with energy refreshed.
Finding your own unique work rhythm involves mindfulness and experimentation, along with a full-hearted acceptance of your humanity. Respecting your rhythms is about being good to yourself – and then reaping the benefits that result.
As Lisa Nicole Bell writes: “Productivity is about more than getting things done. It’s also about maximizing your enjoyment and satisfaction during working hours.”
So here’s to your unique rhythms, and to your time success!
Related: Five-Column Time Estimation Template
© Copyright 2014 Paula Eder, Ph.D.