It’s 4pm, and I could use a nap. B-bye.
Our body forces moods and energy levels upon us that just don’t work with real world schedules. Or perhaps those schedules are insufficient.
Sometimes it’s better to be a slave to your body: the benefits are huge.
Ever felt like your body, not your head, was in control? Ever been tired when you had thought-intensive work, antsy when you were waiting for things, or lethargic at the gym? I can’t speak for everyone, but time and again when I’ve felt one of these ways, I could’ve predicted it.
I’ve thought a bit about this and now know my body’s rhythms much better: when I’m going to have the most focus, when I’ll have a short attention span, when I’ll likely want to nap, when I’m most creative, etc. And I’ve got somewhat of a handle on how food and exercise play into these states.
Scheduling Around My Body Rhythms
More and more over the past year I’ve scheduled my days around this. Have you thought long and hard about your daily rhythms? By understanding some of mine, I’ve been able to be both more productive and comfortable throughout the day.
For instance, I try to never schedule with people in the morning, even phone calls. And no email. The morning is when I have the focus to get something creative or thought-intensive accomplished.
I almost always schedule phone calls or meetings after 2:00, when I have some energy but don’t need to be at my absolute best: when working directly with people, it’s easier to stay engaged and focused (whereas it’s not so easy when you’re, say, alone and writing out a specifications document). (Conference calls might be the exception—sometimes you need to schedule them when you’ll be able to stay awake.)
A few hours after lunch I’ll be tired…so I never work on the really hard stuff then. If I have to do intensive work with a client, I’ll make sure a soda is handy. If I’m at the home office, I might take a nap, watch a movie, or run some errands. I’d rather sleep from 4-5 and work from 7 -8 if it’s the difference of that hour actually being useful. And if I never make up that hour later, I didn’t miss much.
When I mention this to others, they often raise the point that working during business hours helps them to not work all the time. They’re fearful that not observing the business hours constraint might lead to working all the time.
I generally work during traditional hours, but I think it’s more important that I monitor the results of my work and quantity of hours than the specific hours when things took place.
In short, I want to work when it’s most pleasant and when I’m most likely to succeed. Caffeine can help, but it’s not a perfect substitute.
Putting that Rhythm Information to Good Use
Once you get a handle on your energy-levels, moods, and other quirks about how you are at different times of the day, you can make better educated decisions about scheduling your time.
To get started with this, try considering some of the following:
- The price of skipping a meal or eating certain foods (in relation to your mood or energy level)
- What role exercise has on your energy levels
- Is taking a nap or siesta possible
- Working when you have energy and not working when you don’t, even if it means stepping outside of “business hours”
- (Intentionally) doing personal stuff (like running an errand or going for a walk) during the business day when you’re not particularly focused
- Doing mindless tasks or errands when you know you’re low energy (filing, going to the post office / bank, reading blogs, making calls about bills, responding to quick emails, even running to the grocery store, etc)
- Specifically not doing mindless tasks when you do have energy (often people forget this, but the opposite of all this stuff is true: you shouldn’t do trivial tasks when you have a lot of focus. Instead, find something more challenging and do the trivial task when you’re tired)
It’s dramatic how different my energy, attention, focus, capacity to learn, and other states can be during different times of the day. For years I never considered this, but now it dictates much of my scheduling.
Have you given much thought to or had success with scheduling around your body’s rhythms?