Simple Trick To Get Your Productivity Groove On
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Poor Richard’s Almanac
Many moons ago, I was under the delusion that I was a “morning person,” so when I met a man who told me that I was not a morning person, I chose not to listen. Cute guy, but what did he know about my sleep habits? So, I went about my days as I always had.
Years later, it turns out that the guy had some insight. It also turns out that he was husband material! We have been married for years.
So, when he and my two sons took a trip recently, I noticed that when left to my own devices I would get a second wind well into my day. Without all the extracurricular commotion, I observed that after a certain hour, ideas would start coming to me fast and furious.
All of a sudden these great ideas would flood my mind. At these magical times, I could write faster, respond to my clients’ requests promptly and overall perform better. It made me think about what was different.
When I stick to a “routine work schedule,” I often get tired. Sometimes I can’t concentrate during work hours because of the surroundings or because I went to bed too late the night before, or because of all the interruptions from my young sons. Typically, I just had a cup of joe + a 5 hour energy drink and kept going.
Well, last week my little family headed out on another father-son adventure. The same thing happened again. It seemed that I performed better at a certain time of the day.
Now, you and I know that when we have a day to ourselves, we have all sorts of freedom. I had the leeway to work at all hours without having to bandage a scraped knee or fix a peanut butter sandwich, but there seemed to be more to my microbursts of creativity and increased focus than that! My attention span and imagination were in rare form, especially during particular time segments.
So, when I mentioned this to my husband, you can guess what he said. “I’ve been telling you for years that you are NOT a morning person! You are a NIGHT person.” He reminded me of a scientific phenomenon I hadn’t thought about for a while. We humans have energy cycles that align with the daily cycle of day and night. These biorhythms are also called our natural “chronotypes.”
While talking about one’s “chronotype” might sound a bit scientific or stuffy, it’s actually just a reference to a person’s individual sleep pattern. Researchers believe everyone has a natural chronotype – partially determined by genetics, but also affected by lifestyle, attitude and age.
You – my clients and myself included – rarely think about this, our sleep habits have a profound effect on our energy level, focus and ability to get things done.
Sleep patterns reflect our chronotype. If you like to get up early and go to bed early, you are classified as an “early bird” or “lark”. If you are the person who likes to stay up late and rise late, you are classified as an “owl”. There is another classification called “hummingbirds” – the people who fluctuate between being larks and owls and have no real preference for either pattern – kind of like being ambidextrous. You are simply born with a disposition toward these sleep-awake patterns.
Now, in western society, the pendulum swings toward larks, and owl people tend to raise a few eyebrows. While owl people might be considered a bit weird, a lot of them are simply gravitating toward the times when they are at their best. Our performance can be dramatically affected by the hands of our internal clocks.
Some people feel their best in the morning. They have more energy and higher levels of concentration and alertness. They are generally smiling in the morning and feel chatty, but tend to become lethargic and less productive in the late afternoon.
Night owls have the opposite characteristics. They generally are on top of their game in the late afternoon. Their energy levels are rather low in the morning. They may mumble for the first hour or so of the day – if they speak at all.
A hummingbird type, on the other hand, can swing either way, and yet they still follow a personal biological pattern. If they are feeling good one morning, they will have a decrease in energy in the afternoon. If they feel fatigued in the morning, they will probably be on the upswing in the afternoon. These individuals tend to keep others guessing.
I recently started a time-block log to keep track of my energy, level of creativity, and/or ability to accomplish tasks throughout the day. To be honest, I decided to track this partially because I wanted to prove to my husband that I was a lark. (Yeah, right!) But, to my surprise, after just one week of tracking my behavior I realized I was more owlish than not!
Now, I save my “power hours” to work on the aspects of my business that contribute the most to my success. I schedule those first and you would not believe how much more productive I am. I was pretty good before, but my focus has really ramped up since I jiggled my work day a bit.
The kicker is that once you realize your chronotype, you will notice how very hard it is to accomplish things that don’t coincide with your natural bio-cycles. That’s where we solo business owners have an advantage. We get to set our own rules and adapt our schedules as we see fit. The productivity level soars when you work in tandem with your biorhythm.
Once I found out where my peak energy levels were, I adapted my time schedule to work only around the times where my productivity was at its peak. I schedule my highest valued activities around my peak times and my less important activities during my lull time or low-energy phases. That’s when everything started to get better.
Now, you need to know that no matter what your chronotype is, you will have mini-energy cycles throughout the day. That’s why it’s hard to do eight straight hours in a row. Running at full tilt for long periods of time will take its toll. It’s unsustainable. Something will have to give. That’s why so many solo business owners feel overburdened and stressed. They find themselves wasting time. This lack of focus is actually the No. 1 complaint I hear from my clients.
I find this whole topic fascinating, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you. It has a huge correlation with figuring out the perfect work style for YOU. Learn to fit your work schedule around your energy cycle and watch your productivity skyrocket.
According to a recent study, the chronotype breakdown goes something like this: 10% of the population are larks, 20% are owls, and 70% are hummingbirds. Where do you think you fit in among those statistics?
How do you determine whether you are an “owl” or “lark”?
Without taking a test or keeping a time log, the best way to figure out your chronotype is to note your sleep patterns. If you like to get up early, you are an early bird and will probably perform better in the morning. If you like to sleep in, you are most likely are a night owl and perform better later in the day.
Take note of those segments of your day when you tank, the times when it seems the energy vampires have paid you a visit. Some describe it as “hitting the wall”. Staring blankly at your computer monitor is a good indicator, too. For me, it’s that 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. window. I literally would be fighting nodding off – no matter how much caffeine I’d pumped into my system!
So I challenge you this week to observe your energy levels throughout the day. When do you see more focus? When do you feel invincible?
Once you determine this, there are many things you can do to profit from your discovery. Rearrange your to-do list, create a time log and match it to your energy levels, communicate better with your team, and more.
Try these tricks to get your productivity groove on:
If you are a “Lark”:
1. Begin your work day early.
2. Schedule your clients and important meetings before noon.
3. Work on your best income-producing activities in the morning and leave the other activities for the afternoon, or delegate them all together.
4. Consider a power nap. These are a sure-fire way to fight the afternoon skirmish with feeling sluggish. It’ll help you get a second wind – especially if you are a mompreneur with little ones. Take a nap when your kids nap. You’ll feel much better, and the renewed energy will help you tackle the cooking, bathing and other nightly routines. Or, you can Twitter or send email when your child is watching “SpongeBob SquarePants.” I have found that works a lot better than the juggling act so many mompreneurs practice. Back and forth. Back and forth.
5. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day.
In doing research for this article, I found that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said that an afternoon nap is a good thing. Research with astronauts showed increased productivity and decision-making abilities by up to 50 percent.
I’m not much of a nap taker. I guess I would rather do some jumping jacks or put on music if I must work through my lull hours. But, if you are a lark and take a power nap after 6-8 hours of work time, or are an owl who wants to crawl into bed in the late afternoon, you will feel better and be more productive – as long as your nap is not too long.
FYI: Some famous nappers included Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein – to name a few.
If you are an “Owl”:
1. Begin your workday later in the morning or perhaps even after noon. If you are a mompreneur, this might be challenging, but you might be able to leave your highest income activities for nighttime. Do your less profitable tasks (which you should be delegating anyway) in the morning.
2. Schedule your most important clients meetings, coaching calls, etc., late in your workday.
3. If you must start early, indulge in a protein bar or shake, exercise for 15 minutes, listen to some upbeat music or opt for a late afternoon power nap to garner a second wind.
FYI: A study cited by Discovery News in 2006 showed some evidence that owlish people might be more creative than lark types.
Knowing and taking advantage of your energy patterns will help you steer clear of procrastination and help you focus on tasks. You will know when to tackle the projects that you find more challenging, you’ll be more creative, and you’ll feel less stress.
So, I’m owlish. How about you? Which chronotype best represents you? What hours are best for your productivity? Does your lifestyle allow for your natural energy patterns, or do you force yourself into alien biorhythm patterns?
Once you understand your power hours, make changes to your schedule and watch the leap in productivity. Watch your income make a parallel surge!
So, there it is.
Now get busy and find out whether you are an owl, lark or hummingbird? You will see a difference…I promise!