If you’ve held an office job, chances are there were times during your work day when you felt awake, alert and creative. Then, you might have hit other points during the day (like a mid-afternoon slump, for example), when you could barely string two sentences together. But at the same time, the guy in the next cubicle was churning out projects and singing along to the radio.
Everybody has their own individual time when they are at their best. You might be a night owl, getting your best work done at 2:00 AM, while your partner pops out of bed at 7:00 AM and is raring to go. This is due to ultradian rhythms: biological cycles that repeat during a 24-hour circadian day. Ultradian rhythms govern your body’s energy, mood, and cognitive function.
By figuring out when you have your peak energy, you can not only be in tune with your ultradian rhythm, but also be your most productive. Since ultradian rhythms function in 90-minute intervals, it’s a good idea to assess when you’re most awake and harness the power of your first ultradian rhythm of the day, when you’ll essentially be at your peak. After 90 minutes, you should take a 20-minute break to relax your mind and recharge your batteries. Although the ultradian rhythm cycle will repeat itself throughout the day, you’ll have less energy with each subsequent wave.
To figure out when you are at your peak, determine what time of day you have the most energy. Do self-assessments at a few intervals during the day: 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. Chances are you already know what is your optimum time. But don’t stop there; next, figure out when you also have the least amount of distractions or interruptions to ensure your ultradian rhythm’s natural flow. Make sure these two times match so that you can utilize the time most effectively.
But if you think that you can plow through when your ultradian rhythm is at its lowest point, think again. That’s why, when you work a traditional 9-5, you might find yourself sitting at your desk—and staring off into space. Your brain simply won’t function the way you want it to when it’s not at its ultradian rhythm’s peak.
That’s why ultradian rhythms matter at work. If you have flexibility in your schedule, you can harness the power of your body’s innate circadian cycle and use it to always perform at your peak. It’s simply not possible to show up at an office and be at your peak for eight hours straight. Having work flexibility means that you can control your workflow to flow with your body’s own ultradian rhythm, and produce the best work possible—every single day.
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