Your Ups and Downs – Making the Most of Your Energy Cycles
When you’re working on improving your time management and increasing your productivity, you’re usually looking for some tip, strategy or tool from outside to help you. Actually, what you may need is to focus on something that comes from inside. We all have natural energy cycles and learning how to work with them rather than against them is a great way to improve productivity.
An Introduction to Your Energy Cycles
You’re not a machine. Your energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day. If you know when they’re at their highest, you can schedule your most important tasks for that time of day. If you know when they’re low, you can use that time for breaks or more mundane tasks that don’t require much mental or physical energy to accomplish.
Research in biochemistry has found that there are certain energy patterns that most people have. They’ve found that from the hours of about nine in the morning to noon, your mind is the sharpest. The early afternoon until about three is the best time for analytical activities that use reasoning and verbal skills. From three to six, the mind becomes sluggish but the body is at its peak.
What does this mean for you? You might try scheduling tasks that require the most focus in the morning hours. Spend the early afternoon communicating with people or solving problems. Save mentally undemanding tasks or physical work for later in the afternoon.
Discovering Your Own Energy Cycles
The research mentioned above found that this pattern is common; however, it’s not the same for everyone. We all have our own unique way of working. The first step in maximizing your energy levels is to discover how you work.
A good way to do this is to keep a chart or journal. Stop working at certain times throughout the day and write down how you’re feeling. It can be written in simple bullet points. Don’t worry too much about wording. The point is simply to identify your own energy cycles. To make it even simpler, you can create a rating system of one to five. Five means you’re ready to climb a mountain and one means you’re half asleep. You can also write down simple statements describing how you feel.
Another way to uncover your own energy cycles is to look at your behavior. For example, if there are times in the day when you feel like reaching for a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar, you can be certain that this is when your energy is at its low point.
Using Your Energy Cycle Data
Use the data you’ve collected about your energy levels to make a schedule. Put your most demanding tasks on your highest-energy time slots. When your energy is low, schedule easy tasks or take breaks. These also might be good times to reflect or just relax and daydream.
You should create a detailed schedule and stick to it, but you also need to stay flexible. Learn to recognize when you’re moving into another cycle and shift gears accordingly. Most people find that their bodies are like clockwork. Once they discover their cycles, they can make perfect schedules that need little variation. Still, don’t try to push it when the focus isn’t there.
One great way to increase all of your energy cycles is to work a little bit of moderate exercise into your schedule. Just a few minutes of daily exercise can make a huge difference in boosting your energy cycles and shortening your low energy spells.