What if I told you you could learn how to make the most of your most productive time? What if I could eventually dispel the myth of waking up at 5 AM every day to be your most productive self?
I am an early bird, and I am well aware there has historically been a lot of pressure to wake up at the crack of dawn every single day. Yet, to me, this narrative goes back to a harmful work culture that encourages us to “bank-in” more time, make the most of “every single second”.
What if instead, we approached work as a “flow”? By doing that, we can approach our days following a much clearer pattern Yet, as individuals are at their core different, how can you find your flow?
Your favorite productivity guinea pig is back to serve you. A great tool to help you find your flow is chronotypes.
Chronotypes are nothing revolutionary. Chronotype is the scientific term for what we commonly refer to as an internal clock. They are linked to a person’s circadian typology, which makes for our unique differences in activity and alertness in the morning and evening.
As The New York Times reports, a growing number of companies around the world are trying to use chronotypes for their employees and seeing meaningful benefits.
“Knowing your chronotype may help you understand how your internal clock works and how you can synchronize it with your daily activities and duties to use your time most efficiently,” explains Eva Cohen.
In his book, The Power of When, sleep doctor Michael Breus studied a group of patients and divided them into 4 chronotypes: “bears” “lions” “wolves” and “dolphins”. Yet, for the sake of this exercise I am simplifying the distinction to focus on three common patterns:
- AM-Shifted (or early birds)
- PM-shifted (or night owls)
- Biphasic – two peaks throughout the day
Up until recently, chronotypes have been studied to improve and implement better sleep patterns, however, we can make the most of knowing our working day.
Not sure what chronotype are you? Track your energy levels for three days throughout your whole day – segment each hour and rank with a traffic light system when it comes to focusing, motivation, and energy levels (one per column).
I personally am not always a fan of online quizzes, as they can be hit and miss, so I prefer to test it for myself, but if you want some help, check this one based on Dr. Breus’ book, The Power of When.
Some of the findings around chronotypes have helped to explain the far too common process of afternoon slump. In his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel H. Pink reviews the scientific research proving that “timing is everything” isn’t just a cliché.
In his book, he outlines how we all have a peak focus time (usually between an hour and ninety minutes), after which some of this peak energy lasts 3 to 4 hours. In between periods of focused work, we experience “dips”. After a dip, which can last between 1 to 2 hours, we go back to a recovery stage.
Depending on your chronotype, your peak time may look very different than mine. What is truly key is to identify your unique peak hours, when your energy dips, and when you find yourself in a recovery stage.
Once you know that, you should start assigning your tasks based on which phase you are currently in:
- Peak hours: most important work for the day, focused and analytical
- The dip: admin work and smaller tasks
- The recovery: creative work, work without time constraints
“Creative work during my recovery time? Fab, you crazy, girl?”
According to Pink, creativity thrives when we’re more easily distracted as distractions help us make connections we might not have made if we were highly focused, so in a way this time is much more beneficial when it comes to creative and less focused work.
I am of the school of thought that you can better adapt what analytical means to you, and what type of work YOU consider creative.
Make sure you time-block your schedule according to the ‘type of tasks‘ you want to accomplish based on what you rank as creative work, admin tasks, and focused work. .
Making chronotypes work for you
Working smarter means tapping into our natural rhythms, instead of looking at unrealistic expectations. It’s time you make friends with your chronotype. To do that, remember a few key points:
- Chronotypes are our internal clocks and represent our optimal sleep cycles
- There are a lot of misconceptions about them; for example, most people are biphasic and have two peak times throughout their day
- Early birds and night owls make for a smaller portion of people
- You can learn more about your chronotype by tracking your energy levels or carrying out online tests and quizzes
- Peak hours should be for analytical work, the dip for admin tasks, and your recovery stage for creative work
If you are looking to improve your flow, make time to track your energy levels for three days throughout your whole day – segment each hour and rank with a traffic light system when it comes to focusing, motivation, and energy levels (one per column).
Chronotypes have been used to improve sleeping patterns, but by coupling them with the different types of activities throughout the day you can improve your productivity in a way that works with your natural rhythms.