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Don’t power through your slumps! Make them work for you!

By Lori Bruhns

Huh?....What is she talking about? Don’t power through my slumps?

I’m talking about getting to know your body and figuring out your circadian rhythm.

What the hell is that?

A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings including plants, animals, fungi, and cyanobacteria (cyano-what? It’s a kind of bacteria that lives in the water). Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings. There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle.

Think of your circadian rhythm as your internal clock. If you learn to work with this internal clock, you will be more productive and feel great. Unfortunately, most of us ignore our internal clocks or try to shock them by forcing them to adjust to our crazy, busy schedules. So today I wanted to teach you how to use it to your best advantage.

When it comes to productivity, you probably already think of yourself as either a morning person or a night owl. But what does this really mean? You might think of it as just a simple preference, but the reason you like to be up at 5am, so you can review that report and send important emails by 6:30am, probably has more to do with your body than you realize.

If you like to get work done early in the morning, it means that’s the time when your mind is on. This is me. I am a morning person, so you will see me up at the butt crack of dawn smiling and ready to go. But if it’s after 5pm, don’t come near me because I won’t be able to concentrate on you (or anything else for that matter).

Okay, but what the hell does this have to do with productivity?

Here’s the point: whether you work best at 2am or 2pm, you can use this to your advantage.

If you are a night owl and your brain is in full swing at 10pm, then that’s when you should be doing “productive and mind energizing tasks.” At 7am, do “mindless non communicative tasks” (I know you night owls don’t want anyone talking to you before 9am). Your body, mind, and those around you will thank you for it.

Now, what if you have a job that requires you to work at certain times? What if naturally you’re a night owl, but you have to be a morning person because you have to be at your desk working at 8 or 9am? Well, one thing to consider is that if you want to have a side business to pick up some extra cash or if you want to start a business of your own, you are perfectly positioned to do this. You can work on your business when you are at your sharpest.

But you can also still make the 9 to 5 thing work without hurting yourself in the process.

Night owls, here is what your day should look like:

1. Respond to emails first thing. Check email and respond as soon as you get to your desk, so you don’t have to speak to anyone right away.

2. Do easy, like able tasks early in the day. Save the stuff you hate for later, when you’re feeling more awake and “on.”

3. Plan ahead. Look at your day the night before to find tasks that will be mindless, but effective to do when you aren’t feeling at the top of your game.

Morning people, just reverse this! It really is that simple.

This won’t come easy. It will require some adjustments, like training yourself to go to bed at the right time so you get the right amount of sleep. But if you get into a routine and stick with it, you can be more productive while working with your body, instead of against it! Go with your inner flow people!

So what if you want to become a morning person? (Okay, I’m not sure why you want to do this. Morning people are pretty crazy, but I can help.) First and foremost, you can’t just instantly be a morning person when your body is a night owl. Sorry... you can’t just shock your body into it.

What you can do is gradually work your way into it.

Here’s how:

1. Get up 5 minutes (yes, just 5!) earlier than you normally do for 1 week straight.

2. Go to bed 10 minutes (yes, just 10!) earlier than you normally do for 1 week straight.

3. Then after the first week, add another 5 minutes and 10 minutes respectively for the next week. Repeat, until you get to your desired wake-up and sleep times.

If you try to do more than this gradual increase at this pace, you will shock your body into an unnatural rhythm and you will pay for it down the line. For example, your immune system won't function as well because your normal hormonal and metabolic functions will be interrupted. So, not listening to your circadian rhythm can lead to more sick days.

Shocking your body can also cause sleep disorders like Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), where your body takes extra long to fall asleep, or Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS), where your body falls asleep early (for example, between 6pm and 9pm) and wakes up early (for example, between 1am and 5am).

The next time you feel yourself in a slump, consider your circadian rhythm.

Study your body and figure out what time of the day you feel the most energized, the sharpest, and the most like yourself. Once you’ve figured out your inner clock, plan around yourself. If you can stick with it, you will be as productive as possible. Make this the week to get started!

Want more help working with your inner clock and learning how to be your most productive? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 919-606-7170, and I’ll help you make the next 90 days your most productive yet.