Organize Your Day Based on Your Biorhythms (By Nicola L. Ritter, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)

Organize Your Day Based on Your Biorhythms

By: Nicola L. Ritter, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant

 

What are biorhythms?  According to dictionary.com, biorhythms are a cyclically recurring pattern of physiological states in an organism or organ, such as alpha rhythm or circadian rhythm; believed by some to affect physical and mental states and behavior. Reflecting on my own biorhythms has been a useful exercise to help me organize my days and weeks in terms of finding time to complete different tasks, exercise, and spend time with my family. 

 

To determine my own biorhythms, I began monitoring myself using a writing log suggested by POWER services. For one month, I recorded everything I did from responding to emails, to collecting data, to writing manuscripts. Throughout the month I also tried different tasks at different times of the day and different times of the week. Within two weeks I began to see patterns related to the time of day and type of task I was involved with. By the last two weeks, I began to tune-in to /align the time of day to the type of task. As a result, I am more productive in my work-related tasks and personal life activities (e.g., laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.). I have more balance in my life to where I can enjoy my time at work as well as spend quality time with my family and friends. In reflecting on work tasks, however, I have found it important to prioritize which tasks are the “hard-tasks…” To do this, first reflect on your to-do list. Next, determine the level of difficulty of each task. Lastly, schedule your “hard-tasks” while you’re the sharpest and the other tasks when you are less sharp.

 

As I think about the things I want to accomplish on a given day, whether they are work related or personnel agenda items, I make sure to prioritize what work related tasks are the “hard tasks”. When I reflect on my to-do list, I acknowledge all the things on my to-do list are not created equal! Undoubtedly, some things are more important than others and some things will take more effort than others.  For example, answering emails probably will not be as challenging as finishing up a manuscript to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.  So, given that all the things on your to-do list will require varying degrees of effort on your part, why not organize your day (when you can) around your biorhythms? Determine when you are the sharpest and then devote this time to “doing the hard tasks”. Note, we don’t always have the luxury to organize everyday based on our biorhythms. Things come up, but organize your day according to you biorhythms when you can and at least try to recognize when you are at your sharpest.

 

Over the past couple of years, I found that I am my sharpest first thing in the morning. As a result, I’ve become or realized I’m a “morning person”. That is, I get up early most days of the week usually generating text for at least one of Cirillo’s (2013) Pomodoro® session before anything else, grab some breakfast, and then head to the office and try to do the “hard tasks” first thing—while I’m fresh and have a lot of energy.  What I don’t do first thing is start wading through email—unless I know there is an email waiting for me that deals with a challenging issue. In contrast, I try to schedule meetings, respond to email, and edit texts in the afternoon. There are times when I have little control of when meetings are scheduled. When this occurs, I arrange my day accordingly and also consider the uncontrolled event in light of the great work week. For example, if I have morning meetings scheduled (my non-preferred time), I know I won’t get as much of the “hard tasks” done during the morning (as I would prefer). So, I adjust my morning routine during the day or another day of the week by waking up earlier to get the time lost during the scheduled meeting time or by extending my “hard tasks” time on another day of the week.

 

So, what does a typical day look like for me?  Well, first of all, there is no typical day - that is one of the great things about being in academia!  However, below is how today will probably look like for me. Notice since I’m a morning person, I’m doing the “hard tasks” early in the day. 

 

7AM - 12PM – Generate text for manuscript, conference proposal, and review another manuscript
 

12PM - 1PM – Lunch away from computer, walk outside, respond to phone calls, or call family members
 

1PM - 1:45PM - Check and respond to email
 

2PM - 5PM – Edit conference proposal, meet with  co-authors, grade student work, and respond to student emails
 

6PM – Evening activities (Evening activities vary from day to day but remain the same on a weekly basis. For example, Monday nights I write with a colleague until 10pm. Tuesday nights is family night and my husband and I do something together.)

 

Think about your biorhythms.  When are you most productive? How do you organize your days to make sure you have time, and are sharpest for the “hard tasks” as well as have time for yourself and your family/friends? 

 

Cirillo, F. (2013). The Pomodoro Technique (3rd ed.). Berlin, Germany: FC Garage GmbH.