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Tracking Your Cycles – What’s Your Level?

Tracking Your Cycles – What’s Your Level?
Time - Clock

    A lot has been written about personal daily cycles – such as biorhythms (which has its skeptics), circadian rhythms, and ultradian rhythms. No matter where you stand on how much is science and how much is schlock – we’ve all experienced different levels of energy and sharp-mindedness throughout the day. Personally I don’t care if it’s a body clock, psychological, or the cycles of the moon and stars – I know at certain times during my workday I’m better at certain tasks. By tracking and knowing what those cycles are, you can greatly increase your productivity – among other things.

    Where Am I Now?

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    There are lots of tools, techniques, and programs for tracking your daily cycles, but I found most to be overly complex. My goal is to simply capture at what times of the day I tend to be more creative, alert, tired, etc. The easiest way I found, is to use a timer, and every hour write down where I am on a scale from one to ten in 3 areas – energy level, creative level, and yap level. Doing this for a week shows some definite patterns, and I began to structure my day accordingly.

    Energy Level

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    Everyone has high energy and low energy cycles throughout the day. They may be associated with sleep patterns or eating patterns, but knowing when you have more energy is extremely beneficial. Set a timer (I’ve used AlfaClock on Windows and Khrono on Linux) and for each interval hour, write down or mark off where your energy level is – 1 to 10. Are you a morning person – ready to go first thing? Or do you really start to pick up steam after lunch? Keeping track of where your energy level is, lets you better plan things like meetings, writing, project work, and naps (if you’re lucky).

    Creativity Level

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    Finding your peak creativity level is a great way to find the best time for things like writing and design. Creative blocks can often be a symptom of working at a time when your creativity level is low. Using the same method as tracking energy level, begin to track when you feel most creative, and when you don’t. This may be a little more difficult to determine than energy level, but over the course of a few days, you’ll begin to see patterns develop.

    Yap Level

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    One area that’s not usually associated with cycles is what I call my yap level – when I feel like talking and when I don’t. When I discuss this with folks, many have one of those ah-ha moments, and realize they too have varying yap levels during the day. I try to schedule calls, meetings, and podcasts during those times when my yap level is up. I find that it’s less strain on my voice. It may be totally psychological, but honestly I don’t care. It works for me, and for those I’ve recommended it to. It may come as no surprise that my high yap levels coincide with high energy levels, and vice versa. My low energy times also become my quiet time, and I use it for processing email, feeds, and other less intensive tasks.

    Now What?

    If you are lucky enough to be self employed, or at least self directed, you can use your daily cycles to your advantage. Scheduling work and other tasks around times when you can best accomplish them makes for a more productive day. But even if you have less control of your own schedule, just knowing your cycles can at least help you better mange the time you do have.

    Tony D. Clark writes, draws cartoons, designs software and websites, and spends a lot of time talking others into working from home, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest focuses on helping parents who want to do meaningful work from home and have more time for their families. His weekly podcast The Creative Venture is designed to bridge the gap between creativity and practical business knowledge, helping creative people earn an income from their gifts.

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    Tony D. Clark

    Tony is the blog owner of "Success from the Nest". He aspires to help people do meaningful work and reach their dreams.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

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    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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