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Tracking Your Cycles – What’s Your Level?

Tracking Your Cycles – What’s Your Level?
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    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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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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