Does the 9-5 workday maximise efficiency? Or would companies be better off paying attention to employee chronotype?
What is the solution to becoming a master of your productivity states instead of being a slave your biological clock?
Dubai: Do you think of yourself as a ‘lark’ or an ‘owl?’
Researchers long ago began to divide people into two groups – larks, the early risers and owls, the late nighters, whose levels of efficiency are based on the time of day or night when they are the most productive and focused.
The increasing emphasis on chronotypes and the impact it has on productivity is gaining a following around the world. A chronotype is your own personal biological clock that controls your body’s rhythms.
American author Daniel Pink whose book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing deals with chronobiology says the term is the study of our biological rhythms. “Some of us rise early and feel energetic in the day and fade out by early evening.
“Other people are groggier in the morning and take a while to ramp up and hit their peak in the late afternoon or evening. Some of us are larks — some of us are owls. But if you look at distribution, most of us are a little bit of both — what I call ‘third birds’.
“There’s a period of day when we’re at our peak, and that’s best for doing analytic tasks like writing a report or auditing a financial statement. There’s the trough, which is the dip — that’s not good for anything. And then there’s recovery, which is less optimal, but we do better at insight and creativity tasks.”
Following your chronotype for better productivity
While there are psychological and environmental factors that can impact energy levels, each individual can identify their peak efficiency time window through trial and error, said Dr Carl Ramberg, Neurologist at the German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai.
Research published in 2012 in the journal Thinking & Reasoning said that people work at the highest brain capacity and are more focused before lunch.
“That time should be used for the tasks that require the most brain power like analytical problem-solving, not reading e-mails. In the afternoon, around 3pm, most people feel more tired. This is the time for creative thinking,” explained Dr Ramberg. When we are tired, we may think more creatively and come up with creative answers to problems, he believes.
[Time before lunch] should be used for tasks that require most brain power like analytical problem-solving, not reading e-mails. In the afternoon, around 3pm, most people feel tired.”
– Dr Carl Ramberg | Neurologist
Hormones play a big role in our daily rhythm. The hormones that “wake you up” such as cortisol, are released in the early morning hours. “It’s possible to measure cortisol. However, you will find higher levels in almost all humans in the morning — even the ones that feel more productive in the evening,” said Dr Ramberg.
On the other hand, the hormone melatonin makes you sleepy, which is at the highest at 3-4am. “In the day, the level is so low that it is hard to detect,” he said.
Body temperature is also the lowest at 4am and the highest at 4pm.
What about people doing night shifts? Studies have shown negative health effects from working night shifts over a long period of time, said Dr Ramberg.
Also, the quality and length of sleep matter.
“Most people don’t realise that they have a bad night’s sleep. They feel drained and without power during the day,” said Dr Ramberg.
While chronotypes could create a pattern of productivity, everyday best practices also play a role.
Sunlight is important for overall productivity and wellbeing. Taking frequent short outdoor breaks or having a large window at the office that lets in sunlight can increase productivity and deliver the much-needed vitamin D.
A stressful work environment like a noisy office landscape may also reduce productivity, while unnecessary time spent on mobile phones and social media also affects productivity levels and distracts our brains from concentrating optimally.
Jerry Seavey, president of MindBridge Trainings, an NPL coach training institute, told Gulf News that business and personal coaching is the solution to becoming a master of your productivity states instead of a slave to your biological clock.
“Coaching is more than the ability to identify strengths and weakness, it is learning how to access inner resources and gain control of our peak states whenever and wherever they are needed,” he said.
While common strategies such as loading up on caffeine or sugar can provide short bursts of energy, they are not sustainable solutions, he said.
“A common reason people give when hiring a coach is that they want more time. Unfortunately, it is not possible to give anyone more time because we all have exactly 24 hours in each day. It is how you choose to manage your time and how to gain more control over your states of heightened productivity, said Seavey.
He explained that NLP Coaching is one of the most effective ways to move from being “a victim of circadian rhythms to mastery of your states of being,” including how to enhance your energy levels, motivation and creativity.
How to calculate your biorhythm:
To find your peak efficiency time window, you can calculate your biorhythm, said Carol Talbot, NLP master trainer.
Biorhythms have been widely used and tested by psychologists. They give you an insight into the main cycles of human energy — physical, emotional and intellectual — during a month.”
– Carol Talbot | NLP master trainer
“Biorhythms are calculated from your date of birth and have been widely used and tested by psychologists. They give you an insight into the main cycles of human energy — physical, emotional and intellectual — during a month,” she told Gulf News.
Life is largely built upon cycles, upon repetition, says Talbot. American medical professional Wilhelm Fliess, a patient of Sigmund Freud discovered 23- and 28-day patterns within humans which he believed were biological phenomena occurring in cycles, a type of internal ‘body-clock’ which regulates the rise and fall of our energy and starts the moment we are born.
“Biorhythms are calculated from your date of birth and have been widely used and tested by psychologists. They give you an insight into the main cycles of human energy – physical, emotional and intellectual- during a month,” she told Gulf News.
The Physical Cycle is 23 days, the Emotional Cycle is 28 days and the Intellectual Cycle is 33 days. When particular biorhythm is in the upper part of the cycle, these are beneficial days for the activity. When one or two biorhythms are down, these are non-beneficial days, i.e. energy for the specific activity at these days will be low and we need to keep this in mind. It is even worse when two or all three biorhythms are down. For example, when physical cycle is in the lower part, your concentration may be diminished and you have to be careful when driving. In Oriental countries people never make important decisions with low biorhythms.
When a particular biorhythm is in the upper part of the cycle, this indicates beneficial days for activity. However, when one or two biorhythms are down, these are non-beneficial days and the energy reserves for physical activities will be low.
Talbot explained that whenever the physical cycle is low, concentration is likely to suffer.
“In the Far East, many people never make important decision with low biorhythms,” she said.
The human energy field
The Human Energy Field (HEF) is the most sensitive reflection of physical, emotional and, in some cases, spiritual condition of a person, says Talbot. Through her work, Talbot works with a Bio-Well Impulse Analyser Device, which can be used for the purpose of capturing and analysing the electro-photonic glow of human fingertips.
The Bio-Well instrument takes measurements from all ten fingers and using sophisticated software, creates an image of the human energy field. The principle is based on the connection of fingers with different organs and systems of the body by Chinese energy meridians. The image created with the Bio-Well instrument is based on ideas of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and verified by 15 years of clinical experience by hundreds of medical doctors with many thousands of patients. It is not a medical device. It gives an impression of your Energy Field and allows you to see its day-to-day transformation and the influence of different situations and stimulus to your energy field and your condition.
“It is a non-intrusive way to measure stress and energy levels using a specialised camera and software system. Each scan returns a wealth of meaningful information to provide you with a truly holistic view of the state of your well-being,” she said.
What is a biorhythm?
According to the theory of biorhythms, a person’s life is influenced by rhythmic biological cycles that affect his or her ability in various domains, such as mental, physical and emotional activity. These cycles begin at birth and oscillate in a steady (sine wave) fashion throughout life, and by modelling them mathematically, it is suggested that a person’s level of ability in each of these domains can be predicted from day to day. The theory is built on the idea that the biofeedback chemical and hormonal secretion functions within the body could show a sinusoidal behaviour over time.