Want to know what really sets you up for a great day at work? Well, it’s not your morning latte combined with a chat with the cute barista boy. It’s your body clock, and it determines most of our daily behaviours, including when we’re most likely to impress the boss or drop the ball in a presentation.
Chronobiologist Dr Gerard Kennedy of Melbourne’s Victoria University studies the body and how it behaves in relation to time. “Our internal master clock is located in the brain. Regulated by light, this circadian rhythm synchronises cells to cause variations in the body and its mental functions throughout the day.”
In real words that means that even if you’re more organised than the love child of Monica from Friends and Martha Stewart, without a strict time management plan based on your body clock, your ability and productivity can lapse. The good news is that it’s easy to take advantage of your body clock’s schedule to plan your most productive day yet – you just need a watch!
Wake up early and make the most of this productive time of day while your mind is clear and uncluttered. “Plan for upcoming projects or brainstorm ideas before the distraction of the working day begins,” suggest Lynne Roeder, Regional Director of Hays Recruitment. It’s also a good time to get your day in order by preparing for any meetings, reviewing documentation or brushing up on client history.
Hit the ground running the moment you get into the office to capitalise on peak levels of performance and concentration. Dr Kennedy explains, “Adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, are released by the adrenal glands to jump start your day.” Roeder also suggests using this time to, “go about the day-to-day responsibilities of your job and utilise your technical skills.” Tackle that to-do list and get those niggling little jobs out of the way while motivation is high.
Have a difficult situation to deal with? Do it now suggests Dr Kennedy. “Blood pressure rises steadily throughout the day making stressful situations even more physically demanding as the day wears on.” Schedule important meetings now when you’re at your most alert. Not only are your extraversion levels (ie your body’s need to seek gratification) peaking at this time, but you’re still riding a wave of heightened performance and concentration due to an increase of blood flow to the brain. If you can choose a time for your next performance review or job interview, this is it.
Take a short break and snack on some fruit. “Our concentration levels wax and wane throughout the day and typically we can only concentrate effectively for 90 minute blocks,” says Dr Kennedy. Regularly refuelling with healthy snacks throughout the day will keep blood sugars in check and energy levels high.
Verbal reasoning skills peak at this time so, “It’s a great opportunity to sieve through information and come to conclusions,” says Roeder. Use this to your advantage by reviewing current systems to identify ways in which service could be improved, or comparing potential suppliers and determine the most cost-effective. This could also be a great time of day to ask the boss for a pay rise.
Take a lunch break, but say no to the wine. “Your body’s ability to metabolise alcohol is at its slowest now and you’re much more likely to be effected,” warns Dr Kennedy.
Feeling fresh after lunch and with long-term memory peaking it’s a good time to schedule in some research or study.
Due to a drop in body temperature, concentration and energy levels slump at this time, explaining the sudden Tim Tam craving. Avoid careless errors in judgment and “give your creative side a rest,” suggest Roeder. “This is the ideal time to deal with routine tasks, such as filing, completing paperwork, setting up meeting times or reviewing correspondence.”
Hit the gym. Your blood vessels are at their most dilated and your body temperature is at its highest so exercise will be the most beneficial at this time of day. Not only does it keep you looking hot in your skinny jeans, it’s a great stress buster and the perfect way to process a busy day in the office.
Utilise a second peak in extraversion levels to make some new contacts at a networking or industry event.
We have a small window here where energy and concentration levels pick up, “But don’t get too engrossed or you put at risk a restful night’s sleep,” warns Dr Kennedy. Roeder suggests only using this time to work if absolutely essential, but simple tasks such as planning tomorrow’s diary or answering emails are fine. “Work/life balance is just as important for your overall long-term performance and health,” urges Roeder.