Well-Being//

If You Feel Pressured to Always Be “On,” Read This

Individual biorhythms are an untapped source of productivity we're all ignoring.

Yangwenshuang/ Getty Images
Yangwenshuang/ Getty Images

My business — like many professions — is torn between two eyeroll-inducing, trendy phrases which seemingly contradict each other: We’re supposed to have “work/life balance” while being “always on.” And it’s exhausting.

Our business sometimes seems to run on never-ending hours, inconsistent or non-existent weekends, and an expectation that if there’s work to do, we should hold hands until it’s done, together. Besides contradicting logic, this contradicts our bodies. Why is this imbalance the norm, when different people are biologically programmed to work best at different hours, and need different physical and emotional boosts to stay productive and creative?

We don’t talk a lot about biorhythms — but it’s time we did.

Amid many complex theories out there, the most simple explanation of  a biorhythm is a “cyclic pattern of physical, emotional, or mental activity said to occur in the life of a person.” It’s the cycle we create to live our everyday lives by (for the most part). And the more consistent we are, the healthier, happier, more productive we’ll be.

You probably know if you’re a morning person. When you’re up, you’re up. There’s no going back to bed. (You never understood people who could!) Your first hour of the day might be intercepted with school backpacks and shoving cereal down little people’s throats, but you’re ready to go, as you fire off emails and start your work day. This also means you’re less functional toward the end of the day, as your natural energy ebbs and flows, but systematically declines as the day goes on.

Others are night owls (not me!) who thrive on “later.” Eating later, working later, going out later, coming alive later. Their productivity peaks when early risers are ready to call it a day.

Discussing people’s biorhythms — as individuals and as teams — is an untapped driver of creativity, productivity, and morale. And evolving culture around biorhythms can benefit performance.

Here’s how company culture might look different when we ditch the one-size-fits-all approach to work hours…

Identify and Embrace Your Rhythm

When do you feel most alive and energetic? When do you start to fade? What works best for you to pick yourself up? Take a few days and take notes. You’ll probably find a pattern arises. Perhaps you need that walk around the park at 1:00 p.m. Or that Soul Cycle class at 8:00 a.m. Block your calendar and give yourself that time. The more you commit to the rhythm that makes you feel most creative and productive, the more creative and productive you will become. And if that means heading off to a 45-minute class midday before a late night at the office, do it! You’re going to be exponentially more present and productive when you return.

 Respect and Discuss

Expressing when you’re at your best (and when you’re not) shouldn’t be a scary conversation. But it might be a bit awkward, so remember what’s at stake: Making time for things that clear our head, reset our soul, and re-energize us will not only make us all happier as individuals, but more committed to the work we do, together. So first, you have to spark a conversation your team has very likely never had before, and then you need to be ready to adjust based on their feedback. Your company already has workday schedules and flexibility in place; know those policies as you begin the conversation, but be ready to talk about how you adapt. What can change? What must change? And respect is huge. If you’re a morning person leading a team of the nocturnal, welcome their valid perspectives. Figure out how you can help people complement versus how you can make others conform.

Commit: Create a Work Rhythm that Works For All

Here’s a crazy thought: build biorhythm status into team composition, to get the most out of everyone when they’re at their best and best devise how and when “passing the baton” is needed during crunch time. The key is that the commitment is systematic, well-communicated and accountable for all members of the team. Transparency is vital to success, as is the understanding that there will be bumps on the road. Don’t let early miscommunications or hassles in your solutions derail your overall commitment. And be ready to iterate and adjust as team composition and lifestyles change.

Embracing biorhythms allows you to maximize your competitive advantage by getting the best out of your team around the clock, based on their own biorhythmic clocks.  Breaks and resets should be encouraged and discussed. It isn’t slacking if you all get more, better work done in the long run.

Ultimately, all it takes is starting a new conversation and making some adjustments to bring to the surface a new source of untapped energy that was there all along.

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