1. We naturally have a circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock that regulates sleep, eating patterns, mood, hormone regulation, and everything your body does during the day.
2. Because of this internal clock, there are times when we feel more awake, have a spike in energy, or are able to concentrate better. Alternatively, there are times when we feel more sleepy or lethargic.
3. Think about how you feel at different points in the day and then align your schedule to take advantage of the peak times. For example, maybe you get your most creative work done early in the morning. Or maybe you prefer to exercise in the morning because that's when you have the most energy.
4. Take advantage of your circadian rhythm to optimize your health and performance, and build your ultimate day.
Humans are innately aware of the rhythms of the day, month and year. We are awake during the day and asleep at night. We experience times when we’re more or less alert, hungry, energetic or fatigued. Often, these feelings are influenced by our circadian rhythms – the natural changes in our body’s internal chemistry. Once aware of these natural rhythms, we can take advantage of them to improve health and performance.
Our circadian rhythms are controlled by a structure in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located in the hypothalamus. The SCN is the pacemaker, and it is so powerful that it can control your behaviour and even your genes. For example, it controls the release of melatonin (the hormone that regulates your wakefulness and sleep) and also cortisol (the primary stress hormone).
If you pay attention to your own bodily rhythms for a while, you can start to plan based on them. Ask questions like this: When are you at your best mentally? When do you have trouble concentrating? When do you feel most energetic or lethargic? When are you most likely to want to do some exercise? Then make a plan for your living and working that takes those patterns into account.
Also, keep in mind that your body loves consistency. Back in the sleep module, we learned that going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is good for your brain, body and emotional state. Consistent times allow your hormones and other chemical-producing organs to get into a groove. If you change that pattern, it takes time for your body to adapt. That’s what happens when you fly across time zones and get jet lagged. Changing your sleep-and-wake pattern changes your body’s circadian rhythms and gives you micro jet lags every day. You feel awful and your performance drops.
So I’d like you to defend the last hour of your day so that you can fall asleep quickly and deeply. Set up a routine that allows you to decompress and relax. Many of my clients who have trouble staying asleep are the ones who work late in the evening right before they collapse into bed. You can avoid this by finding a calming activity you love and doing it before bed.
At the other end of the day, think about when you get up and what you do first thing. Leadership Guru Robin Sharma swears by “The 5 a.m. Club.” Waking up early lets you get a head start on the day. You won’t be bothered by emails or messages. The world is quiet. There’s less traffic if you’re going to the gym. You can run on empty roads. You can read a book in peace. You can meditate or do yoga. But most of all, you can get to the important things you need to do for you. And nothing will get in your way.
Also try to program your day so that you are doing your most important tasks at the time of day when you naturally have the most energy. I workout first thing in the morning on waking. Then I do Power Work for 4.5 hours (3 x 90 min). That's my best time of day. I put less important tasks like admin, checking email into my afternoon when I have less energy.
Today's POWER-UP: Use your circadian rhythms
Think about how you feel at different points in the day and then align your work tasks and schedule to take advantage of the peak times. Also control the beginning and end of each day to keep your high-performance rhythms consistent.
To help you figure this out, you can complete section 4 and 5 of your Priority Management Workbook.
Dive Deeper: Your Brain's Ideal Schedule
Check out this article in Harvard Business Review by Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author of The Best Place to Work, on how to structure your day to get the most done.