We all have different cycles of mental and physical energy, and usually there is a pattern. For example, some of us our night owls and we do our best thinking at night. Others are early birds and do our best thinking at the wee hours of the morning.
A long time ago I recognized that I had a “daily energy cycle”. In regards to my mental energy, I tend to be a blend of both a night owl (if I can stay awake after I put my kids to bed) and an early bird (with my best thinking before 9am). I also noticed I had a “zone out” period from about 3 – 5pm. During the zone out time, I try take a break from tasks requiring intense focus, as I’m sure to miss stuff. Instead, I exercise, play with my kids, or focus on mundane tasks that don’t require intense concentration. Anything I write or review during these hours I usually review more carefully later at night or in the early morning.
In regards to my physical energy, I noticed that I had the best workouts during my “zone out” periods in the afternoon or in the morning, well after I had a cup of coffee, watched some news, and checked some email.
I also noticed that my mental and physical energy is greatly affected by my hydration, sleep, and diet. This may sound obvious (and it’s stated in practically every health magazine out there), but until I made an intentional attempt to monitor my energy, I didn’t realize how much these things factored into my mental and physician state, not to mention my mood.
Being aware of mental and physical energy cycles helps me to plan my day to optimize efficiency. I plan the tasks that require more intense mental focus during the times of day when I have the most mental energy. In the end, this not only delivers a better result, but saves time; if I were do these same things at a time when my mental energy is low, it would not only take longer, but the chances for error would be higher.
I plan activities with my kids around my energy cycles too. For example, they usually work on their homework after dinner, when my mental and physical energy is restored and high (which means I have more focus and patience to help). I also pay attention to their energy cycles and plan their activities accordingly. Our homework routine also coincides with their mental energy cycle, which is also higher after dinner.
Mapping out and optimizing your energy cycles is simple:
- Write down what you’re doing and how you feel at frequent intervals throughout the day
- After a week or so, look through your notes and see if you detect a pattern
- Write down what you think the high and low times (and days of the week) are for your mental and physical energy
- Experiment with scheduling things based on these energy cycles, with the goal of optimizing the points of high-energy
- Journal the results, and see if you detect a pattern
One important note: if your new scheduling pattern affects others, you want to make sure you communicate the change (and reason behind it) to those whom are impacted. For example, if you decide to take a “work out” break from 3 – 5pm, a time when co-workers are used to calling you, proactively reach out to your team (especially your boss) and explain that you have a hard time concentrating during that window and instead are going to use it to recharge. It’s also important to explain when you will “make-up” that time if required.
Over time, hopefully you will increase your energy even further from the positive results you get from optimizing your energy cycles and the decreased drain you get from trying to do high-energy tasks during points of low-energy.