You may notice that your productivity and energy levels fluctuate throughout a regular workday. You feel fully energised in the morning right after clocking in, then your productivity starts dipping around lunchtime.
This pattern is normal, and it’s due to something called the ultradian rhythm.
What is the Ultradian Rhythm?
People function according to their 24-hour internal body clock, which tells them when to eat, sleep, or be alert. The designated times for different activities vary for everyone, but the cycle is universal. One 24-hour period is a circadian day.
In one circadian day, you cycle through 90-minute intervals of peak productivity and focus. These periods of maximum productivity are called ultradian cycles. The process of entering and leaving ultradian cycles is referred to as the ultradian rhythm.
Your brain feels most focused and energetic during the start of each ultradian cycle. But this energy slowly depletes toward the end of the cycle. You can continue working even as your productivity dips, but there’s a big chance you won’t be as efficient. The downtime is a signal that your brain needs to recharge.
So how do you use this information to manage your time better? One way to leverage your ultradian cycles is to make the most out of your mornings.
The First 90-Minute Rule
Since your brain is most focused in the morning, you can schedule the most mentally challenging and creative tasks during your first few hours in the office. Make no room for distractions. Give all of your attention to the task at hand to milk the most out of your creative mood.
It doesn’t need to be the first thing you do when you get to the office, but you have to schedule the 90-minute hustle before midday. You want to reserve the easier tasks for the afternoon because your productivity dips after lunchtime.
The secret to taking advantage of your ultradian cycles is to establish a daily and weekly routine based on your peak productivity times.
Daily Work Routine
Observe your productivity levels throughout a regular workday for a week to identify when you feel the most energised. Then, schedule your daily tasks according to your peak times. For example, if you clock in at 8:00 AM, give yourself around 15 minutes to settle in before diving into a 90-minute hustle. Then, let your brain rest around 10 AM. You can get a cup of coffee and respond to emails.
Around 10:30 AM, begin your second productivity work burst until lunchtime. During your post-lunch slump, schedule menial tasks, such as touching base with your colleagues and other daily functions. Then, finish your afternoon with one last 90-minute or hour-long productivity cycle.
One secret trick: refrain from checking your email too often. The cost of continuously checking your email is more wasted time than you’d imagine. Schedule email checks every after productivity bursts, so they don’t eat into the time you reserved for heavy tasks.
You can step up your daily schedule by assigning themes to your work days. This means focusing on one goal each day. For example, you’ll allocate Mondays for content production, Tuesdays for content promotion, Wednesdays for research, and so on.
This strategy helps your brain quickly jump from one task to the next, since everything just falls under the same category. It’s easier to follow through your train of thought compared to if you’re going from a marketing task to an administrative one.
Productivity cycles differ for every employee. Determine when your peak times are and curate your regular work day according to these periods. Also, identify which distractions are your weaknesses and train yourself to avoid them. This way, you can solidify your work ethic and become a more efficient employee.