We are not computers. We are not meant to sit for 8+ hours every day. We are not meant to work continuously for long hours. We are not meant to stay connected 24/7.
The human body is hard-wired to pulse. To operate at our best, we need to renew our energy throughout the day – not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. When we build this rhythm into our lives, it changes everything. Unfortunately, rest is something we rarely get a chance to do in today’s increasingly hectic working world.
However, by making the following changes in your life, you’ll see your productivity and performance (as well as happiness) soar:
Align with Your Body’s Natural Rhythm
Ultradian Rhythms are the natural bodily rhythms that occur at intervals of less than 24 hours. For most people Ultradian Rhythms occur at intervals of 90-120 minutes throughout the day, during which they feel energized and are able to get things done. This is followed by a 30 minute stretch of low energy levels. Then the cycle starts again and you’re on your way towards another period of peak performance. In practice, most people experience this by feeling energized for an hour or two, and then rather quickly their minds start to wander, they feel drowsy, and lose focus. This is evident in feeling full of energy in the morning at work, but in the afternoon you suddenly find it hard to concentrate on anything. The trick is to learn to harness these periods of high energy for productive purposes, and also to learn to wind down, relax, and replenish your energy during the “down” times.
Spend Your Energy More Efficiently
The counter intuitive secret to sustainable great performance is to live like a sprinter. How to put this into action in your everyday life: Know that after 45-50 min of productive work (at whatever task you’re doing) you need to stop – take 10 minutes to take a break and recharge. Then repeat with another 45-50 min of work, only this time take a longer break (20-30 minutes). Being able to unfocus this way is a hugely unrated skill, but a complete disengagement from the task at hand is at the heart of being able to rest and properly replenish your energy levels. The ability to focus is like a muscle, and by training it this way you actually become better at it, and focusing on whatever you are engaged in becomes easier over time.
Multitasking is NOT possible. Despite appearances, you simply can’t talk on the phone, read e-mail, facebook message someone, and watch YouTube videos all at the same time. In fact, rather than engaging in simultaneous tasks, you are shifting from one task to another to another in rapid succession. For example, you switch from your phone conversation to an email on your computer screen to a picture on facebook and back again in the belief that you are doing them simultaneously. But you’re not. In addition, research has shown that when we “multitask” we become on average 25% less effective at every task.
Go 100% For 90 Minutes
Work at your highest intensity in the mornings, for no more than 90 minutes at a time, and then take a break. If we work at high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we begin to draw on emergency reserves to keep us going (adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol). Effectively, that means we move from parasympathetic to sympathetic arousal — a physiological state more commonly known as “fight or flight.” When we rely on these stress hormones as a source of energy, we become more reactive and less capable of thinking clearly, reflectively or imaginatively.
Don’t Lose Sleep
Sleep maintains your circadian rhythms (the light-dependent 24-hour cycle that regulates body and mind), restores your body functions and strengthens your immune system. It also helps you remember what you learn and prepares you for your next challenge. Even a single night of poor sleep – meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours – can impact your ability to think clearly the next day. Even worse, not getting enough sleep can impair your performance on physical or mental tasks, and decrease your problem solving ability.
When we need a rest, our bodies sends us clear signals such as hunger, drowsiness, and loss of focus. But mostly, we override them. Instead, we find artificial ways to pump up our energy: caffeine, energy drinks, sugary foods and simple carbohydrates. Try listening to your body next time these symptoms occur and disconnect – even for 10 minutes. This means no phone, computer, television – just relax. When you are taking a break, it’s important to change channel. If you’ve been engaged in an activity that requires a lot of thinking and brainwork, the break should disengage you from using your mind. This can be done by going for a walk, doing some yoga, meditating, playing with your children, or even taking a 20 minute power nap (who doesn’t love a good nap?).
Chiropractic care can definitely boost productivity. In a study published by the Journal of Occupational Medicine, the number of days lost from work was nearly 10 times lower for workers who received chiropractic adjustments than the group receiving strictly medical care. Chiropractic can reduce costs and increase productivity by helping people get well (and stay well) and get back to work sooner.