Discover Your Unique Work Rhythm and Thrive

Discover Your Unique Work Rhythm and Thrive

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog entitled Working From Home? Tips to Help Productivity.   It shared 6 practical strategies to help those working from home.  While I had implemented them on a consistent basis I found myself continuing to struggle. I couldn’t seem to find a natural flow. You know,  the pattern that enables you to work so that you feel motivated, productive, and energized by what you are doing. In that previous article, I wrote:

“Be familiar with your natural cycle and work around that as much as possible, in other words, what time of day are you most productive?”

Makes sense.  I am aware that I am not a morning person and work better later in the day.  Yet, I kept berating myself that I should get to bed earlier in order to rise earlier, to begin work earlier. But I didn’t.  Furthermore, working part-time from home I was struggling with what days I should be working and what routine I should have on those days. 

As I was thinking about my predicament the word “Rhythm” entered my head and I decided to do some reading. I learned that “your natural cycle” has a lot more to it than just whether or not you are a morning person.  I discovered something called your own work rhythm, and more.  If you are experiencing difficulty finding your groove,  by reading the following 4 steps I hope you will be encouraged.   It is my desire that when you and I apply them we will become more productive, fulfilled, and thrive.

STEP 1: DISCOVERING YOUR PEAK, VALLEY & REBOUND TIME

Life is full of rhythms (cycles).  There are the seasons, times of day, stages of life, and so on.  Therefore it shouldn’t be a surprise that there is a rhythm of work.  As human beings, we are not made to function continuously or optimally 100% of the time.  Research conducted by James Hewitt on sustainable peak performance indicated that people typically go through three stages in their day.  They are:

  • PEAK (High Cognitive Gear) – the time that requires concentrated focus.
  • VALLEY (Low Cognitive Gear) – the time for rest, reflection, and recovery
  • REBOUND (Middle Cognitive Gear) – the time for menial tasks, switching work, routine

The early bird cycle is usually Peak, Valley, Rebound whereas the night owl is the converse and some of us are somewhere in between. I was quite comforted to find that I fit the somewhere in-between cycle.

Each of us has our own rhythm. In order to work more productively while simultaneously feeling mental, emotional, and physical comfort it is important to discover your “groove”.

The first step to finding your optimal work rhythm is to make a conscious effort.  This will be trial and error to see what works best for you over an extended period of time (2-4 weeks). Take note of such things as:

  • When was I most productive?
  • When did I find myself distracted or tired?
  • How many breaks did I take?
  • In which part of the day did I do certain tasks?

At the end of your experiment go through your notes and look for patterns. It may take some time, trying various ways of breaking up and organizing your day until you find what works optimally for you.  You will know when you have your rhythm because your day will feel a lot less like work.

STEP 2: ESTABLISH YOUR ROUTINE

Having determined your natural rhythm it is then time to focus on establishing a routine based on that rhythm.  This is important as being a small business owner is a marathon, not a sprint. Your routines need to be sustainable over time. In order to create your routine the following process may help:

a.  Have Clear Goals

Before a routine can be fixed it is critical to know the direction you are heading for the long term and the short (daily, weekly, monthly). Once you have your objectives create a TO-DO list(s).

b.  Slot Your To-Dos into Your Natural Rhythm

Having determined your to-do list(s) prioritize and then slot the items according to those that require focussed, medium, and minimal energy.  Be sure to include breaks for both Peak and Rebound time.  Breaks, when taken purposefully enhance productivity.

One technique that works well for the Peak part of your rhythm and naturally includes breaks, is the Pomodoro Method.  In essence, you break a significant task into 3-4 smaller periods (Pomodoros) of 25 minutes each separated by a 5-minute break.  At the end of the 3-4 periods, you take a longer break of 10-15 minutes.  The 5-minute breaks can be as simple as stretching at your desk and the 10 – 15 minute break can be having a coffee and a snack or chatting with a colleague.

It is one thing to be a sole proprietor and establish your own routine, and another when you are a small business owner with a few employees.  What is important to remember is to extend the same process to them, trusting them to figure out their natural rhythm, while holding them accountable for getting things done.

Furthermore, it is critical to remember that routines can change.  A routine may be a forced change by an outside source (such as the pandemic or the rhythm of your business), or simply a desired change because you have been doing the same thing for some time and need variety.  Whatever the case, you can create new routines based on your natural rhythm.

STEP 3: CREATE YOUR CONDUCIVE ENVIRONMENT

The focus so far has been on the WHEN you work well, but equally important is the WHERE.  Your environment impacts such things as productivity, performance, comfort level, mood, and so on.  Therefore it is beneficial to create a workspace that is conducive to you and your natural rhythm 6 Steps to Creating an Efficient Home Office outlines how this can be done. 

These same principles can be applied to one degree or another in a public office.  For example, in my last job I was given permission to make my cubicle my own by adding some Ikea shelving and decor.  I also added photos, potted plants, and some additional personal items (this, in turn, inspired some of my colleagues to do the same).

STEP 4: MAINTAIN YOUR CONNECTIONS

In order for you to maintain your personal rhythm and the rhythm of your small business over time, it is critical maintaining your connections/relationships.  You will experience highs and lows with your business and others can be of support.  This is extremely important if you are a sole entrepreneur. 

Throughout your day be sure to connect with others (during your valley or rebound time).  If you employ others be sure to be familiar with their rhythm/groove, their likes, and dislikes.  Schedule team meetings or a staff snack time once a week.  If you work alone be sure to connect with a friend for a walk or use technology to connect via zoom or facetime.  Connection with others will foster overall well-being which will translate into positive productivity.

Technology, changes in society, and remote work have changed the landscape of the working world.  The days of 9 am – 5 pm are gone for many, especially those who are small business owners.  As small business owners, we want to work smarter not harder (since being an entrepreneur is challenging enough). Therefore, discovering your natural rhythm/groove is critical.  Once found, productive routines can be implemented.  Supported by your conducive environment and connections both you and your business should thrive!

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