3 April 2018

Busy? Wish You Could Get More Done? Try This 101-Minute Cycle

A guest article for you today from my lovely daughter-in-law Lauren Parsons, well-being and productivity specialist, living in Canada until December. From the beginning of 2019 she’ll be back home and working closely with me and the Getting A Grip business:

 

by Lauren Parsons

If you’ve been on this planet for a while, chances are you’ve heard of circadian rhythm. What you may not know is that there is another set of rhythms that can help you unlock your productivity potential.

In this article I explain how to capitalize on these rhythms and massively boost your productivity using my 101 minute cycle.

While the circadian rhythm is an internal body clock that controls your sleep cycle and your feelings of sleepiness/alertness. It causes us to feel tired during the night-time, so we can get to and stay sleep. Then to naturally be alert during the day with a small dip early afternoon -which explains why you feel so groggy after your lunch break!

Overlapping this rhythm however are your ultradian rhythms, which consist of 90-minute upswings and 20-minute downswings in energy.

What Are Ultradian Rhythms?

In a nutshell, ultradian rhythms are natural cycles during which you can engage in focused, mental activities for 90-minutes after which time your body needs a short recovery break to allow you to recharge. Similar to how your sleep cycle consists of several 90-minute periods that take you through the five stages of sleep, ultradian rhythms take you through peak moments of productivity and necessary moments of rest.

The 20-minute downswing is, surprisingly, the most important aspect of your ultradian rhythm. This is the time when your body needs to take an ultradian break to recharge ready for the next upswing. During this time the ideal would be to recline with your eyes closed. In most offices that isn’t practical, so if that’s the case, having some sort of change of state and doing a non-brain taxing task is the next best option.

Ideally you want your ultradian break to consist of activities that relieve your stress and relax the mind. Try to avoid some of the more common, unhealthy break activities which many people turn to, such as drinking coffee in order to boost energy to get through the day.

Office Worker - Ultradiam Rhythms Productivity Lauren PArsons

Why is this important?

Taking an ultradian break allows you to refocus and work much more effectively and productively during the next upswing so you get more done overall.

Think about the last time that you decided to work all day or all night with very few breaks. How did you feel? Were you at the top of your game or, were you feeling stressed, tired, and irritable? It’s highly likely that you were experiencing the latter. I can also guarantee that all of the time you “worked” was not utilized for working.

Skipping Ultradian Breaks

When our bodies signal that we need an ultradian break (e.g. when we feel distracted, sleepy, hungry/thirsty, irritable or unable to think clearly) we can push through and ignore this feeling. When we do, our body goes into fight or flight mode as it perceives that there must be some sort of emergency if you are not listening the clear cues it was sending you. This releases stress hormones such as adrenaline, giving us our second wind and allowing us to push through. At the same time it undermines our health, down regulating our immune and digestive systems and over time leading to high levels of cortisol – our chronic stress hormone – which negatively impacts our health.

It’s almost as if people get caught in a negative spiral of low-productivity and negative self-talk. When you don’t use your time wisely, it leads to feelings of frustration, inadequacy and guilt. You begin to compare yourself to others who may appear to get more done. This can drive you further down the road of workaholism as you strive to achieve even more, taking even less breaks and getting further diminishing returns.

Do you want to allow yourself to continue feeling like that?

Or would you rather be able to get more work done throughout the day without feeling stressed, exhausted, and overworked? If you answered yes, then one solution is to use ultradian rhythms to your advantage.

How Can I Use My Ultradian Rhythms to Work Smarter, Not Harder?

Let’s first tackle your idea of a normal workday. According to the citizen’s information website, the general rule is that workers are entitled to a 15-minute break after 4 ½ hours of continuous work.

4 ½ hours of continuous work?!

I don’t know about you but my laptop can’t even run for three hours without needing to be recharged and even then, it still needs to rest so it doesn’t overheat or crash from working too hard.

In our society, we are often in pursuit of seemingly robotic productivity. We like to think that we will somehow be able to work longer and longer hours without breaks, just like a machine, and get even more done. Some people believe hard work provides the most value to their lives and will go to great lengths in order to make sure that they make more money, get that promotion, and that new car.

But we’ve been going about it the wrong way. The truth is that while work and productivity is important, so is rest, fun, and connection. And in fact these things enhance our overall productivity and fulfilment.

By incorporating rest and play into our workdays we can literally work smarter. Using ultradian rhythms is simply a natural way of working with your body so that you can move into a place of peace, happiness, and satisfaction.

So, let’s see how it can work…

Office Worker - Ultradian Rhythms - Lauren Parsons

Step 1. Task Out Your Work Before You Start

It’s never smart to go into any bout of productivity without a plan. For great time management, prioritize your top five tasks for the day and highlight the number one priority which is where you need to start. It is beneficial to break up your work into 90-minute chunks in line with your peak performance periods and have a plan of how you are going to fit your work into those chunks.

Do a quick estimate of what you’ll be able to achieve and picture what will realistically fit into 90-minutes. This will give you a realisitic overview of your day before you start.

I like to go into every 90-minute period with a purpose. I find that 90 minutes gives me enough time to progress or complete a large project or to complete several smaller projects, by staying focused on pre-determined tasks. Whether you have large projects or smaller activities to do throughout the day, task them out in order of priority before you start your day.

Be sure to chunk similar activities together. If you have several emails to send out or if you have a client who needs a couple of projects finished today, chunk them together. When you prepare to start your 90-minute period, you will already have your to-do’s for the day planned out in chunks, which will make them easier to complete as you work.

You’ll also be more realistic about how many things on your extensive to-do list you can really accomplish in let’s say four, 90-minute periods throughout the day. Most people don’t think about their workday in this way, which is why they just try to ‘work harder and longer’ and feel dissatisfied. This will no longer be you!

Step 2. Set a Timer to Keep You on Track

Setting a timer to keep you focused during you ultradian rhythm peak helps you to achieve two things. Firstly, it lets you know when you’re done with your chunk so you don’t accidentally overwork and become less productive. It also keeps you focused to make the best use your time.

It is significantly easier to stay on track and work at a more productive level when the timer is ticking over. Especially as you near the end of the time limit, that little bit of pressure keep you on track.

I set my timer for 25 minute bursts of focused work and do 3 rounds of these with a 3 minute movement in between each one. Adding in a movement such as a snack on exercise a stretch or walk recharges my brain and keeps me super-focused and energized. After 3 rounds I take a 20 minute break and relax my brain.

I’ve been using this 101 minute routine for some time now and find it super charges my productivity.

To recap, the complete cycle goes like this:

  • 25 focused work
  • 3 minutes movement
  • 25 focused work
  • 3 minutes movement
  • 25 focused work
  • 20 minutes ultradian break

Try it out with a timer and see what a difference this makes.

You can typically get 4 of these ultra-productive cycles into a typical work day. This productivity hack alone will save you hours a week!

Office Worker - Breaks - Boost Productivity - Lauren Parsons

Step 3. Find a Break Activity That You Enjoy

Remember that the ultradian breaks are just as important as the work sections. Whenever possible, find an activity that truly releases you from your work and allows you to relax. Whether that’s making a cup of tea, taking a stroll outside, meditating/praying, reading something relaxing/inspiring, or lying down for a power nap (set your timer for 20 minutes max.)

If you want to continue with work related activities, make it something simple like filing, printing, tidying your desk, or perhaps use that break to make appointments or phone a loved one and chat to them while lying down or relaxing. Don’t be afraid to branch out and expand your activities by trying new things and see what leaves you feeling energized. You might end the break with a 60 second dance party to your favourite song to boost your energy, ready for the next round of focused work.

You might end the break with a 60 second dance party to your favourite song to boost your energy, ready for the next round of focused work.

Here’s to managing our energy, and thereby managing our time with excellence.

 


1 thought on “Busy? Wish You Could Get More Done? Try This 101-Minute Cycle”

  1. Maria Fischer says:

    Thank you very much for such an informative article. I can’t wait to put these ideas to work. I always wondered if there was a more effective way to work productively.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.




Are your days too short, workload too large and work-life balance a pipe dream?

Take a look at these Books, E-books, CDs/Teleseminars, Online Courses/Webinars and Tools. They provide practical, effective and easy to implement ways for you to free up your time, improve your productivity and reduce stress from overload.



Webmasters/Ezine Publishers: Would you like to use this article?
You are invited to use any of our articles in your publication or website. The only requirements are that we are included on your mailing list, and that you include the following, after each article you use...

Robyn Pearce CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is the Time Queen. She mastered her own time challenges and now helps people around the world overcome theirs. She can show you how to transform your time challenges into high productivity and the life balance you desire.

Get your free report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds' and ongoing time tips at gettingagrip.com.

© All Rights Reserved to Robyn Pearce, GettingAGrip.com, 25 Keven Road, R.D.4, Pukekohe, South Auckland 2679, New Zealand Ph.+ 64 9 232 0523


If you'd like Robyn to write something specific for your industry, please email us with your request.

Planning & Prioritising Online Course, $100 introductory price

Get Your Free
'How To Master Time'
Report

Image

Plus your FREE Time Resources Pack (Valued at $227)




Image

Client Testimonials

Catalyst For Efficiency ImprovementsIt was great to introduce our two job-share receptionists to Robyn’s Getting a Grip on The Paper War text.  It became a catalyst for us to improve our administration proce..." Marie Collins, Business Manager, The NZ Institute of Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery

Enhanced Efficiency Thank you for all the tips and words of advice you and your team have sent through.I have been constantly reading it and it does wonders to my line of work and also being a wife and mot..." Anaseini Liku, Communication & Media Coordinator, Ministry of Education, Cook Islands

Clear Directions Enhance Use Of TimeI have just finished reading 'Getting a Grip on Time' and 'Getting a Grip on the Paper War'.  Particularly your book on 'Time' got me back on track, and during the day I catc..." Ingrid Geerlings, Owner, www.houseofmilk.com

Leadership Book Helps To find the Real Me‘I’ve just been reading ‘Getting a grip on Leadership’.  It is very good and has had an impact on me.  I realised I’d lost my way a bit re who I am ..." Heather Millar, Manager, Professional Practice, Central North Island Kindergarten Association, New Zealand

Additional $120,000 Billed After Time Management CourseI have personally known Robyn Pearce for around 16 years. From time to time my firm has contracted Robyn on a project basis to work with our professional staff as well as partners in the fi..." John Hackett, Partner, A J Park, New Zealand

The Librarian Who Got Her Life Back!The kick-start that I needed was delivered by a velvet glove, but make no mistake the iron hand within the glove ensured that the message was received and understood. If you are going to spend some..." Heather Jenks, Associate University Librarian (Research and Learning Services), University of Canterbury

Increasing Personal Confidence And Job ManagementHaving worked already very successfully with our NZ Team, Robyn's support of the Australian Team over a 12-month period was fundamental to helping us cope with increased day to day workload - espec..." Julia Braun, General Manager - Marketing, Beiersdorf Australia

A Great Empathy And Affinity With PeopleI have used Robyn as an Executive Coach for key Senior Staff for a number of years now and couldn't recommend her more highly. I've found as people step up in the organisation they often struggle t..." Merilyn Havler, Then General Manager, Beiersdorf New Zealand

An Increase of 30% In Gross Turnover Due To Better SystemsWhen we reviewed the progress made as a result of your concepts, a staggering number of them had become an integral part of our day to day business, collectively making a huge difference to our eff..." Wayne & Lisa Hughes, Occupational Therapy Helping Children, NSW, Australia

Motivational And Thought Provoking SessionI'd like to highlight the benefits felt both by the staff members attending your sessions, and the motivational flow-on effects experienced throughout the Hotel.In the developmental sta..." Human Resources Manager, Wentworth Hotel (part of the Rydges chain)

Successful Paper Management Seminar Thank you for your interesting and indeed challenging speech. I could see all the people who've ..." Australian Institute of Credit Managers, Sydney Branch

Personalised Seminar For Long-term Results On behalf of the team at Strategic Lifestyle Management and our client Lend Lease I would..." SLM Conference and Incentive Manager, for client Lend Lease

Excellent Skilful Presenter "Thank you for the practical and informative Time Management seminar you recently gave to our senior m..." HR Manager, ANA Hotel, Sydney

Improve Your Organisation And Productivity The response to the program was extremely positive, with an average rating of 4.4 out of ..." Noel Cook, GM, Outdoor Network, Australia

Organisational Skills Improve To Lift Productivity Your time management seminars are one of the best things we've ever done. Weeks l..." Centrelink, Dubbo, New South Wales

Productivity Increased 50% Now several months later and my productivity has increased between 30% and 50%. I'm seeing more and bette..." Senior financial planner, IPAC, Australia

Timesaving Techniques Learned A wonderful surprise to learn how much I had improved since the first programme with you nine months a..." National Sales Manager, Personal Insurance, GIO Australia

Control Gained In Managing Time Feedback from the staff was very positive... all felt they had gained a great deal of control and di..." MD, C.Y. O'Connor College of TAFE, Northam, WA

Immediate Action For Change A lot of great new ideas and some very good new tools that I shall start implementing immediately. Group Services Trainer, Adecco

Increased Efficiency Saves 20-25 Minutes A Day "Many practical hints which helped me reorganise my office, to operate efficiently." ..." Senior Partner, Baldwins (Patent Attorneys)

Invaluable Resources In Time Management Books I would like to take this opportunity to commend you on the flexibility of your approach, and..." Human Resources Manager, Professional Services Review, Canberra

Self Management Crucial In Time Management You presented a most informative and challenging training session. Your ability to gain q..." Human Resources Manager, Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal of NSW

'Time Management Guru'! Once again you combine an enthusiastic presentation style with useful tips and techniques. Succinct and fun ..." Manager - Training & Development, Real Estate Institute of NSW

Beneficial Time Management Ideas Your presentation was brilliant, and your thoughts on how to make time management beneficial to eve..." Barbara McCarthy, President, Chatswood Chamber of Commerce, Sydney

Informative And Energising Speech We could not have chosen better. Your contribution was just what we wanted and needed, and I was t..." Raewyn James, Tamaki Teachers' Conference

Positive Feedback For Speech Robyn, you gave a fantastic speech, and I am still having positive feedback about your talk to this day..." Sales and Marketing Co-ordinator, Swiss Grand Hotel, Bondi, and co-ordinator of Eastern Suburbs Women's Breakfast

Work Life Balance Put Into Practice I know everyone who attended was fascinated by all your planning tips and I know many have put t..." Solo Home Business Network, Sydney

IT Company Gains Insight Into Effective Time Management We were very impressed... everyone gained considerable insight to effective ..." MD, IT software company, Auckland

Professional Approach Reinforces Time Management Principles Following a number of very positive reference checks we invited Robyn Pe..." Godfrey Pembroke National Conference, Hobart, Tasmania

Staff Queue For Time Management Tips! "Thank you! I'm sure you could tell from everyone's enthusiasm that they enjoyed your presenta..." Programme Director, Pioneer SWAP

Specific Personalised Advice Benefits Group Robyn gave much more than the professional information imparted in this kind of session...." Principal Heritage Officer, Heritage Council NSW

They're 'screaming for more'! Thanks for your wonderful presentation. I've had a lot of positive feedback from our staff, and they c..." GM's assistant, Austereo, Australia

L.J. Hooker Predicts Great Success In Using Their Time Your down-to-earth common sense certainly hit home to a lot of people, and the feedba..." Lyn McDermott, Ass. Director, Marketing and Communication, L.J. Hooker Ltd

5 Stars For Time Management Course Robyn, in light of this morning's session (and comments about short emails!) I could leave it the..." Wilf Marley, Principal, Marley Loft Systems (Accountants)

Simple Practical Action Steps For Work Life Balance We've had great feedback since your last session with the NZ Institute of Charte..." Denise Bovaird, Past President, New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants

Improved Focus And Concentration After Time Management Course Since your time management course our managers have found that they ca..." John Moore, Then-HR Manager, International Cricket Council, Dubai

Jam-packed Personalised Seminar Very Effective   Robyn spoke to four of my Academy groups in the space of 11 days. I wa..." Barrie Barrett, Chairman, Academy for Chief Executives, United Kingdom

Awesome says Law Clerk, Bell Gully I just thought I'd spend a few minutes in the Proactive/Value-adding quadrant and let you know ho..." Law Clerk, Bell Gully, New Zealand

Excellent 'Management' Course, As Well As 'Time Management' I would like to extend a huge thank you for making your valuable time av..." David Greenslade, Managing Director, Strategi, New Zealand

We've Regained 30% Of The Time We Used to Lose! Since we worked with Robyn 5 months ago our team of 12 underwriters and support staf..." Senior Underwriter, QBE Insurance, New Zealand

Fantastic Course - Team Feedback Extremely Positive! Thanks very much for the Time Management programme you have conducted over the ..." Gareth McCulloch, National Sales Manager, Southern Hospitality Limited

 
Timely appointment scheduling system