Archives March 2019

Want to be more productive? Pay attention to your Circadian Rhythms and Chronotypes

Want to be more productive? Pay attention to your Circadian Rhythms and Chronotypes

Would you like to know the best way to function at your maximum performance level and be able to prioritise and manage your tasks (maybe even your entire day)?

Well, your own body might have the answer.

 

What will we be covering here?

What is a Circadian Rhythm?

What is a Chronotype?

Knowing Larks and Owls

Dr Breus and the question of “when”

The four mammals

Synchronicity between your chronotype and your life

Manage your energy

Take an assessment

 

Get to know The Circadian Rhythms and the Chronotypes

What is a Circadian Rhythm?

In short, the Circadian Rhythm is a sort of internal clock, controlled mainly by the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that controls many things, such as your hormones, temperature, appetite, sexual behaviour and emotions.

chronotypes

Hypothalamus

 

This internal biological clock is reset every day by sunlight, and is different for each person, although its main function is exactly the same for all of us: to regulate the periods of sleepiness and wakefulness during the day.

So, this is the clock that tells you which part of the day you are more alert and which part you’ll find your energy levels lower and you feel more sleepy.

Because the circadian rhythm likes regularity, it functions at its best when you follow routines: going to bed at the same hour, eating at the same time each day etc.

This is why you might feel uneasy when you disturb this rhythm (for example, travelling abroad and dealing with jet lag).

 

What is a Chronotype?

When we talk about chronotypes, we are referring to the manifestation of the circadian rhythm, in the form of personal behaviour. Even though it is passed through the PER3 gene and therefore its origin is genetic, it might change over the years due to a number of reasons such as age, environment and hormones.

A more common classification describes people as either larks or owls, larks being the people that perform best in the mornings, and owls being the ones that are more alert in the evening.

Larks and owls can be differentiated, not just by sleeping patterns, but also by other behaviours and needs, such as appetite and exercise.

 

“According to conventional wisdom, there are three chronotypes: larks rise early, owls rise late, and hummingbirds are somewhere between the two.”

 

So, how can we adjust our daily performance for optimal business productivity in relation to these chronotypes?

 

If you’re a lark If you’re an owl
Try to concentrate on analytical tasks during the early hours  

Leave all analytical tasks for the late afternoon or evening

 

 

Leave all creative tasks for the afternoon

 

 

Try to do more creative tasks in the morning

 

 

To make it all easier, create a table with three columns where you can list your tasks and divide them into two big groups:

🖊 tasks that require focus, concentration and analysis

🖊 tasks that require creativity and expression

🖊 Then the third column is for notes.

If a task falls into both groups, you simply repeat the task in both columns and add a note about the aspect that you will tackle, specifically, during each part of the day.

Top Tip: For example, writing an article might require creativity (mainly with regard to the idea but also the writing), lots of research about the topic and of course, proofreading. Each one of those tasks would fit into a different column.

 

 

Top Tip: a task might belong to more than one column


For example, writing an article might require creativity (mainly with regard to the idea but also the writing), lots of research about the topic and of course, proofreading.

Each one of those tasks would fit into a different column.

 

 

Dr Breus and the question of “when”.

Dr Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep specialist, described 4 different chronotypes following different structures but based on mammals. Mainly because we – humans – are not birds.

That question is “when.” “When” is the ultimate life hack. It’s the foundation of success, the key that unlocks a faster, smarter, better, and stronger you. – The Power of When

In his book, The Power of When, Dr Breus highlights the fact that our ancestors were deeply connected to their bodies, knowing when to perform certain acts like hunting, cooking or procreating.

Daylight and night time were perfectly distinguished as well.

Later on, civilization imposed its own rules and now, the modern era sees us doing all kind of activities in a perpetual “night”, with artificial lights, in front of all sorts of monitors.

The Four Chronotypes

Let’s take a brief look at the four chronotypes and their relationship with periods of alertness and drowsiness.

Dolphins: they wake up feeling fatigued and in fact, they can continue to feel tired late into the evening. They are totally alert late at night and might even suffer from insomnia. Their productivity ebbs and flows throughout the day.

Lions: they wake up early and do not feel tired until the late afternoon. They can fall asleep pretty easily and they are more productive in the morning.

Bears: they are slow risers as they do not wake up feeling fresh and awake. They tend to feel tired by the evening. Their productivity peaks before noon and they feel most alert from mid-morning to the early afternoon.

Wolves: they are evening types, so waking up in the morning can be a difficult task. They don’t feel tired until midnight or even later, so it’s in the late evening that their productivity is at its best.

 

Let’s take a look at the ideal routine for each chronotype, according to Shana Lebowtitz’s chart published on Business Insider and based on Dr Breus’ book.

 

chronotypes

 

But, what happens when your schedule and your chronotype cannot sync?

Let’s say you are a wolf, and your work (a well paid and interesting job) requires you be at the office by 8 a.m.

Well, you force yourself to adjust. Knowing your internal rhythm can help you to alleviate the burden and make the most out of the situation.

 

Manage your energy as it is needed, when it is low, try the following:

📌 Do some exercises to help you with your focus and concentration (link to the young lady and the old lady)
📌 Close all the unnecessary windows on your computer
📌 Get some fresh air and replenish your energy
📌 Do some breathing exercises to increase your stamina (like breath of fire)
📌 If you can, take a 15-minute nap

 

Going beyond your type, there are some universal recommendations that work for everyone, both morning and evening types:

📌Set meal and sleep times and try to stick to them
📌Breakdown your work into manageable tasks
📌Take regular breaks
📌Plan your breaks in advance

 

If you want to know what type you are, try taking any of the following assessments:

AutoMEQ: Automated Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (AutoMEQ)

Dr Michael Breus’ Chronotypes

 

If you are curious about how Emotional Intelligence, Gestalt and other proven and tested approaches from psychology and neuroscience can effectively benefit your business, book a free 15-minute consultation with me.

 

 

What is Mindfulness and how it can help your business

What is Mindfulness and how it can help your business

 

“I define mindfulness as paying attention to our present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. It is a deliberate application of attention. ”

-Diana Winston, The Little Book of Being

 

I’ve been asked about this topic a lot lately. Mainly because it is one of those things everybody talks about but not many truly understand.

Moreover: it can be confused with so many other things.

The fact is, that Mindfulness is a practice that definitely helps your business. A lot. Because it is based on information we already have about how our brain functions.

Neuroscience and psychology have worked closely together over the last 20 years, making discoveries that are reshaping the way we see the world, and ourselves.

So… I propose that we break the myth and explore the following together…what is mindfulness? What is not mindfulness? How do you practice it?

What will we be covering here?

What is mindfulness?

What it is not?

Which are its benefits?

How to practice it

Breathing

Attentive Observation

Self-Awareness Practice

Mindful Presence

 

What is it 👉

Mindfulness refers to the ability to be aware of yourself and be fully present with what is going on, in the actual moment. When you function as an impartial observer, you are a witness of the processes and experiences occurring in the “now”.

 

What it is not 👉

It is not praying; it is not meditation; it is not a religious or “new age” thing.

What are the benefits of practising?

📍 more connection with the present and self-control

📍 better communication (improving your active listening)

📍 ability to pause before a decision or action

📍 developing patience and openness

📍 more attention and concentration capacities

📍 increased efficiency and productivity

📍 stress reduction

 

Living in the present is something that is difficult to achieve; you constantly make mental references and comparisons to the past, and your hopes and dreams can place you in the future too much, a future of which you cannot be certain.

Rooting yourself, with the body and the mind, helps you fully experience the here and now, creating a space of calmness, focus and serenity.

 

 

 

Awareness of the present moment helps you to better cope with situations and emotions. 

Both can be a source of stress and anxiety.

 

How to practice it 👉

By using different techniques, including (but not exclusively) meditation, breathing exercises, body sensations and emotions, visual exercises to gain focus, word repetition, optical illusions etc.

 

Let’s check out some of these techniques in detail 👇

Breathing

Breath is a powerful way to connect with your whole body. It is a natural and automated function of your body, namely to bring in oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide.

Nasal breathing is important as it allows the coordination of the electrical brain signals in the olfactory cortex, which then coordinates the amygdala and the hippocampus, which are in charge of processing your emotions and memory.

 

 

Did you know that the discovery of the dominant nostril within the Western civilization,

back in 1895, is owed to the German physician Richard Kayser?

 

Yoga and other ancient traditions have been working with this method for thousands of years.

Occident and Orient arrived at the same conclusion, just at different times.

 

Practice: You only need one minute, but of course the more time you practice, the better the results.
You can be sitting, lying or even standing, but try to feel comfortable.

Top tip: if you can, set aside a regular time to practice, ideally on a daily basis, beginning with a minute per day and increasing the time little by little.

🔶 Inhale deeply through your nose whilst counting to 4
🔶 Hold your breath and count to 4
🔶 Exhale through your nose whilst counting to 4

If you get distracted, gently come back to the exercise. Even if your mind wanders a thousand times, you can always return to the present moment and try again, inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4.

There are so many different breathing techniques and methods. If you lean towards the Yogic method, I highly recommend you pay a visit to Kia Miller and practice with her, even just for five minutes (to begin with).

Another option is the one that Diana Winston proposes here: Five-minute breathing


Attentive Observation

Learning to observe, as opposed to simply looking at or watching, helps you to be in the present moment and appreciate all the qualities of a certain object, person or situation.

This exercise takes just a minute, max. 2. and it is a simple and effective way to increase your awareness and relationship with the present moment.

🔶 To fully absorb the benefits of this, pick a random object, preferably in the natural environment
🔶 Be specific: if you pick a tree, look for a leaf that grabs your attention
🔶 Focus on its shape. What is it? Round or elongated? Does it have a distinctive colour? Is the colour uniform or does it have different tonalities to it?
🔶 Observe, as an impartial witness. Don’t judge or qualify (don’t think in terms of “pretty colours”). Just observe and mentally repeat “green” for example

Repeat daily, with different objects, and begin to notice how you feel both during the exercise and after it.


Self-Awareness Practice

We already spoke about this skill in my post Why is Self-awareness so important for better business. 

Doing the following exercise, you can regain control, simply by recognising your emotions at the precise moment they occur.

🔶 Pick two different moments in your day: one, when you are about to do something pleasant (let’s say you’re about to listen to some of your favourite music, after a long day of work). The other, when you’re about to do something that you have to do but you don’t enjoy (let’s say you have to write a letter of complaint)

🔶 Pay attention to the moment and all the emotions that arise from it: joy, tranquillity, pleasure, as well as the uncomfortable feelings: disdain, sadness. Make a mental note and stay with this feeling for as long as you can

🔶 Additionally, pay attention to how you manage your time with regard to that specific action: do you tend to procrastinate the unpleasant and overextend the pleasant moment?

🔶 Remember, no judgments, just observations. Stay with the moment

 

Mindful presence

This particular exercise is excellent if you find yourself worried about future events or dwelling on the past too often. It will help you gain sensibility, attentiveness and focus as well as helping you stop the fluctuation of your mind.

Therefore, it is an excellent method for reducing stress:

🔶 Pick a normal, daily action: turning on the computer, cleaning the house, shopping at the supermarket, commuting

🔶 Pay attention to each and every detail related to that action

🔶 Repeat the actions you perform, mentally: “I am going to put on my coat and open the door. I am closing the door now, and I can feel the wind in my face. It is cold. I am walking to my car. I get in the car and prepare myself to drive to the supermarket”

🔶 The more detail you can pick out, the better

This type of exercise helps enormously when you are trying to cope with anxiety, which usually manifests itself in form of impatience. Instead of focusing on the end result, concentrate instead on each specific part of the task.

Each part of a certain task is important in itself, and being mindful of each part leads to a better outcome and, without any doubt, to a more serene state of mind. This way, you can begin to enjoy the experience and open the door to creativity and emotion.

 

 —–

By now, you know that practising mindfulness can help you cope with anxiety and stress enormously, as well as help you improve your social and emotional intelligence quotients.

If you are curious about how Emotional Intelligence can effectively benefit your business, please book a free 15-minute consultation with me!

I’ll be delighted to get to know you and, of course, be of assistance 👇 

 

Emotional Competencies