Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lark or Night Owl? Use Your Own Biological Rhythm More Effectively



’Hellooo! Good morning!’ I hear the voice of my boss. I open my eyes and realize with horror that I have fallen asleep during the morning briefing in the office. Again!!!

I am one of those people that they call night owls. I find it extremely difficult to wake up early in the morning and I am unable to perform any activity before 10am because my mind and body are still asleep. On the other hand, I am most productive and most creative after 10pm (the clock is showing 11:14pm as I am typing this!). Fortunately for me I work in the creative business and my working hours are flexible so I manage to do all my daily tasks in time without having any troubles with my boss.

Most people wake up in the morning and they are most active between 10am and 7pm. After 7pm their body rhythm slows down, melatonin secretion starts, their bowel movements are suppressed and they gradually fall asleep. At 2am they reach the deepest sleep and at 4.30am their body temperature is at the lowest. After that time, it gradually raises, blood pressure rises and, at around 8:30am, they are fully awake. This cycle of physiological events in human body is called circadian rhythm or biological rhythm.

However, there are people who have different circadian rhythms. There are those who like to wake up very early in the morning and are most productive at around 10am after which time level of their concentration and energy gradually drops. They are called lark people or early birds. Others prefer to stay in bed a bit longer and are most active in the afternoon and evening. They go to bed long after midnight and that is why they are referred to as night owls or B people. Whether you are lark or owl person is completely up to your genetics. In previous times, lark people were usually considered hardworking and proactive (early bird catches the worm) while owl people were held lazy bones and irresponsible.

Camilla Kring talks about the B-Society. B-Society's mission is to change the structures, on the labour market and in society at large, so B-people (owl people) can finally fit in.



Modern technology has influenced our lives in such a way that our cities remain active 24/7. Many people can work from home doing free lance jobs and adjusting their working hours with their biological rhythm. However, there are still those who struggle to be active and mentally present while doing their work at times when their body would rather rest; or who spend night after night staring at a TV screen because they are unable to fall asleep even though they have to wake up early in the morning to go to work. There are ways to change one’s circadian rhythm but the therapy is slow and not easily available.

So if you are lucky enough to have a job that fits into your circadian rhythm, you have nothing to worry about. You should show some understanding for your colleagues and friends who may want to rest when you feel like partying or are sleepy and slow to respond at the time when you need to have things done fast. 

If you have owls and larks among your employees, let them have more flexible working hours or let them do some work from home. Concentrate more on the quality of their performance and not on the formalities such is their physical presence in the office from 9 to 5. There are small and middle size companies which have already accepted modern work culture and created more flexible workplace with the respect of individual work and life rhythms of their employees (UNIK, OCTOSHAPE). In this way they increased productivity and quality of life for their employees and were able to gradually form creative atmosphere that enabled their business to thrive.

If, on the other hand, your working hours do not exactly go hand in hand with your circadian rhythm, maybe you could try to plan your daily tasks in such way that you do the bulk of the work during those hours when you are most active and allow yourself some slow pace during the hours when you feel sleepy, tired, or less focused.

This discrepancy between your working/office rhythm and circadian rhythm can actually free some space for your creative engagement. If you have some hobby, some passion or an additional job, try to fit it into those hours when you are most active. If you are a lark, try to wake up one or two hours earlier and to enjoy some creative activities before going to office. Early morning is perfect for writing, reading... or for some sport activities. On the other hand, if you like staying up at night, you can try to finish all your daily tasks during the day and once the kids (and husband/wife) are asleep you can have some time to enjoy your hobby in peace.

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If you wish to further explore this topic, you can check out the selection of my favourite books about creative thinking.


2 comments:

Patrick said...

I understand what you mean but my circadian rhythm is all over the place at the moment. The increasing dark nights shrink my productive time. The fact the clocks have just gone back by an hour, also Then by Christmas working on seven hours of natural light I feel like hibernating. Summer is great though.

Pedja G. said...

Dear Patric,

For years I was under the influence of weather conditions. If it rained - I would feel sleepy, if it was foggy or cloudy - I would feel depressed, if it was cold - I would feel irritated and would desperately long for warm and sunny weather. But then I realized that the weather was not the problem – it was me and my perception of reality. I was imposing bed mood on myself not the bad weather. Now I try to think positively no matter the weather conditions.

The other day it was a very cold, I felt like not getting out of my bed. But then I said to myself: Something good is going to happen today! That thought gave me the energy to start my day. Late that night I discovered that one of my posts went viral!!! The article about Greek economy was published on innovationamerica.us (http://bit.ly/tSMQal). It was the first time that one of my posts was shared on one of the world’s leading websites! : )

Best,
Pedja

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