Get This "Rhythm" Into Balance ... and be WAY more Productive
by Kiki Athanas
December 10, 2018
Many of us are already familiar with the concept of our circadian rhythm, which is our daily wake–sleep cycle.
But there’s a new rhythm in town - and figuring out how to regulate it can help to prevent burnout, increase your energy, and make you a whole lot more productive (and less stressed).
It’s called your ultradian rhythm, which basically refers to your balance of activity and rest.
I’ll share a little more about how it works, as well as my top 5 tips & tricks to keep it in an optimal state for the best ever day (always!).
But before that, I’ve got to admit - it’s not “new” at all…in fact, it’s a concept that’s been around for centuries, in…you guessed it - traditional healing modalities like Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as in Aryurveda. They both advise to practice certain activities in certain times - whether it be sleeping, eating, resting, etc.
So why haven’t most of us heard of “ultradian rhythm” before?!
Well, the science behind it is definitely there, but it wasn’t until around the 1990’s that organizational psychology and efficiency experts began breaking it down for us in - like in Ernest Rossi’s 1991 book The Twenty Minute Break.
Okay, let’s officially get to the juicy bits you need to know to totally rev up your life…
Taking breaks is literally necessary to “detox” your brain for more sustainable energy and optimal cognitive function throughout the day.
Ultradian rhythm involves 90 to 120-minute bursts of focus and productivity followed by approximately 15 minutes of rest.
So yes, there’s a reason you want to grab a snack, scroll mindlessly on Instagram, or even just get up and go pee - after about an hour and a half of work. It’s natural and YOU SHOULD LISTEN!
Fighting the urge to “shift” - preferably both physically and mentally (but just one will still work to provide that necessary resting “break” your body - and most importantly your brain - needs to reset and recharge).
I absolutely LOVE the fact that I can now officially lean on “science” to back-up the importance of mindful check-in’s throughout the day.
When’s the last time you practiced a self-audit?
The answer should most definitely be less than 2 hours ago.
Rather than “fighting through” that sneaky urge you get to shut your eyes and take a power nap, or trying your best to ignore the feeling that you need to get up and go to the bathroom (“I can hold it”, or worse - convincing yourself you shouldn’t need to even go yet), or what many of us fall victim to: the guilt and shame around just wanting to taking a break.
Cut the crap, rid yourself of the judgement - AND TAKE A FLIPPING BREAK…it’ll do you a whole lot of good.
Not just the hippie-dippie “you’ll feel more alive and well” stuff - you’ll literally be more productive throughout the day, as the activity–rest cycle has been proven to reduce stress and maximize performance.
YASSS let’s be efficiently lazy people - I think that’s a venture we can all get behind!
Here are my favourite strategies for taking a (productivity-boosting) break:
- Get up and go outside - even just a few minutes in fresh air, and even better taking in some sunlight, can have a profound impact on your energy levels and mood.
- Phone a friend. When’s the last time you picked up the phone - like to your ears?! Do it. (If you’re in an office setting, this could be as simple as walking over to a colleagues desk rather than emailing them - trust me, it’s a thing.)
- Go make yourself a tea. Getting up and walking over to the kettle, choosing a tea (preferably herbal - I love tulsi for a gentle lift) provides yourself with that “pause” - bonus is the fact that you have to sip it slowly…and enjoy!
- Lie down and close your eyes. This one is my favourite, but I also get that it might not be “possible” for everyone, based on where they are/work. So if it’s not a socially-acceptable possibility, perhaps blame it on “meditation” - and take a few moments to plug in your headphones, listen to a guided or timed meditation (I love the Calm app for this), and close your eyes whilst sitting at your desk.
- Go to the bathroom! Have you ever had that urge to get up and “go pee” - even though you don’t really need to? Well, it’s your body letting you in on a little secret: YOU NEED A BREAK. Take a mindful stroll to the washroom and…actually, go.
There you have it, consider yourself in rhythm - until the next 90-120 minute burst!