That Circadian Clock Thing

A simple way to use your biological clock that actually works

You’ve read articles about circadian rhythm, also known as your “biological clock.” The experts who write those articles explain that if you plan your day’s work around your energy highs and lows, you will get a lot more done.

Okay, those are good ideas. But we have an even better,simpler way to time your work around your bio rhythms. And lucky you, we are going to tell you how to do it right now.

First Identify Your Golden Apple

We just made up the name Golden Apple. (Nice, right?) It is the time block during the day when your energy is highest, your thinking is clearest, and you can get a backbreaking amount of work done in a short period. The thing about your Golden Apple is that you have to take a few days to self-observe and figure out when it falls for you every day. It is not the same for everyone, no matter what the books on circadian rhythm say.

You might determine that your personal Golden Apple falls between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM. Or maybe between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM. Very few people find that their Golden Apple falls in the afternoon. But you never know.You are you, after all.

You probably have a “Silver Apple” too – an hour or two in the evening when you can crank out an extra chunk of quality work. But for the purposes of this post, let’s stick with the Gold. Some people, like great novelists and poets, report that they get their best work done after midnight. But generally speaking, being a night owl doesn’t work too well if you are trying to make a career in business.

Second, Don’t Screw Up the Way You Use Your Golden Apple

There are lots of ways to do that. The best way to explain them is to give some examples.

Raj’s Blown Day

Raj spent his Golden Apple peak time one day organizing his files and folders on One Drive. When he was done, he tried to tackle his big project for the day, a big project plan. He stalled and got frustrated and couldn’t get going on it.

The lesson: Tackle your most important creative projects during your Golden Apple. You can handle non-creative maintenance tasks at other times, when you don’t need to be creative.

Paul Misreads His Day

Paul is new to doing flexible work in a shared office space. He is not used to a day without meetings, water cooler chats, and distractions,so he gets an incredible amount of uninterrupted work done every day by 11:00.Then he starts to panic because he is “losing his edge.” He doesn’t realize that he has already used up his mental juice and should turn to maintenance and busywork.

The lesson: Working independently is challenging,because you can get so much done and run out of energy. Try to plan your day accordingly.

Sarah Wastes Her Energy

Sarah’s best friend Suzy is breaking up with her partner. So on the way to her shared work space, Sarah spends 30 minutes sitting on a bench outside, having an intense conversation with her friend. Then when she gets to her work space, she distracts herself by getting that extra cup of coffee, chatting with people, and writing six chatty emails to her friends. By the time she turns her attention to her biggest project, she has no mental energy left to tackle it.

The lesson: Resist the temptation to let high-intensity, low-priority activities edge into your Golden Apple. They create the kind of energy that is hard to redirect toward your most important work.

Patricia’s Boss Screws Everything Up

Patricia, an art director at a publishing house, knows that her Golden Apple falls from 9:00 until 11:00 every day. So she is really pissed off when her boss Jack schedules a production meeting every day at 10:00. She asks Jack if the meeting can be held after lunch instead, and he reluctantly agrees. (Without realizing it, he had been trying to get the important meeting to happen during his own Golden Apple, when he felt most creative.)

The lesson: Once you know when your Golden Apple is, protect it from other people. If you can win that battle, you are going to get a lot more, good work done.

To Coffee or Not to Coffee?

What about jump-starting your Golden Apple by drinking caffeinated beverages? That’s a classic thing to do, because it works. You might find, for example, that a cup of coffee at 8:00 AM ramps you right up, and that having that cup every day is a pattern that gets embedded into your biological clock and becomes reliable. Some “experts” say that caffeine only causes energy crashes after it wears off. The point isn’t what the “experts” think. It is to figure out what works for you.

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