Earlier this year I attended my first official ICF (International Coaching FederationConference here in Toronto and met a fellow attendee en route. Naturally the conversation led to “What type of coaching do you do?” And, she replied, “Energy management.”

I was immediately intrigued; I’ve always known I’m a huge proponent of napping (for mid-day restoration) and that I work best after 10am, but to actually make a career out of it… very cool indeed.
Funny enough, I head into the Conference and directly into a workshop conducted by a neuroscientist who ends up talking about the circadian and ultradian rhythms. We’re all familiar with the circadian rhythm – it’s the cycle that operates on a 24-hour schedule and is essentially our internal biological clock.  It tells us when to sleep and when to wake up and is sensitive to light and dark (and gets a little messed up at Daylight Savings time). 
Well, if the circadian rhythms are linked to ‘time management,’ the ultradian rhythms are linked to ‘energy management.’ And, this was new to me.

How often have you said, “I don’t have enough TIME!!”?

Well, what really might be underpinning that statement is, “I don’t have enough ENERGY!”

I knew a bit about the ultradian rhythm through the brilliant work of Tony Schwartz over at The Energy Project. Through him, I learned that every single one of us has a built in ultradian rhythm, a factory installed energy management system. But, what I hadn’t realized was how it played out over the course of the day or the effect that it had on my everyday life.
Every morning, I wake up feeling pretty good. From feet to floor to out the door it takes me ~90 minutes. By the time I take the 30 minute commute to the office, I’m feeling a little fatigued. 
Thankfully, I don’t have a job that demands I plunge into my work right away.  So, I turn on my computer, settle in with my coffee, absently catch up on a few minor emails, and then after about a half hour of this, I’m finally feeling energized and ready to dive in.
I never understood this mid-morning slump. Until now…
To beat this seemingly inevitable burnout, we need to be honouring our ultradian rhythms. That means we should be ‘on’ for 90-120 minutes and then ‘off’ for 20 minutes. Rinsing and repeating throughout the day. This cycle allows us to use both our time and energy most efficiently.
Since a lot of us also believe that taking a break is a sign of laziness and/or poor work ethic, we may have to jump over some mental hurdles to make this happen.  
If you’re anything like me, once you tuck in for the day, riding that wave of energy, you feel the need to keep your head down, eyes locked on that computer screen until quitting time. Why stop when you’re feeling tired right?  Just push through.  Blink more.  Drink more coffee.  Eat a chocolate bar. 
 Whatever… just…. keep…. going.
And then we wonder why we’re exhausted at the end of the day.

We function optimally when we work in 90 minute blocks with 20 minutes of rest in between. 

Our bodies know best.  We just need to learn to listen to them more. Sothe next time you’re feeling that dip in energy.  The yawns.  The lack of focus.  The blurry screen.  

Give yourself permission to take a break.  

The only caveat is that you need to do something that will energize you! You need to switch gears mentally.  Me, I’m a huge fan of the ‘half hour of power’ nap – although most offices don’t have a place to do this without getting some seriously sideways glances. 
So, take a walk outside instead.  Or, if that’s not an option, walk around the office, go visit a colleague (who may also need a break), meditate, read a chapter in your new book, listen to that new Beyonce track you’ve been hearing about (because she seemingly puts out 5 records a year, non?).  Whatever activity allows you to leave the blue glow of your computer screen – DO IT!  
Hopefully, this ‘energy management’ movement catches on and we can all curb that frazzled, fuzzy feeling at the end of the day.
Try it out today and let me know how you find it.  Was it weird to set a timer and take breaks?  Did you feel you got more or less work done?  Did you feel the temptation to plough through and get shit done no matter the cost? Did you find you just felt better and less irritable?  When you got home did you feel more energized?  Did your partner notice a change in you?  Did you want to move to Spain and cultivate the art of the siesta?

Post a comment