What small step can you take this week to set your agenda,
manage your energy, and accomplish the most important thing on your radar?
In last week’s post I briefly noted the concept of ultradian rhythms. These 90-minute full-on work cycles have the potential to help you manage your energy and perform at your highest and most effective level. I was reminded of the research behind this practice when I read The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz.
Getting into the rhythm requires a bit of a mind shift and, if you believe Schwartz’s findings, a major behavioral adjustment for many of us. This week, let’s drill down a bit further on this intriguing concept.
Remember the old tale of the tortoise and the hare? Well, it seems that maybe the hare was onto something. Sprinting has its benefits over endless plodding.
When it came to a teaching schedule, my favorite teaching session was, hands down, a 75-minute session. If you added the 10 minutes I arrived early and the (usually) 5 minutes it took me to pack up and speak with a student or two on the way to my office, you’d find I was right in this ultradian rhythm.
When it comes to a workshop on the road, guess what my favorite session length is. 60-75 minutes. Add in Q & A and I’m right at the 90-minute cycle.
And for the past decade or so as I have gotten deeper into my presentation rehearsals, guess how much time I typically spend rehearsing in any given practice session. 90 minutes!
Keep in mind, I had been doing the above long before I read about ultradian rhythms. The timing just felt right. My energy levels remained high. And I got (and continue to get) things accomplished.
Over the last month, I have made a point to consciously carve into each day three or four of these ultradian cycles. I am more intentional about my schedule. Truth be told, some days I am much more successful than others. I do find, however, when I actually schedule and block the time on my calendar I am more apt to honor the commitment to myself.
Schwartz provides a few tips to consider as you build your cycles:
- Identify the number one item you need to accomplish Understand it. Focus on it. Put it on your daily agenda.
- Identify the time of the day when you will have the most energy and fewest distractions. For me, that is the first part of the day. I’m up early. Typically, my first 90-minute cycle is my morning workout. Followed by breakfast and a review of what the day ahead looks like. Then I go headlong into my first ultradian work/professional session for the day.
- Before you actually start the work minimize (better yet, eliminate) your distractions, says Schwartz. I shut off my email screen and silence my phone (and put it out of sight). If you are a supervisor, this might be your “closed door time.” Even for supervisors (especially for supervisors) it is critical that your supervisor understands and respects your time.
- Sprint for 90 minutes. When you get to the end of the time, stop. Take your break. Honor your start and stop time.
As I consider and (more and more) live this strategy, I cannot help but think about the traditional school days our students (especially middle school and high school) and teachers are on. Or the constant push by the boss to do more with less—and at double the pace and without break. And then there is the night after night of less and less quality sleep time so that we can work on work-related tasks.
As Schwartz states, the way we’re working isn’t working. What small step can you take this week to set your agenda, manage your energy, and accomplish the most important thing on your radar? If you can’t do 90-minutes sessions, start with 15, 30 or 45 minutes. And then build from there. Make it a habit and grab control of your day and the stories you create.
Either you create your story—or you let someone else create it for you.
P.S. This week’s blog post…took me 90 minutes to compose the first draft.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.