Working to Your Natural Rhythm

Photo by flickr user Leo Reynolds

Photo by flickr user Leo Reynolds

Before the industrial revolution and mass employment people didn’t work a rigid 9-5pm working pattern. Life was not easy but the pace of life was much slower. Most people worked the land and made the things that they needed by hand. I expect that the way they lived their lives was guided by the animal’s needs and their own natural rhythm. Some Mediterranean countries have managed to retain some of the features of working to this natural rhythm, they have a break or ‘siesta’ during the afternoon when many people are hitting a lethargic point in the day. Here in the UK we’re more like to fuel our way through this with strong coffee and high calorie snacks.

Since working for myself and needing to focus on my health, I have fallen into working to my body’s natural rhythm.

A typical day looks something like this;

6.30am Wake. I wake very early, I think this is a result of going back to a natural rhythm. Pre-electricity people would have woken when the sun rose. This habit fits in with that.

7.20am Get up. Without needing to be anywhere I can take time to get up more slowly. I often consider the day ahead and run through what needs to be done. I tend to have some new ideas at this time so I’ll mull those over. If I have no thoughts then I will read a book for a while.

7.30am Between 7.30 and 8.30 I catch up on emails and social media. I will deal with anything that needs a response right away so it’s not playing on my mind all day. I’ll also get Erin ready for school.

8.30am Shower, dress, breakfast. I prefer to wait a little while before eating, I feel it allows my body to start working before I start fuelling it with food.

9.30am Intense work period. I’m at my best at this time in the morning so I will write, mentor and create during this period.

1.00pm The intense period starts to wane some time between 12.30pm and 2pm. When it does I’ll stop for lunch.

2.00pm I will usually go back over emails, do some planning or some studying/reading. If I feel tired I will have a nap instead.

3.00pm Whether I’ve had a nap or not 3pm – 6pm is my lethargic period. I watch tv, help Erin with homework and cook dinner. I don’t do anything that involves much brain power.

6.00pm I get another burst of energy around 6pm so I’ll do a combination of cleaning and work, whatever feels most urgent!

8.00pm I’ve usually run out of energy by now and I’ll relax with a book or watch some tv

What has developed naturally is an authentic routine that seems to work to my strengths but also gives my body chance to recuperate. Whenever I fight against this natural routine I find both my work and health suffers. Of course there are times when I break away from this, for example when I go to London for the day as I am this week. What I tend to do in this situation is allocate an equal amount of time (in this instance a day) to go off this routine and recover. I basically allow myself to do what I like and my usual routine naturally falls back into place.

This isn’t the most productive or efficient routine in terms of output, however it is sustainable. I don’t believe working long hours over an entire lifetime is sustainable. I think people will reach burn out, need to take mini retirements and sabbaticals, or will work fast and hard for a number of years so they can afford to do something more sedentary later on. If you want to stay in good health and live an authentic life I think you do need to find ways to work to your natural rhythm as much as you can.

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