How To Be Productive. Know Your Ultradian Rhythms

Do you know what an ultradian rhythm is? it is the natural fluctuation in your energy batteries through the day. We humans have periods of time where we are capable of high energy output and focus, but we also have time periods where our battery charge is much lower. This is called the ultradian rhythm and the up periods usually last between 60 to 120 minutes. These are then followed by a down period lasting about 30 minutes.

The great thing about this knowledge is the ability to work with this natural rhythm. Most business productivity coaches will recommend something called the 50-10-50-30 method.  This is where you work hard for about 50 minutes, then take a brief 10 minute break.  You then work another 50 minutes and then take a thirty minute break. I like to set the timer on my iPhone (under the clock app), so I know when my time is up.

During my first 10 minute break I like to do something physical like a short 1-minute burst of activity, followed by a bit of a stroll to recover.  This elevates the blood flow to my head and gets me energized. For my thirty minute break, I like to eat a small healthy snack, sip some cocoa powder, take a short little nap or do some stretching or meditation.  You would not believe how doing things this way elevates your productivity.  No more dragging in the afternoons that is for sure.

Here are some techniques I use and what they do for you. Try using these on those 10 & 30 minute breaks.

  1. Eat a small snack (be careful heavy starch and sugar intake can actually work against you). This increases glucose to the brain. Making sure you have a steady supply of glucose has been shown to increase all three batteries (mental, physical and emotional). This has also been directly related to your willpower battery, which science shows is fatigue-able). Celery and peanut butter, almonds with an apple, a 20g protein shake or some natural cold cuts are the types of things you want.
  2. Sip some cocoa powder. I do 1 tablespoon of 100% organic cocoa in a mug and then poor hot water on top slowly while stirring (this keeps it from clumping).  Then I may add a non-calorie sweetener, and some cinnamon and/or cayenne. Cocoa raises dopamine and serotonin (brain chemicals) to help you focus and relax.  Unlike coffee, it is a “nutritive stimulant” and is extremely rich in minerals.
  3. Do a 1 to 5 minute mini-workout.  These short little bursts of activity greatly enhance blood flow to the brain and have been shown to increase mental performance.  Need some high powered mental clarity and problem solving? This is a big win strategy and you will love how it makes you feel
  4. Visualization. Need a boost of energy to get you charged up? Or something to calm you down? What about a dose of courage to get you through a tough decision? I use visualization for this and you can too.  I imagine the amazing bravery of the men of D-Day during WWII whenever I am afraid.  I imagine the supercharge of running a touchdown when I was a football player in my younger days (this gives me energy).  When I need calm and focus I will visualize sitting on top of a mountain with my dog like I did when I was younger. These visions always provide me with a ready made mood shift.
  5. Meditation. Don’t let the “woo-woo” mystique of meditation keep you from practicing it.  You don’t need to sit and watching your breath and chanting like a monk for the benefits of meditation.  The idea is to get your focus of the mental and onto the physical.  Do this by simply bringing your focus to how your shoes feel on your feet, the sounds around you in a room or a spot on a wall.  When you lose focus gently bring it back. This “zoning out” will recharge your mental battery and has been shown to be a great way to break an impasse.

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