You wake up in the morning and shake off the sleep. You grab a cup of coffee, and then you’re off to the office until dinner. By the time you’ve finished your evening duties, it’s nearly nine, and you plop down on the sofa for a little TV, dreading how you’ll have to get back on the hamster wheel of life again tomorrow. You know other people do this and seem successful and happy. Do they have fewer responsibilities or do they know something you don’t? The truth is, successful people do things differently, and with a little leadership coaching, you can accomplish more and feel better, too.
Your Schedule Reflects Who You Are
If your day is spent running in a wheel, you will be exhausted and ineffective. Successful people know this, and they schedule their days in a way that makes the most out of the hours available. They literally set themselves up for success by honoring natural biological rhythms, and employing positive psychology techniques throughout the day. In short, they schedule for success, and, in doing so, they make themselves successful. Regardless of how you schedule,
your daily activities form your individual identity, and therefore, determine your outcome.
Follow Your Natural Rhythms
Most people have heard the phrase “circadian rhythm,” though they think of it only when suffering from jet lag, or if they’re required to work the night shift and have trouble adjusting. In reality, the circadian rhythm affects just about everything we do, and also how our bodies perform. Although our bodies fall into a natural pattern, this pattern can be disrupted by exterior influences, like sunlight. This is because we have clusters of nerve cells in a region of the hypothalamus, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which look for the cues, and then release hormones accordingly. In a natural setting, the melatonin levels of most people will peak in the very early morning hours while they’re still asleep, and hit a daily low a couple hours after waking. Then, they build back up again throughout the afternoon and evening. There are, of course, variants to this.
Some people are naturally programmed to wake early, while others are night owls. Those between the ages of 10-20 are also biologically later sleepers, and it takes a good 30 years or so before we start naturally waking at the same time we did as children. You’ll need to listen to your own rhythms to determine when your ideal waking time is, and work your day around that. It’s believed that Benjamin Franklin and Margaret Thatcher woke regularly at 5am. William Styron thrived when he stayed in bed until noon.
Take Advantage of Peak-Performance Times
Regardless of when your natural waking time is, your body will follow the same schedule. Consider “early morning” to be whatever time you generally wake.
Early Morning: During the first couple of hours of our day, we’re still experiencing higher melatonin levels. This is a good time for a meal, or to engage in activities that require some cognitive effort.
Late Morning: By late morning, all systems are “go.” This should be the time that you use to tackle large tasks that require more effort.
Afternoon: By late afternoon, our melatonin levels are rising again, and our cognitive sharpness begins to decline. Interestingly, our dexterity peaks around this time, which makes it a great time to exercise. Studies suggest that a late-afternoon workout may also help you sleep better. Additionally, scientists have discovered that creative thinking tends to peak as exhaustion sets in, so it may be a good time for a brainstorming session.
Evening: It’s worth noting that as the day wears on, we’re more likely to suffer from ego depletion and decision fatigue. This means that we tend to go into auto-pilot mode, and make decisions out of habit. Our willpower and ability to change habits wanes as the day progresses. Evening hours should be devoted to preparing our bodies for rest, which means we have to try to limit the amount of excitement our brains get just before bed. Avoid screens (TV, phones, computer), and only engage in quiet activities for 1-2 hours before bed.
Your Well-Designed Daily Schedule Can Get You Your Dreams
Once you become attuned to your natural rhythm, it is easier to schedule your day accordingly. Not surprisingly, most successful people think of themselves as early risers, and are at the office sending out messages before others are even awake. However, if you’re a younger entrepreneur, this kind of schedule may not be in your best interests- you’ll be fighting your natural rhythm. Schedule tasks so that you can take advantage of your peak-performance times, and allow yourself the rest you need in the evening. Many productivity experts believe the most important times of the day are morning and evening, because they set the stage for the rest of the day.
You Can Use Positive Psychology Techniques to Help You Adjust
In short, you need to set yourself up to succeed when creating your new schedule. Start by making changes when you’re not likely to suffer from ego depletion. If you know you’ve got a habit of getting lost in cyberspace or in discussions with co-workers during your most-productive periods, avoid the triggers. Each night, it may also be beneficial to create a list of things you need to tackle first thing in the morning. That way, you have measurable goals set that you can accomplish. Experts also believe that mentoring and coaching in the workplace can be effective, as people naturally strive to mirror the behaviours of their successful peers. Above all else, remember that it takes time and dedication to form new habits. Contrary to popular belief, there is no rule about how long it will take before your new habit becomes second-nature.
Life coach Jim Rohn once said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan,” and his words ring true. You have a choice to create your own successful destiny, or to do what others expect of you. Surely, you have bigger plans for yourself than others do. Your schedule is who you are, and it’s your mode to reach your goals. When your day is modelled around success, you can’t help but achieve it.