Find Your Own Rhythm
How familiar are you with your own biorhythms, with the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles that suit you best? If you’re not sure, or your schedule is based mostly on the conventions of our culture, you’re not alone. Answer this question: when do you eat lunch each day?
If you answered anything but “when I’m hungry,” think about why you eat at that particular time. Work schedule? Habit? Convention?
No matter how much freedom you have (or don’t have) in your schedule, you can find your own natural rhythms and create a life that’s in harmony with them. This will help you feel calmer and less frenzied, and provide space and time to do the things you most enjoy.
The first step is observation. If you normally work for someone else and have a set schedule, it’s best to do your initial observation on one of your days off. Go about that day’s activities and focus on noticing how you feel, particularly when you feel best. What time do you wake up when you don’t have to set the alarm clock? Does it feel best to eat a big breakfast, or start with a simple cup of tea or a smoothie? When do you feel most creative and energized? When do you get a bit sleepy? Take notes, jotting down your observations in your journal.
You are probably already aware of your own cycles across longer periods of time. There may be times of the month when you feel better or worse, based on the moon phases or your menstrual cycles. Different seasons often bring different energies: you might feel energized in the spring, or suffer the blahs during all the gray, rainy weather. Take these things into account, adding them to your notes.
Now that you’ve observed when you feel your best, begin to modify your schedule to fit your personal rhythms. Start with small steps, like adjusting your bedtime or eating when you’re hungry. Depending on your personality, you might want to follow your intuition and go with the flow each day, or you may prefer more structure, creating a schedule based on your rhythms. It’s up to you. If you live with others, share with them what you’re doing and encourage them to find their own natural rhythms. Find places where you and your loved ones can sync up.
If you’re retired, an at-home parent, or work for yourself, you can deliberately set up your days according to your personal rhythms. Do your creative work when you feel most alert and focused. Have meals when your body is hungry, and adapt them in size and content so they provide the right amount of fuel for your needs. Let your exercise feel great – if you love to get up for an early-morning run, terrific, but if you have to force yourself, try working out at different times until you find one that clicks. Find ways to sync up your rhythms with your family members, perhaps choosing to share an evening meal or take a morning walk together.
When you work full-time for someone else, your schedule won’t be quite as flexible. Still, there are things you can work with, like mealtimes (eat at your desk when you get hungry), exercise, and of course the hours when you’re not at work. Try making small changes. As you discover more about your ideal rhythms, you might be able to create more significant changes, like working from home sometimes, or adjusting your starting and ending times. Many employers will be flexible in order to meet their employees’ needs.
Cycles of activity are important to take into account, too. You’ve probably read by now about the dangers of sedentary living. It’s healthier to vary your activity levels throughout the day (some sitting, some standing, some movement, some lying down). If you work in an office, it’s not as easy to adapt your workday activities. Still, there are a lot of people who’ve integrated standing workstations into their office setup, and you can do things like taking a brief walk at lunchtime and walking to someone’s office to ask them a question rather than using the phone.
Currently, my ideal day working at home looks something like this: get up around 9am, do my journal writing, do yoga, have a smoothie. Then I alternately work on my laptop (correspondence, planning, writing, and editing) and get some housework done. I eat lunch when I get hungry. In the afternoon, more writing or other work, interspersed with music practice, dancing around the kitchen, going for a walk, making dinner. We have our family dinner usually between 6:30 and 7:30pm. In the evening, we might chat, play a game or watch Netflix together, or work on a project. I also read, do my dancing if I haven’t gotten to it yet, or perhaps work on an art project. I go up to bed around 11:30pm and read until about 1am, then sleep (I need my full 8 hours). On days when I work at the radio station, have errands to run, need to drive the kids to activities, or have social plans, I simply adjust as needed.
Discovering and harmonizing with your personal rhythms will take some time. And of course, your needs will change and evolve. There will be days when your preferred schedule goes out the window; try to just go with the flow. Continue to observe what works well for you, and make adjustments as needed. Follow your intuition.