I have read many times over the last year, that with remote working, the “new normal” workday should be shorter—50% shorter, to be exact.
Time and time again, research has shown that you only have 2.5–3 hours a day where you can be truly productive. Yet, a major source of stress for most of us is the fact that we’re expected to be producing thoughtful and creative work throughout a full workday.
Much of this comes down to the 9 to 5 office culture we’ve become accustomed to. However, with the rise of remote work expected to continue beyond 2021, the question becomes:
Why keep working in a way that is essentially unproductive and stressful?
If your role allows it, one of the best things you can do is to change the way you approach your day. Take advantage of the autonomy and flexibility of remote working to build a schedule that works for you.
Specifically, this means understanding that productivity is rarely a time issue, but an energy one. You aren’t lacking the time to do things. You’re lacking the energy. Yet because we think we can control where our time goes each day but not our overall schedule, we choose to focus on the former and ignore the latter.
Understanding your internal clock you cam discover the window of time during the day where your energy levels are highest. Your daily energy levels are dictated by your chronotype—a variation in your circadian rhythm that determines when your body needs rest.
While the most common chronotype is people who sleep from midnight to 8 a.m., 69% of others have a naturally earlier or later bedtime. This means 7 out of 10 people are being forced to work during times when they’re naturally tired and unenergetic.
Once you know your chronotype, however, you can match the start of your workday to the start of your first energy cycle. So how do you figure that out?
If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, you can take the Automated Morningness–Eveningness Questionnaire (AutoMEQ). Otherwise, try this 3-question test from Daniel Pink:
1) What time do you go to sleep on days when you aren’t required to be up by a certain time?
2) What time do you wake up on those days?
3) What’s the midpoint between those two times? (For example, if you go to sleep at 1 a.m. and wake up at 9 a.m., your midpoint is 5 a.m.)
Your midpoint will determine your chronotype:
▪ Before 3:30 a.m.: You’re a lark (i.e. you prefer an earlier wake-up time)
▪ After 5:30 a.m.: You’re an owl (i.e. you prefer a later wake-up time)
▪ In-between: You’re a “third bird”
Chronotypes don’t just impact when we should wake up but also when our energy levels peak during the day. At these moments, we’re most alert and are more likely to be productive, come up with creative ideas, and stay motivated and focused.