Monday, April 27, 2015

The Significance of Understanding Your Natural Rhythm

I am what researchers call a “lark,” someone who, because of the way their circadian rhythms shifts, is genetically a “morning person.”

This is why I still get up around 6 a.m. even though I am retired.  It is why I work out and write these posts early in the morning.  Other people are genetically night “owls” or what researchers call “undifferentiated.”

A researcher at BYU, my alma mater, found in a study that 44% of people are “larks” like me, another 32% are “owls” and 24% are undifferentiated.

Dr. Jeffry H. Larson, who graduated a year before I did, also found that people whose rhythms are mismatched are far more likely to argue and to do so more often.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of Utah found that this can also impact when people are most likely to lie.

Further, researchers at the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins and Georgetown have found that when energy wanes, as it does later in the day for “larks” and earlier for “owls,” is also the time of day overall when people are more likely to be unethical.

For some time now, researchers have studied what they call “social jetlag” and found correlations to our chronology.  This is what some people feel when they go back to work on Monday or after a vacation.

It is also something that many college graduates are about to experience as they shift into the workforce.

Studies of “presenteeism” (present in body but not in mind,) note that it costs nearly $80 billion in annual lost productivity.

Human performance decreases at night by 5%-15%.  Interestingly, turnover drops by more than half when employees are able to modify a select a schedule compared to when mandated.

Some research has found links between “owls” and smoking and obesity.  Other research has found that “owls” are also potentially more creative and possibly have slightly higher IQs.

It isn’t likely that a person can change their chronology, and there are some well documented health reasons for why we sleep and fast at night.

Flex time is a solution but so is encouraging people in the workforce to be more conscious and respectful of the ebb and flow of their own energy as well as that of others so that they take on big projects when they are operating with high energy.

It may be that teams should be assembled, in part, using compatibility in this regard as criteria.

Years ago, during my four-decade career as a community marketing executive, I set a rule that people who helped me protect my calendar could set no more than one meeting for me in the morning and one in the afternoon without first clearing an exception.

This is what Dr. Christine Carter at UC-Berkley, the author of the new book The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work, calls the “minimum effective dose” strategy.

For me, that rule about meetings was one of those “micro-habits” she writes about which, to paraphrase, channel our brain’s natural ability to run on “autopilot” so our habits can “relieve overreliance on willpower.”

I can also see in hindsight, how some people who are unethical and savvy at manipulation, probably took care to select meeting times where the potential for unethical outcomes was most probable.

They may have innately understood what researchers have observed.  Due to the “psychological depletion” people experience as the days wear on, “in the afternoon, the moral slope gets slipperier.”

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