What happens to our bodies during different times of the day can affect how we perform various tasks. Our circadian rhythm is the physical, mental, and behavioural changes that happen to our body over 24 hours, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. It is important to note that not everyone’s circadian rhythm is the same. Adjust your day and activities, if possible, to match your circadian rhythm. Working with our circadian rhythm will not only promote wellness for our body and our mind, but will help us be more productive throughout the day.
Our activities, genetics and time of year are some ways that influence our circadian rhythm. For example, some people who are on shift work and force their bodies to work through the night will react differently than someone who works 9-5 every day. Daylight savings time also can influence the regulation of our circadian rhythm. It is important to know your unique circadian rhythm. Adjust activities to match your work, body, and life needs for a productive and healthy lifestyle.
Here are some suggested activities for a typical office work day to optimize the effects of what happens throughout the day based on a typical circadian rhythm.
6:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Early in the morning, our bodies have the sharpest rise in blood pressure. Just after 7:00 am our body stops secreting melatonin. Wake your body and mind up gently with a morning routine that includes stretching and meditation. Remember to eat a healthy breakfast and hydrate. Pack a healthy snack and lunch so you will be able to eat well throughout the day, and it helps prevent the temptation to visit the local fast-food restaurant. Be sure to fill your refillable water bottle and pack it to go.
WELL building standard recommends men drink 3.7 L of water per day and women drink 2.7 L per day. Being dehydrated by just 2% can impair performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor and immediate memory skills. Also, eating unhealthily is linked with a 66% increase risk of loss of productivity.
Whether you start work before you leave the house, or get into the office early to beat the traffic, this is a good time to check emails; delete, respond, or archive. Your mind is free, and your body is rested. Use this time to make important decisions. Note: IF you find you have an important decision to make late in the day, defer it if possible so you have time to sleep on it.
9:00 a.m. – Noon
The body secretes the highest amounts of testosterone during this period and our bodies are on high alert. Research shows that our brain’s capacity is at its highest in the hours before lunch. Considering these biological factors, look for tasks that require focus and attention during the morning hours at the office. Accounting jobs, proposal or speech writing, preparing a presentation, studying for an exam, strategic planning, or data analysis tasks would be good to accomplish during this peak time of alertness.
Noon – 2 p.m.
There is a constant push and pull of wakefulness and sleep as our bodies go throughout a 24hr period. There is a minor dip in wakefulness right after lunch which is why many people feel tired, or sluggish, after lunch. During this time there is a pull towards mental distraction and a slump in body energy. Having a light, healthy lunch may help reduce these symptoms so your body does not need to work as hard to digest the food.
During the “Distraction Dip” do tasks that require less mental capacity.
Schedule time to be on your professional social media profiles to update and connect with your network. Take the time after lunch to do some light stretching to help with body circulation. Tasks such as organizing the desk or filing paperwork are also suggestions to do in the early hours of afternoon. This time may also be good to schedule meetings with clients or colleagues that you haven’t been in touch with for a while, but are still important to the success of your business.
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
This is a time where your mind and body has the fastest reaction time and best coordination. Schedule activities that require you to think fast. Important business meetings, sales calls, making a presentation, or brainstorming with co-workers can all benefit from you being able to respond quickly to questions or difficult conversations.
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Later in the afternoon is when the body has the greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength. Take the time to get out of the office and challenge your body! Combine a business meeting with a physical activity such as cycling, squash, hiking, golf, or going to the gym. If you have to work late, choose this time for a personal workout.
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
During these early evening, the body is at its highest temperature and has the highest blood pressure. Time to Relax! If you are commuting, try listening to relaxing music. Take the time to eat a relaxing dinner with the family, do some yoga/stretch/walk, meet some friends after work. And to help wind down after a long hard day, make sure to leave work at work, if possible.
8 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Melatonin secretion starts about nine p.m. but can vary depending on the individual. Be Creative! The hours leading up to bed, when our bodies are starting to feel tired, it is suggested that this may be one of our most creative times of the day! Work on difficult solutions, think of new innovative ways to do something or work on a creative project. Research shows that getting a good night sleep helps us focus the next day and supports a healthy mind and body. Getting to bed approximately the same time every night helps with the body’s natural cue to go to sleep.
These times and tasks will vary depending on each person’s body, their type of work, and the time of year. Working with our circadian rhythm helps not only promote a healthy mind and body but helps us optimize the performance of our daily tasks.