Some things we all know: Effective time management is crucial to daily life, and it can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical and mental health. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the constant demands of work, family, and personal life. And, many of us are operating on a clock that’s been handed to us – demands like the start of the school and work day, the assumption of a minimum of eight hours’ of work, the obligatory one hour of exercise – suck up our day and dictate our schedules.
What’s my Time Management Rhythm?
Daniel Pink is a renowned author and speaker on the subject of time management. In his book, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” he explains how understanding the rhythms of our daily lives can help us maximize productivity and happiness. Pink’s time management techniques involve three stages: the peak, the trough, and the recovery.
The peak is when we are most alert and focused, which for most people (but not all people!) is in the morning. The trough is the time of day when our energy and focus are at their lowest, usually (but not always!) in the mid-afternoon. The recovery is when our energy and focus start to return, typically in the late afternoon or early evening.
Pink’s suggestion is that we should plan our daily activities based on these three stages. We should schedule our most important and demanding tasks during our peak times, tackle less demanding tasks during our trough times, and resume work, with occasional breaks, during our recovery times.
So what does this have to do with self-care?
Time Management & Self-Care
To my mind, combining Pink’s time management techniques with the concept of self-compassion creates a powerful tool for improving health and well-being. By scheduling demanding tasks during peak times, we can maximize productivity and reduce stress. By tackling less demanding tasks during trough times, we can give ourselves a break and conserve our energy. And by taking breaks during recovery times, we can recharge our batteries and return to tasks with renewed focus and energy.
While this may seem like an incredibly obvious suggestion, I don’t think many of us are operating in this way. We’re pushed to productivity at all costs. We harbor the notion that getting up very early and working all day makes us better people. We call ourselves “lazy” when we allow ourselves to rest in our low-energy periods. We feel like we’re falling behind when we can’t bring ourselves to focus and need a break.
So how to proceed with change? My recommendation here is two-fold. The first is a gentler suggestion – we can try to be kind to ourselves throughout the day. We can accept that we are not perfect and will make mistakes. Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding when we fall short of our goals can help reduce stress and avoid burnout. Mindfulness allows us to accept our thoughts and feelings without judgment, helping us improve overall well-being. We can stop calling ourselves lazy, and allow for the fact that we are humans that are not actually built to focus all day, every day.
The second half of my recommendation is perhaps more radical. Can we consider where we might bend our daily schedules to accommodate our own wants an needs, including the times when we operate best, the times when we might need to rest, the times when we need breaks, and the times when we would benefit from relaxation and rejuvenation? Can we allow for a day that is only semi-productive? Can we set ourselves up for success by working at our peak times, and resting during our trough times? Can we consider that an eight hour workday is an arbitrary standard?
Can we schedule tasks based on our own individual daily rhythms, and treat ourselves with kindness and compassion? And, in doing so, can we then, rather effortlessly, maximize productivity, reduce stress, and improve our overall well-being?
What would you change about your daily schedule? Can you make it happen?