Have you heard this one?
Go to bed early, get up early, be more productive.
The key to business productivity, we’re told, is this whole early routine.
Generally, getting up early works for me. It allows me to get a good start on my day, and finish a lot more before people and other responsibilities start to interfere.
However, not everyone works the same way I do. There are people who do much better at night.
Your optimal business productivity is all about your chronotype. Figure that out, and you’ll be in much better shape as you plan your daily routine.
What is a Chronotype?
According to psychologist Michael Breus, the author of The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype, our genetic code holds the key to optimal business productivity.
According to Breus, there is a gene that indicates how much sleep you like, as well as what time you want to sleep. We know that sleep is a biological imperative, and we know that our bodies perform better when we get the right amount of sleep.
However, everything else that goes on in our lives depends on our sleep habits as well. From when we are most likely to exercise, to when we are most productive, and even when we are most likely to enjoy intimate time with a partner, all have to do with chronotype.
When you understand how time plays a role in your life, you can start planning your business day and other activities around when you sleep best — and make sure you get the right amount of sleep for you.
Your chronotype is all about what your body prefers in terms of sleep. And one size doesn’t fit all.
You can actually take a quiz to figure out what chronotype you are, and then use that information to adjust your daily routine.
Breus uses a quiz to categorize people into four different chronotypes. Depending on which type you fall into, you can figure out a routine that works for you.
This is someone who likes to get very early and get things done as efficiently as possible. A lion doesn’t nap very often and usually wakes early on the weekends as well. Even though a lion gets up early, s/he is most alert right around noon, according to the categories offered by Breus.
Most people are bears. These are folks that get up in the morning, go to bed before midnight, and generally find themselves most productive mid-morning to early afternoon. You if you can fit in an exercise routine first thing, or in the early afternoon, you can remain on top of your game.
A wolf likes to adjust the day a little bit later. A wolf is most alert right around 7 p.m. If this is your chronotype, you are likely to stay up fairly late and want to sleep in a bit in the morning. Your best ideas and creativity flow in the evening.
If you are striving for perfection and have problems sleeping, you might be a dolphin. This chronotype is most alert very late at night. This is the person that stays up most of the night working and then crashes during the day. In some cases, the perfectionism can keep them from doing anything.
Do You Have to be an Animal Chronotype?
Of course, the ways Breus categorizes chronotypes doesn’t have to be the way you look at it. Others have talked in terms of larks and night owls.
What really matters is that you pay attention to your own body rhythms and figure out what works best for you. Look at when you perform best. Consider how you operate, and whether you need more or less sleep. You might not fall easily into one category or another.
You can use designations from other people to get a general idea of where you fit and to recognize patterns in your own life. I notice that I fall somewhere between Lion and Bear. There’s overlap there.
In fact, there are many more different chronotypes, and narrowing it down to just four categories doesn’t cover everything.
Business Productivity on Your Own Schedule
As an entrepreneur and business owner, the good news is that you have the ability, to some degree, to adjust your schedule.
If you can figure out when you do your best work, and when you are most productive, you will have a better chance of getting things done — and doing your best work.
I’m working on making sure I get to bed at what I consider a resonable time (by 11 p.m.) in order to get up earlier. I find that banging out some work before my son gets up and I’m interrupted by the responsibilities involved in getting him off to school works well for me.
Then I try to get as much work done as possible during the rest of the morning, after he leaves.
I know that when I sleep in or try to do work later in the day, it just doesn’t work. I’m more prone to distractions and I’m more likely to want to do something else. If I don’t get up and get to it, I probably won’t be productive at all.I find that early afternoon is ideal for a brisk walk or some other exercise because I’m just getting ready to hit my slump. If I can exercise before I hit that slump, I get a little extra energy to maybe answer a couple of emails.
I find that early afternoon is ideal for a brisk walk or some other exercise because I’m just getting ready to hit my slump. If I can exercise before I hit that slump, I get a little extra energy to maybe answer a couple of emails.
Pay attention to how you operate. Make notes on how you feel at different times of the day, and how you operate when you get different amounts of sleep. As you pay attention, you’ll learn about your own circadian rhythm and your chronotype. You can make adjustments that result in greater productivity outcomes.
Can You Change Your Chronotype?
In some cases, it might not be practical to follow your chronotype. Maybe your family is on a different schedule. Perhaps you have a business that doesn’t really fit well with your chronotype.
The good news is that you can actually change your chronotype. One study found that when early risers and night owls were taken camping for a week, they all ended up happy to get up at dawn. Being without electronic devices and artificial light helped them change their rhythms. Even the night owls found themselves retrained to a degree.
You can retrain your own chronotype if you take the time to practice good sleep hygiene and if you get on a schedule that retrains your body. My ex-husband used to be more like a Wolf. However, when he took a new job, he ended up needing to get up early to teach his classes. Over the course of several months, he retrained himself and now he’s a Bear.
I’m working on trying to move myself more into the Lion category, just because I’ve been struggling to get my work done as the day becomes more cluttered.
In the end, your chronotype makes a difference. Understand what works for you, and adapt your schedule so you reach optimal business productivity.