Utilize Your Chronotype to Overpower Those Work Blues

Yes, there’s actually a best time to do everything: from scheduling a meeting to asking for a raise—even binge-watching Netflix. We all have an internal clock that ticks to its own beat, influencing when we’re most productive and most prone to sleep. Yet few people harness their natural rhythms for maximum work efficiency.

So what’s a chronotype?

Everyone has an internal circadian rhythm and chronotypes are the identifications of these rhythms. Chronotypes are genetically pre-determined. There are four chronotypes: dolphins, who are light sleepers and commonly suffer from insomnia; lions, who tend to wake early with lots of energy but get exhausted by early evening; bears, who track the rise and fall of the sun and need 8 hours of sleep each night; and wolves, who are most energetic in the evenings and don’t like mornings. How can you tell what chronotype you are? The easiest way to self-select is through a couple of questions. For example, when do you start getting tired in the evening? Lions get tired between 9:30-10:00PM, bears get tired between 10:30-11:00PM, wolves get tired at 11:00PM or later, while dolphins are insomniacs and are usually tired all the time. Dolphins can be determined by process of elimination. About 55% of the population are bears, while lions, dolphins and wolves are about 15% each.

How Do your natural rhythms affect your eating habits?

Your meals are your guideposts throughout the day. If you can eat at the right time, it really keeps your chronotype on the right rhythm. The more consistent you are eating lunch at the same time each day, the better. Dolphins and lions should eat lunch at noon, bears at 12:30PM, and wolves at 1:00PM. Lions should have a mid-morning snack around 9:30AM, since they eat breakfast so early, while everyone else should have a snack between lunch and dinner.

How can you take advantage of your natural rhythms in the workplace?

One of the classic things people screw up at work is scheduling meetings at the wrong times. Monday morning is not the right time for meetings, because people have social jet lag from the weekend, plus they have to plan the week ahead. The only people who are good at 7:00AM on Monday are lions, and a lot of managers are lions. If you can have a managers-only breakfast meeting, lions are fine with it. For everyone else, have a lunch meeting. Then, think about what is required of different work products. If you work at an ad agency, there are two sides: creative and business. Some 75% to80% of super creative people are wolves. You should have extended office hours for them. 8:00PM is when their juices are flowing. For selling ads, you want lions who get up early and get out there, because by 3:00PM they’re toast.

What’s the best time to ask for a raise?

People become more positive as the week goes on. Monday is not a positive day. Friday is a very positive day. Also, later in the day tends to be better. By 2:00PM, most people are in a good mood. If you can determine your boss’s chronotype, coordinate your request with his or her peak pleasantness and, therefore, peak receptivity to your request. Lions’ pleasantness peaks at 2:00PM, dolphins’ at 4:00PM, bears’ at 6:00PM, and wolves’ at 8:00PM. If your boss is a lion and a lot of bosses are —you don’t want to show up at 4:00PM on a Friday afternoon to ask for a raise.

How do these chronotypes affect us outside the office?

A lot of people don’t start watching TV until late at night. All of a sudden, you look up and it’s 1:00AM. Sleep is not an on-off switch. If you don’t show up on time, you might miss your window. If at all possible, you don’t want to binge-watch past 10:30PM. Bears and wolves have to be super careful binge-watching during the week, because they’ll stay up too late and it’ll crush them the next day. For dolphins, the best time to binge watch is between 10:00AM to 2:00PM and for lions, it’s 7:00PM to 10:00PM. For bears, it’s 3:00PM to 9:00PM on weekends; for wolves, it’s 5:00PM to 11:00PM on weekends.

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