Do you feel exhausted within an hour of work? Do you struggle to get the motivation to power through the day? Well, you are not alone, and more importantly, you don’t have a willpower problem! The real issue here is the Ultradian Rhythm. The Ultradian Rhythm is a biological pattern, discovered by sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman in the 1950s. He observed that the human body tends to move through 90-120 minute cycles. These cycles correspond to different levels of energy and alertness. After 90-120 minutes of heightened brain activity, our body starts craving for a phase (20 minutes) of rest and recovery.
So if you are feeling low on energy after working for an hour or so, take a cue from your body- it needs rest. Syncing work patterns to the 90:20 ratio can help you in boosting productivity, focus, and energy! Let’s know more about the Ultradian Rhythm and how to coordinate it with our daily routine.
Know your Ultradian Rhythms
It’s important to start listening to your Ultradian Rhythm, to assess your state of energy. Once you become aware of your energy rhythms, you can plan your day in sync with them and boost your productivity without getting burnt out.
- Start noticing your body’s oscillating energy cycle. Observe when your energy level peaks and drops. At the beginning phase, it's good if you can chart it out.
- Remember that the low-energy phase is your friend and they have the purpose of getting you a physical and mental break. It will rebalance your body and detoxify its core systems.
- Look out for indications from your body that calls for a break! If you are experiencing fatigue, brain fog, loss of focus, and productivity, know that your body is signaling you to take a break.
- The Ultradian troughs occur mostly around mid-morning and mid-afternoon- two hours after starting work or having lunch. If you feel exhaustion, stop whatever you are doing and rest for a bit. Ideally, you should take a break of 20 minutes, but any break is better than nothing.
- Shifting gears is important for you to understand your body and mind. Do not get stuck! If you’ve been sitting still, move and vice versa. Let your brain shut for a while after working intensively.
Synchronize your routine with the Ultradian Rhythm
Once you know your productive and resting phase, implement it in your daily routine. List down your most important tasks and start working on them during the peak point of your energy level for about 60-90 minutes. Be mindful and take cues from your body. If you feel that you are not able to concentrate or your energy level begins to falter, it’s a sign that you are hitting the low point of your Ultradian rhythm. Take a break of 20-30 minutes and let your body and mind relax. If you are not able to sit for 60-90 minutes straight, try using the Pomodoro Technique, which includes 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of focus.
What happens when you skip the Ultradian Rhythm breaks?
It’s a no-brainer that our body needs rest to function properly throughout the day. If we miss a break, by the mid-afternoon we might feel incredibly exhausted, and even gulping coffee won’t pull us out from the swamp of tiredness. Skipping breaks can have adverse effects on your body. It increases the rate of errors and you can’t think straight or comprehend things properly. It also causes a decline in creativity and you might have a tough time coming up with good ideas and solutions. Working tirelessly without any breaks might reduce your physical coordination as well, like typing slowly than usual, producing more typing errors, and spilling your coffee. This also increases your cravings for sugars and refined carbs and you might find yourself eating more junk food, which can cause inflammations and blood-sugar imbalances. Lastly, skipping the resting time can also disrupt your normal sleep patterns and further undermine effectiveness, mood, immunity, and cognitive performance.
Ultradian Rhythm Break Activities to calm your mind and body
For daily productivity, just managing time is not enough. You have to manage your energy level as well. Our body is designed to work in phases followed by breaks, instead of working constantly from 9 to 5. Here are some activities for the Ultradian Rhythm breaks, to replenish your body and mind.
- Hydrate! Get a glass of water or a cup of tea and don’t just gulp it down. Drink slowly and enjoy each sip.
- Eat healthy snacks at your dinner table or somewhere relaxing. Avoid eating at your work desk.
- Stand on your balcony and look around you. Absorb the calmness of your surroundings.
- Avoid mindlessly scrolling through your phone.
- Close your eyes and meditate. You can also do deep breathing or a walking exercise.
- Put some aromatherapy oils or flower essence around your space.
- Do whatever makes you feel relaxed- draw, listen to calming music, write a journal or just take a nap!
To power through the day, you must identify the times when you are at the peak level of your energy, focus, and productivity. Use this time for your work. Do not ignore the signs your body gives when it needs rest, take a break, and chill for a while. It might feel like a waste of time to take a break, but it’s NOT! It is an essential part of a productive day; you are not being lazy but actually taking time to recharge. It’s very simple- double down on the peak levels and take rejuvenating rests during the low energy points.