Topic 2 Personal rhythm and performance peaks

Respect your performance peaks and slowdowns. Personal performance curve is a factor to be necessarily taken into account when scheduling your work.

Our performance tends to fluctuate during the day which is seen on the amount and quality of the work performed as well as on the amount of energy used for the work.

Ignoring our performance curve will result in decreased concentration, lower performance, tiredness, headache as well as so-called “empty head” when you are not able to come up with a single idea or thought.

Both our physical and mental performance is influenced by our PERSONAL RHYTHM.

Performance peaks and slowdowns are highly individualized. Larks and owls in terms of daily performance level have become universal terms and they can be described in a few words. You can easily categorize yourself into one of these two groups.

Obviously, the “personal“ type can be changed, altered through training but you will get in conflict with your natural self and have to use a lot of energy to do it.

Children might experience changes for example during holidays and adults during their vacation or longer sickness leave when our daily routines change.

Typical features of “early birds” and “night owls” types

EARLY BIRDS

  • They go to bed early
  • They get up early in the morning
  • As soon as they get up, they are immediately active and do not need any time to “wake up”
  • They are able to fully concentrate since the very morning
  • They prefer working in the morning
  • In the afternoon they start feeling tired
  • In the evening they are not able to work and cannot concentrate

NIGHT OWLS

  • They go to bed very late, often after midnight
  • They get up late in the morning
  • After waking up they need quite a long time to be able to start doing something
  • They are able to perform only after approx. 10 a.m.
  • They tend to achieve their peak performance and concentration in the afternoon
  • They are able to work until late night
  • They like working at night when not disturbed by anyone and they can concentrate on their thoughts

Obviously, you know yourself better than anyone else. To which group do you think you belong? Are you more active in the morning or in the evening and even at night? Do the test in the following chapter to confirm your assumption.

Test: Are you an early bird or a night owl?

1. What time would you get up if you could schedule your daily routine?
  a) 6 a.m. – 7 a.m. 1 point
  b) 7 a.m. – 8 a.m. 2 points
  c) 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. 3 points
  d) later 4 points

2. What time would you go to bed if you could schedule your evening?
  a) 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. 1 point
  b) 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. 2 points
  c) 11 p.m. – 12 p.m. 3 points
  d) later 4 points

3. Do you feel like eating as soon as you wake up ( even if you get up early)?
  a) definitely yes 1 point
  b) rather yes 2 points
  c) rather no 3 points
  d) definitely no 4 points

4. If you have to get up at a specific hour, do you need an alarm clock
to wake up?
  a) definitely yes 1 point
  b) rather yes 2 points  
  c) rather no 3 points
  d) definitely no 4 points

5. How active are you during the first 30 minutes after you have woken up?
  a) very active 1 point
  b) quite active after a few minutes 2 points
  c) a bit sleepy 3 points
 d) very sleepy 4 points

6. There are “morning” and “night” types of people. What type do you consider yourself?
  a) obviously morning type1 point
  b) rather morning type than evening 2 points
  c) rather night type 3 points
  d) definitely night type 4 points

Evaluation:

  • 6 – 11 points you tend to be rather a morning person, the lower score, the more “morning bird” type you are
  • 11 – 18 points you are an average type with no strictly defined chronotype
  • 19 – 24 points you tend to be rather an evening type, the higher score, the more “night owl” type you are

Stress situations, work and time management

Stress is an organism’s response to a situation when we have to constantly adapt to a changing environment. It influences us both physically and psychologically and it can result in positive or negative feelings. Short-term productive stress, i.e. eustress can incentivize us to perform better and concentrate more on the activity on a short-term basis.

On the other had, negative or long-term stress results in distraction, decreased concentration capacity, sleeping disorders, psychosomatic responses, irrational behaviour and/or higher level of aggression.

The most frequent stressors having impact on and decreasing our performance are, among others: physical (sharp light, excessive noise, low/high temperature), psychological (deadlines for tasks, exams or tests, age and generation gap, unfulfilled expectations), social (personal relations, workplace conflicts, disappointment, lifestyle – lack of sleep, smoking, alcohol abuse), traumatic (birth of a child, death, marriage, divorce, new job).

How to prevent stress at your work

Our experience from trainings and company (business) counselling clearly demonstrates that excessive stress at work is connected to poor scheduling and lack of discipline. People skilled at scheduling are more able to prevent stress. Therefore, schedule your activities in a way you know in advance how your working day will look like. This inner feeling of assurance helps overcoming many obstacles that tend to occur every now and again during your working day.

Lack of scheduling makes you lose lot of time to remove any mistakes or failures. Furthermore, you will be busy being angry with yourselves. Invest your time in a better way!

Mental hygienic practices to prevent stress

While we might never completely get rid of all the stress situations in our lives, we can learn to prevent them and eliminate their impact on us. The activities outlined below help us find balance on a long-term basis.

Respect your mind: realize you are under pressure and feel free to take reasonable breaks and relaxation.

Breathe: practice slow and free breathing into your belly.

Sleep: high-quality sleep will recharge your batteries (both mental and physical). If you feel tired, your thinking risks to lack reasonability.

Eat well: have balanced and nutritional lifestyle. Limit tobacco, caffein and sugar consumption. Reduce medication not prescribed by your physician.

Practice sport activities: respect yourself and dedicate optimally at least 30 minutes per day to exercising. Physical activity is key to reduce and prevent stress impacts and helps you absorb excessive energy. In the periods of higher stress find time for your favourite activity.

Relax: learn to find time for yourself. Use this time for your favourite activities or just relax with your eyes closed.

PRACTICAL EXERCISE:

Imagine the course of the following week. Is there an event or activity that makes you feel in stress just when you think about it? In hard times when everything goes wrong, events start to “control” our time. Improvisation and nervousness will not make us feel any calmer and not help us arrange it in an efficient way. Stay calm and analyze the situation from distance. Is it really only me who have to do the activity right now?

  • If possible, try breaking down the activity in several small steps. Schedule the steps carefully.
  • Try to find a person who could help you or to whom you could delegate it.
  • Be open to yourself and decide if postponing the task to the following week will deviate you from your long-term schedule. Be careful about procrastination!
  • Go through the stress-preventing steps described above once more. Do you manage to observe them? If not, remedy it.