Do you ever feel like you have seasons of productivity much like there are seasons in the year?
I definitely do. Give me sunny summer days and I feel like I can tackle most things – whether I do or not is another story, but I feel like I can! And then there are the times where I feel like getting through the basics is the best I can do.
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that there is a distinct difference between the times we feel a buzz of busy and the times when we’re actually productive. And that difference ties a lot to the seasons.
I’m recording this episode in the month of November, when Daylight Savings Time tips the clock back a bit. Not just back an hour – an extra hour. Bonus time, people!
Now, Episode 35 was dedicated to exactly this concept. What would we do if we could order up an extra hour on demand? And how much would we value that extra hour? It’s very interesting when we start putting a price on what we often donate for free – meaning, our time. There is a lot of minutiae in our minutes. But when we really try to look at the construct of an hour, it becomes a larger indicator of where we put our personal value system.
Back to the seasons of time, Daylight Savings Time is a subtle shift in the schedule that is intended to help us make more of our daylight hours. In modern times, however, that ability seems to have far less to do with the rising and setting of the sun as it does with a needed reboot of our mental mindset.
Before we get into the art of fine tuning the clock, let’s do a quick hop through history to see how humankind has tried to tame time.
In the most recent past, the idea of aligning our waking hours to daylight hours was proposed in 1784 by American thinker and doer Benjamin Franklin. He proposed a shift not as a political or environmental strategy but as an economical one on how to minimize the use of candles-think about that.
And let’s have a quick shout out to the city of Port Arthur in Ontario, Canada which was the first city in the world to enact an official Daylight Savings time way back in 1908. From then on, different countries tried different adaptations of times with varying success.
So what does this history lesson have to do with busy vs. productivity? A good amount, it turns out. As humans, we are creatures of habit. And a change in routine, even if it’s seen as a positive change, requires a tangible change in how we accept and adapt to that change.
Moving from psychology to biology, the sudden change in time can disrupt our sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. This actual disruption might lead to more drowsiness, or you find you’re having trouble concentrating, or you even have a decrease in productivity until our bodies start to adjust.
For many people, there’s a distinct drop off in motivation when the day gets darker earlier. Here in the Northwestern United States, there are stretches where the sun goes down by 5 p.m. Now that happened today and the hibernation effect is strong for me during these times. All of a sudden, running errands or taking the dog out seems like I’m venturing into the wild darkness.
And part of this is tied to the melatonin hormone. Yes, it’s actually a hormone. Our brain starts to release melatonin into our bloodstream when the sun sets and it continues to release it slowly until the middle of the night. So when the sun sets earlier, we get an advanced delivery of the hey-let’s-go-to-bed vibes. To offset this or to manage it, we need to look at our exposure to light both during the daytime and in how we spend the evening hours.
What I mean by this is that access to sunlight or daylight (even if it’s behind clouds) helps regulate our internal clock and put it on a more natural sleep-wake cycle. On the other end, we need to be mindful during darker days to limit the amount of exposure we have to artificial light after the sun goes down – that can include everything from the screens we are using to the overhead lights above us. It’s not just the hours we are awake that count, it’s how those hours are lit that can help or hurt how we sleep.
How you start and how you end your day are big investments for your future energy. Episode 70 talks a lot more about that and the elements of using the bookends in your day, meaning really being intentional about what you do in the first and last hour of when you’re awake.
A little extra care in extra places can help shift the seasons to work with you, instead of against you. And as you consider this remember, it’s always the right time to make time right, for you.