I don’t know about you but my normal schedule went out the window during this quarantine. I was trying to be more productive but I was going through the days feeling like a zombie and not giving 100% on all of my tasks. I have a long list of daily habits that I like to get through the day but I never seem to complete all of them. The extra time that I had, I didn’t have the desire to be productive. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and watch Netflix. I had so much more time, but not spending it wisely. That’s when I came upon an Instagram post about optimizing your circadian rhythm and how it can increase your energy and productivity.
What is a Circadian Rhythm? We all have it. It’s our internal clock that regulates when we wake up and fall asleep. It also regulates our energy levels, mainly the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin, in our bodies. This biological clock is set by natural factors like the rising and setting of the sun, but it can be thrown off by irregular sleep patterns such as the blue light emitted by our smartphones and even the time we eat and work out. Below is how I transitioned to a new schedule that optimized my circadian rhythm. If you are in the same boat as me, I encourage you to try it out too!
6 AM: Wake up. Before quarantine, I woke up between 5:30 – 6:30 depending on how many times I hit that snooze button. However, hitting the snooze button made me feel groggier at 6:30 then I did at 5:30. The spring and summer months helps with waking up because the light from the sun is already signaling my body to wake up. Open the blinds as soon as you wake up or set a natural light alarm clock to turn on 30 minutes before you wake up if you don’t have access to natural light when you wake up. If you normally wake up at 9 AM, I suggest waking up 15 minutes earlier each day instead of waking up at 6 AM right away. For example, wake up at 8:45 on Monday, then 8:30 on Tuesday and so on. My morning routine is to grab my affirmation book, drink a cup of water, brush my teeth and then get ready for my morning workout.
7 AM: Workout. This is the best time to get your body moving when you don’t have much in your stomach, also known as fasted exercising. Eating right before a workout can slow down or shut down your digestion during exercise. Fasted exercising also maximizes your fat burning and kicks you into high energy after your workout. I suggest not to work out at night right before you go to sleep because of the energy that you receive after a workout.
10 AM : Take a walk outside. Taking a walk outside in nature to appreciate the present moment lowers stress levels. Being under the sun can also brighten your mood because it release the happy hormone, serotonin in your body. Now you are ready to finish those tasks with a clear mind for the rest of the day.
11 AM: Caffeine control. This might be hard for some of you, but if you keep with this schedule it will get easier. If you are a person that drinks coffee during that “afternoon slump”, try to stop an hour earlier each day until you get to 11 AM. Caffeine can stay in your system for 4-6 hours after you had that cup. It will be more difficult for you to fall asleep when you actually want to.
12-5 PM: Eat the bulk of your calories. Having your lunch be the biggest meal of the day and a eating a smaller breakfast and dinner is suggested, keeping most of the healthy carbs for lunchtime. I drink a protein shake right after a work out in the morning to repair and rebuild my muscles. I eat my starches, like grains, whole wheat bread, and sweet potatoes for lunch and leave them out when I eat dinner. This will aid with sleep due to the unlikeliness you’ll experience indigestion. Melatonin is converted from serotonin which is produced in your gut. Eating a meal filled with fats and sugars can hinder the production of the serotonin.
8 PM: Reduce bright blue-light – When it begins to get dark, our bodies will start to release melatonin however it can be confused by bright, blue lights from phone screens, computers screens, televisions, and other electronic devices. Set an alarm clock for yourself to turn electronic devices off or invest in a smart light bulb. With these light bulbs, you can not only dim the lights, but you can set the time for lights to dim or turn off at a certain time. You can set the light bulb to different colors. Red or orange does not have any blue light in it and is the best color light that doesn’t disturb the release of melatonin. They even reduce energy costs in your electricity bill! Another way to reduce blight-blue light is using blue-light-blocking glasses.
9 PM: Journal, meditate, gratitude, read. It’s time to wind down and get those thoughts out on your journal. I like to spend a few minutes to plan my next day so I don’t stress over important tasks right before I fall asleep. I jot down what I’m grateful for each night so that I end the day in a happy mood and can go to sleep soundly. Reading also helps me to fall asleep. It’s a great alternative to falling asleep to Netflix.
10-11 PM Bed time routine. My bed time includes brushing my teeth and doing my skincare routine. I end the night with drinking some herbal tea. Herbal teas are caffeine free and aid in helping you fall sleep. My favorite tea is turmeric ginger tea. Ginger calms the stomach, promotes relaxation, and reduces anxiety. Turmeric aids in digestion and also has some calming properties. The very act of having a bedtime routine basically tells my brain that it’s almost bedtime so I tend to get tired in the middle of my bed time routine.
Since the beginning of this shelter in place, which was 2 months ago, I feel the most productive that I have ever been. It took me a while to get used to the routine in the first week or two. However, I have become excited to wake up in the morning and get all of my tasks done for the day. There are some challenges that I still face. For example, I live with roommates so I do have a television in my room. My significant other does not have the same routine as I do so he still watches TV while I’m getting ready for bed. If you have this same issue, I highly suggest a sleep mask! It’s works wonders.
During the weekends, I have been able to keep my routine. Part of the reason is because we are in quarantine, but the other reason is because I have told my family and friends that I put my phone on “do not disturb” and will reply back in the morning. I also try to schedule my Zoom, Hangouts, FaceTime before 8 and even tell them I need to hang up at 8.
Wondering how to keep this schedule even after quarantine? I can imagine it being difficult during travel, or when the seasons change to longer nights, or when I want to have a night out with my friends. Having a schedule is important to your overall wealth but I don’t call these setbacks, I call these experiences enriching your life. I don’t want to miss out, but I know I need to find a balance, or tweak my schedule when the time comes.
How do you find energy to be productive? We want to know in the comments!
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