Hit That "Blurgh" Time Again? Don't Fret, Says Dan Pink, It's Part Of Your Daily Cycle
There is actually a perfect time of day to do utterly meaningless tasks...
or, even better, to do nothing at all.
So, you wake up, feel motivated, feel on point - today is the day. And for a few hours you are on fire, you feel like you're really getting somewhere.
And then you hit that wall.
Suddenly all that optimism you had has gone out the window and a different self emerges: one who could not give a sh*t. About anything, least of all the stuff that got you out of bed this morning.
It's the dreaded Afternoon Slump.
For most of us, who can at least recognise that is what it is, it is one of those unavoidable un-pleasantries of life where we do our best to slog on despite it, in the vain hope we can push our way through it.
The rest of us just simply question our existence and wonder why it all went so wrong.
Dan Pink has another name for it: "The Trough", which he describes as "the poison" in his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing:
Or, to put it another way:
“Afternoons are the Bermuda Triangles of our days.”
This low point of the day is part of our daily cycle, whether we like it or not.
Despite our best intentions, our motivation, mood and productivity levels follow pretty regular patterns throughout the day, every day.
But, says Pink (as he explains in the videos below), if we can gain a detailed understanding of our own unique cycles, learn to adapt to each stage appropriately and take the right action at the right time, then happy days.
Peak, Trough & Recovery
Pink says we go through a 3-stage process - the "Peak", the "Trough", and the "Recovery" - daily, at pretty much the same time, with us going up and down like a yo-yo, with each step .
The point that we "dip" very much depends on our "chronotype", which Pink describes as:
“A personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology.”
What defines our "type"?
Basically the time we wake up: if we are early risers (Pink calls them Larks) or late-starters (Owls).
Early risers, or Larks, will hit a "peak" in the morning, then a "trough" around 7 hours after waking up and finally will "rebound" or enter a recovery period later in the day.
Night Owls who struggle to get out of bed before late morning will have a similar cycle, but starting from a later point in the day.
The Best Time To Get S**t Done
In terms of getting stuff done, the Peak time is where we will feel - and be - the most productive.
We are highly focused and analytical at this time, says Pink.
Creative insights and ideas come later in the day, as the Recovery stage is when we are likely to be a bit looser and more expansive in our thinking.
Navigating The Dip
The key, though, is what do we do when we hit that slump?
Pink's advice is simple: not very much.
At most do things which aren't particularly challenging, like administrative work (answering emails etc).
The trick is not to beat ourselves up if we can't deliver at the level we would like to during the "dip".
No-one can, apparently.
As such, he advises we learn to take it as a cue for "vigilant breaks": to switch gears, stop flogging ourselves and do something far less taxing instead.
So, if answering emails sounds too much to bear (particularly if we are not in the office), then we can always make the most of the fact that our brain has just turned to cheese.
We can take that nap.
It's OK, we're allowed, says Pink:
“Vigilance breaks prevent deadly mistakes. Restorative breaks enhance performance. Lunches and naps help us elude the trough and get more and better work done in the afternoon. A growing body of science makes it clear: Breaks are not a sign of sloth but a sign of strength.”
Perhaps the Spanish are on to something, Siesta, anyone?