One of the unexpected joys of doing a PhD has been the times I’ve gone down what looks like a rabbit hole to find a nugget of gold at the bottom! I recently chose a podcast at random from ‘How to PhD’ to start the day with some inspiration during my early morning dog walk. I found a golden nugget that I think could truly help me to nurture and bring my best self to my work each day, so I wanted to share it with you.
Before I explain this golden nugget, I want to add some context. At Compassionate Cultures, we’re driven by our passion that work can and should be a place of joy, a place to thrive and grow. Our research is focused on developing understanding and building evidence on what it means to thrive and grow at work.
One element of this is recognising how the leadership of ourselves as well as of each other helps or hinders our ability to thrive and grow.
We often talk about the importance of nurturing you and you will be nurturing your ability to lead with compassion and truly enhance the lives of those around you.
One way to nurture ourselves and our leadership is to be more conscious of our energy levels at different times of the day.
Self-leadership and energy levels
During this podcast episode, Professor Sebastian Kernbach talks about how we manage our energy levels. The golden nugget that drew me was when he described two of our energy levels as ‘prime time’ and ‘high time’.
Professor Kernbach describes prime time as ‘5* time’, and high time as ‘4* time’. 5* time is when we function at our absolute best and lasts for about 2 hours per day. 4* time is quality time when we can perform well, but not at our best. This lasts for about 4 hours per day. The magic comes when we become more aware of when our 4* and 5* times are in a day, and we learn to take maximum advantage of them.
What does 5* time and 4* time look like?
You may be familiar with the term, ‘circadian rhythms’*, our internal body clock that determines our energy levels. Perhaps you know if you are a ‘lark’ (you prefer to go to bed earlier and get up earlier) or an ‘owl’ (you go to bed late and want to wake up late).
This description of energy levels reminds me I’m a lark. I often wake at 6am, full of ideas. Experience shows me that when I get up and work on my ideas straight away, I produce better quality work, I feel better in myself, and I can look back at the end of the day and find moments of joy.
It doesn’t matter if I’m still in my pyjamas when I begin work at 6am! My ideas don’t care, and my work rate isn’t affected by my clothing choices, in fact, my work is better.
By contrast, there are some days where I have an important piece of work to do, but instead of starting first thing, I find myself caught up in a myriad of small, easier tasks or distractions. By the time I get to the important task, it’s mid-afternoon and I find it twice as difficult. My energy levels are drained, and my creativity and motivation are not at their best. I’ve realised getting all the small tasks out of the way in the morning doesn’t make me more productive. Instead, I can tackle them relatively easily in the mid-afternoon energy lull. The smaller tasks don’t need my 5* prime time, but the larger, more important tasks do.
How well do you nurture your prime time each day?
The best place to begin is to understand when your prime time each day is.
You could keep an energy diary for a week and score your energy levels on a scale of 1-10 at different times during the day. At the end of the week, I wonder what patterns you would see?
Once you know when your prime time is, consider how well you’ve nurtured it over the past week. If you reflect on your big projects or difficult pieces of work, did you give yourself the best chance of bringing your best self to your work? Did you work on them when your energy levels were high, at the best time of day for your unique brilliance to shine through?
Finally, how could you plan next week differently to take maximum advantage of your 5* and 4* time? If you were going to do something differently next week or even tomorrow, what would it be?
Nurture your ability to lead with compassion by nurturing your 5* time
The reality of our work worlds is our days are often at the mercy of scheduled meetings, unexpected issues, and other things that knock our best-laid plans off course. It’s vital to nurture our prime time if we are to bring our best selves to our workplaces and our leadership.
If you were to find three, two or even just one day a week where you truly nurtured your prime time, what impact could that have on your ability to thrive and grow? How could it help you bring more joy into your day?
*For a helpful article on how circadian rhythms can impact the workplace, click here .
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