Sun or Moon: what does your work body clock align to?
Written by Jessica Sofarnos
I’m sure we’ve all experienced frustrations in the work place when we feel as though our co-workers aren’t listening or switched on, cancel meetings or move your catch ups repeatedly. There is no doubt it’s never happening purposefully to annoy you, but sometimes you can’t help but feel tense or let down when we’re all just trying to get shit done.
I know as a Project Manager, 95% of my job relies on the response and action of other people, so if someone isn’t coming to the party, often we can fall behind on deadlines – or in magazine land – literally miss the boat and things don’t go to print.
Clients don’t like their ads not going to print, and with the stress that ensues after the fact, neither do I.
Getting an understanding of when you and your colleagues work best during the day might help to give you that extra context on why they might seem tired when you’re energised, or why they’re replying to your emails at 10pm when you’re wanting to switch off.
Believe it or not, your work friends aren’t lazy or trying to put you out, their brain just functions a little differently to yours.
Melbourne clinical Psychologist Barbra O’Loughlan discusses that morning types (Larks) versus night types (Owls) show a characteristic left-brain versus right-brain division: more analytical and cooperative versus more imaginative and individualistic. Morning people are often more persistent and agreeable, they set high goals and plan for the future more. Night owls on the other hand often perform better on measures of memory, processing speed and cognitive ability and are more open to new experiences.
But before we go telling ourselves or our colleagues to tip our lives upside down, Oxford University biologist Katharina Wulff* says that keeping people to their naturally preferred times means they will be much more productive and in turn, ensures that their “mental capacity is much broader”. Pushing people too far out from their natural preference can actually be quite harmful and can mess up their ‘chronotype’, or internal clock.
Extensive studies have also shown that when we really get down to the wire, being a morning or night person is entirely out of your control as it is something that is in your genes. Reports have shown that up to 47% of your circadian rhythm is inherited, so it might be fairer to blame Mum and Dad than your co-worker if you’re not feeling that you’re on the same tempo.
With this framework in mind heading into the new work year, you might try and schedule morning brainstorms with a fellow Lark when you’re both on your A-Game and bursting with ideas, or perhaps a 2pm meeting with an Owl instead of 8am or 5pm when you know you’ll both be well and truly switched off. Knowing this information can also help you plan out your work days accordingly so you can be as efficient and productive with the time you have in the office. For a Lark, perhaps you’ll come in and do all your hardest tasks first and tackle the mechanical, mundane bits later. For an Owl, maybe it’s the opposite.
From the studies I’ve looked into, the general consensus is to never fight your chronotype, and instead lean into it. Trying to adjust your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle will only give you more grief and often a more disturbed rest. Go to sleep when you’re tired instead of forcing yourself to stay up longer or go to bed earlier, and schedule your most important meetings or activities during your peak productivity times.
*BBC Article: Why You Shouldn’t Try To Be A Morning Person