Increase Attention and Productivity: Monitor your Personal Energy Cycle

The wise have mastered.
Body, word, and mind.
They are the true masters.

-The Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha"Anger" Translated by Thomas Byrom.
At a recent training course in time management, I was struck by the concept of monitoring one’s energy levels. While those of us with ADHD are known for exuding energy, our bodies experience their own unique ebbs and flows. For instance, as a morning bird, I am most productive in the wee hours of the day and peak again in the early afternoon (after refueling at lunch!). By paying attention to your body’s rhythm, you can maximize your attention and productivity, and stave off frustration at low energy points by acknowledging that these too are parts of your body’s natural cycle.

Always on the go? Slow down & take a minute to find your rhythm,
To harness the hours that you’re most alert and productive, you must first make sure to get enough sleep. For me to feel fully restored that means a full eight hours. Any less and sluggishness sets in. In addition, be sure to stay physically active. Sports, dance, running, and even walking help to maintain healthy energy levels and can also have calming effects (especially for those of us with ADHD!).

After a good night’s rest, set about your day with the awareness about how you feel at each hour. Are you alert and attentive? Or are you sliding toward a more slothful period of the day? You should also note any outside factors that might affect your energy levels, outside stimuli, concerns, jet lag, medications, or even hunger (which always brings out my inner honey badger!).

As a true blue ADHD’r, I love to be on the go…trying new activities or meeting new people. But this doesn’t always benefit our physical or mental health. We too need time to restore in order to put forth our most creative, intelligent, and attentive selves.

Tony Schwartz has published an interesting article in the Huffington Post entitled The 90-Minute Solution: How Building in Periods of Renewal Can Change Your Work and Your Life, which explains how our bodies operate in ninety minute cycles. By devoting one’s full attention to an activity (writing, practicing music, or sports) for ninety minutes and then taking a break, Schwartz claims, these periods of focus become more productive. Looks like that’s a trick I’ll have to try!

The truth is, there are a set number of hours in the day, and we have a limited amount of energy that we can expel during that time. Sometimes we need to rethink how we spend our hours and what activities we choose to say “yes” to in order to achieve what we hope to. It’s a lesson I try to remind myself of, especially after turning down an afternoon with friends in favor of my writer’s desk, and I hope you can benefit from it too.

After paying attention to your energy levels throughout the day, what were you surprised by? What activities helped you to feel energized? What left you feeling lethargic?