Channel Your Energy With Your Chronotype
You know it’s important to be smart about how you block your time, but have you ever wondered—how does my schedule impact my energy? In The ONE Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan say, “High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy.” To propel us toward our results, we need to have a plan for how, when, and where to allocate energy throughout the day.
But managing our energy isn’t so easy because we’re not all early birds. Everyone has had the experience of hitting the snooze button at least once, but a reason that is often overlooked may have to do with your genes or, more specifically, your chronotype. According to the Sleep Foundation, a chronotype is defined as “…the natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time, or what most people understand as being an early bird versus a night owl.” Closely related to chronotype is circadian rhythm, which controls your sleep cycle. Unlike the circadian rhythm, chronotype is relatively fixed. In other words, this is your natural inclination, or default setting. You can try and change it, but you’re wired to follow your chronotype.
Before diving into how understanding chronotypes can transform your routine, let’s go over each one and see which describes you best.
The Four Chronotypes
You’re already familiar with two chronotypes: the “night owl” and “early bird.” However, the menagerie doesn’t stop there. Sleep researcher Dr. Michael J. Breus states that everyone has at least one sleep animal persona that best describes their routine. Each of the four sleep animals discussed here provides a glimpse into the relationship between the changes in our energy and the different parts of the day.
While the rest of the world is still sleeping, the lion is up before dawn. These type-A go-getters make up about 15-20 percent of the population. Shutting off the alarm sometime between 6-7 a.m., they tackle big projects early in the morning, maintaining a sense of optimism about the work ahead. Their deep work is done by noon, at which point they may hit a midday hump that can be remedied with a power nap or light exercise like a walk. Then, the rest of the day is spent taking on lighter tasks. The lion’s mane hits the pillow before 10 p.m.
Are you trying to manage your insomnia around your work schedule? Then you might be a dolphin. Even with their inconsistent sleep habits, dolphins are able to create a schedule that works for them, not against them. They wake up around the same time as the lion but waking up for the dolphin doesn’t come easily. Instead of diving into hard work first thing in the morning, dolphins like to start and end the day with simple, achievable tasks. Then their hardest work is done in the middle of the afternoon. The rest of the day is spent unwinding and getting ready for bed, but they might not fall sleep until around midnight.
Even rarer than the lion, only 10 percent of the population is made up of dolphins.
Making up 55 percent of the population, the bear is the most common sleep animal persona and with good reason. Most of us are familiar with this schedule. Waking up around 7 a.m., bears spend the next couple of hours getting ready for the day. They do their deep work in the late morning and finish sometime in the afternoon around 2 p.m. After that, bears work on lighter tasks and typically wind down around 10 p.m. They’re tucked away in their caves within the hour.
Sleeping the right amount is important to bears. Otherwise, their energy will be thrown off and they won’t be the exceptional extroverts they’re known to be.
While the rest of the world is in bed, the wolf is on the prowl… and productive! They’re waking up later than the rest of the chronotypes and typically engage in deep or creative work after 12 p.m., using the mid-morning to focus on lighter tasks. This deep work only lasts a couple of hours, after which the late afternoon is spent checking off their to-do lists. Then they get a second wind and head back into creative work during dinnertime, getting their much-needed rest sometime around midnight. Like the lion, the wolf only makes up about 15 percent of the population. Their introverted personalities make them more inclined to work while everyone else is preoccupied, and typically use their later hours to focus on creative projects.
If you’d like to know your chronotype, there are myriad tests that can provide you with an answer. If you went to visit a sleep doctor, they might ask you to complete a questionnaire. But you can also search for various online tests dedicated to determining your chronotype. Just remember that if you’re not sure of the results or think you need more clarity, you probably already know which chronotype you are based on when you naturally feel at your most energized and productive. An assessment or online quiz can confirm your answer and provide further context.
Your Chronotype And Energy Plan
If you want to commit to improving your productivity for the next year, then it’s important to know your limitations and address them. When you identify your chronotype, you receive a wealth of information about how you work and when you work best.
There are five major energy areas that we all consistently feed to achieve the results we’re looking for—spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and business. We suggest learning more about why these energy areas are important and how you can feed them.
While a balance isn’t always possible, understanding and embracing your natural tendencies can make it possible for you to feed those energy areas in a way that works best for you, based on your chronotype. Let’s take a look at two chronotypes that might have a hard time managing their energy throughout the day—dolphins and wolves.
Don’t worry, dolphin. Your sleep patterns may not be as predictable, but that doesn’t mean you have to constantly make up for the energy you might not have. You can work on a mentally stimulating but still achievable goal first thing in the morning, such as planning for the day. Then, jump into those meaty business-related tasks during the afternoon. Engage in a spiritual practice that’ll calm you, such as writing in a worry journal, and a workout that’ll provide you with a sound sleep. Fill your emotional energy during the day through check-ins with a trusted colleague or a lunch break with friends.
Wolves are often misunderstood. But those of you who identify as wolves know you’re just as productive as your peers. To get acclimated to your morning, engage in outdoor exercise and hydrate. Like the dolphin, you’ll likely start and end your day with an achievable task before moving on to meetings and big work projects. At the end of the day, you might be clocking out of one job to take on your creative endeavors in the early evening. Remember to make time to set a spiritual practice, even if it's reading a thoughtful quote, and to touch base with friends, even if it’s a quick text.
Now that you have an idea of what your chronotype might be, you can take your productivity to the next level. We’re currently diving into topics around time-blocking and goal-setting. Subscribe to our newsletter to learn about great time management strategies.