Today, the 28th of April, is Biological Clock Day. As it happens, this day falls while most of us are discovering the effects of remote working on the body clock. Here are some tips for keeping a good home-working routine by paying attention to your circadian rhythms.
Working from home for long periods of time can get disorientating. We’ve all felt it at this point – that sensation that, away from the routine and activity of the office, time is ebbing and flowing rather than travelling at its usual constant(ish) rate. Planning your day and sticking to a routine are good ways to deal with this, but there’s another factor worth considering.
Did you know, that each and every one of us has an internal time-keeping mechanism called a biological clock? You may also have heard it described as your circadian rhythm, in other words, molecular clockwork in the brain syncing the body with the day-night cycle so that our sense of time comes from within as well as from external sources.
These rhythms are hardwired into us, and paying attention to them can help your home-working day run extra smoothly. This can mean doing things at regular times, but also changing how you schedule tasks.
Planning your day around your own rhythms
The majority of us will find that we’re more alert at some times of the day than at others. This is something worth factoring in when planning out your day.
- Many people find themselves most alert in the first three hours of the work day, which makes this a good time for high-concentration or creative tasks. It’s a good idea to schedule at least some of this time for work other than responding to emails.
- It’s common to feel an energy lull around 2-3pm, so saving lower concentration tasks for this stage of the day can free up your more productive hours for better things.
The above is a common pattern but by no means the rule. Try tracking your own peaks and troughs of energy to work out something similar.
Keeping the day in the day-time
Without the structuring influence of a commute, a home working day can easily become a bit shapeless. It’s important to keep some sense of structure. There are a few things you can do that will keep your internal clock aligned with your day.
- Get plenty of natural light first thing – exposure to natural light tells your body to stop producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. At least fifteen minutes of exposure to natural light first thing can help kick-start you in the morning, so your day can begin at a consistent time.
- Eat meals at regular times – the other main regulating force for your body clock is when you break for meals. The insulin released when we eat can act as a timing signal, informing cells of eating times. This is why eating at inconsistent times can be disruptive to your circadian rhythm.
Switching off at night-time
Finally, keeping a regular sleep schedule can keep your internal clock consistent so you can be alert when you arrive in your living room, spare room or garage. Keeping some good sleep habits in the evening can stop the night being the unravelling of your productive day.
- Keep a regular bedtime and dim the lights – in the same way, that making natural light part of your morning, dimming the lights and going to bed at roughly the same time each night will stimulate melatonin production and help you drift off.
- De-stress before bed – it can sometimes be difficult to relax in a space your brain associates with work, which can be a problem working from home. If this starts to happen, schedule the last hour of the evening as ‘wind-down’ time when you put away all devices and do something that relaxes you, such as reading or meditating.
- Avoid naps during the day – if your brain learns that it can catch up on sleep during the day, it might be less willing to stay asleep at night. Avoiding day-time naps, or keeping them short and before 5 pm, can help maintain the separation between day and night.