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How can you be productive all the time?

I'm just going to say from the outset that this article is written with women in mind, because let's face it there is a huge pressure on women to achieve in their career, to turn up and give 100% at work (not to mention at home, to our families, friends etc.). The expectation is to keep this up day-in, day-out, but the truth is,our biological makeup doesn’t account for that. 

This can add to our levels of stress and anxiety and while women's representation in the corporate world is improving it is, in all honesty, at a snail's pace. 

One study showed that female workers experience higher levels of exhaustion, perceive themselves to have low levels of job security (exacerbated by the recent pandemic) and often earn less than their male co-workers for doing the same job. No wonder we feel the pressure to achieve and to push ourselves beyond our fullest.

Remember: “Nobody wins an award for being the most burnt out, exhausted, and depleted.”

So how can you be productive and get the most out of each work day, every day, without burning out? 

It involves three simple steps: 

  1. Understand your body and your cycle.
  2. Pay attention to what your body is telling you.
  3. Plan according to your personal patterns.

Ladies, perhaps you'll agree there are some days of the month where you feel it’s almost impossible to get yourself to work, whereas other days you turn up ready to give 110%, go to a HIIT class, join friends for drinks after work and still feel like you have energy to keep on going. Why is this?

Each cycle, we journey through four phases of the menstrual cycle. Each phase has its own unique gifts and challenges and with it, various energy levels. Understanding where you are in your cycle presents a potential for focus and productivity. It can also help you to utilize your energies to the fullest and focus them towards the right tasks. Fertility charting enables you to pay attention to the different cycle phases, learn your personal patterns and plan accordingly.

Let’s review how you can use the four different phases of your cycle to the fullest: 

Menstruation is a great time to make decisions and do some self-reflection. It’s also a good time to start brainstorming, so use these days to make a plan of action, look for ways to improve current work processes, capture any lessons learned from projects throughout the month and create a plan for the next few weeks. Unfortunately this isn’t the best time for actually making things happen, so just try to focus on smaller tasks.

During the Follicular Phase (time from menstruation to ovulation), we have the highest potential for creativity. This is a great time to launch new projects, be collaborative and learn a new skill. During this time you will have the most energy, so utilize this time to the fullest.

During Ovulation your estrogen energy is still running high and you will likely feel sociable and bubbly. This is a great time for client meetings, giving that key presentation and for having those difficult conversations, perhaps even making use of the time to ask for a raise.

The Luteal phase (time from ovulation to menstruation) enables us to maximize our attention to detail, be organized and reach those all important deadlines. Take this time to write that all important report and focus on the tasks that require deep focus. You’ll likely feel more withdrawn, so if possible try to avoid arranging large team meetings and make sure to take some essential time out for sufficient rest and sleep. Lower energy levels during this time is completely normal. 

Understanding your hormones and your personal cycle enables you to plan ahead for the shifts in your health, your mood, and your behavior. You can plan your day, your week, and your months in a way to be supportive of your body, taking advantage of the different phases, aligning your energies towards the right tasks. 

Of course, while this information above reflects the majority of cycling women, some of the experiences are very individual. For instance, you might find you can still go to that HIIT class during menstruation and feel great (go girl!) or you might feel the need to take time out for more rest during ovulation. But for the most part, when you start tracking your cycles, patterns will emerge. Learning these patterns helps you to live in tune with your body, rather than fighting against it and ultimately running out of steam.

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