The worst time to fall in love is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (it’s a hormone thing), and the best time to ask for a raise is on a Thursday or Friday afternoon. These are the findings of Dr. Michael Breus, whose new book, The Power of When, is based on the premise that there are good and bad times to do everything in your life.
Dr. Breus, a clinical psychologist who is board certified in clinical sleep disorders and based out of Manhattan Beach, CA, got the idea from a patient. One day, a woman came to his clinic and told him that she didn’t have a hard time falling or staying asleep; her problem was that she slept at the wrong time. “Her sleep patterns reminded me of my kids’ sleep patterns,” says Dr. Breus. “Teenagers’ bodies want them to stay up late and sleep late, and that seemed to be the patient’s problem, too.” He applied all his tried-and-true insomniac techniques, but none of them worked. By this time, his patient was about to get fired from her job.
“I decided to try an experiment,” says Dr. Breus. “I called her boss to see if she could adjust her schedule to be at work two hours later and stay two hours longer.” Her boss agreed, they gave it a shot and it worked. “The woman was more attentive and more productive in meetings, and her family even liked her more. I thought, ‘OK, I really have to dig into this because who knows what other connections might be out there?’”
After studying circadian rhythms and chronotypes (your personal biological clock), Dr. Breus began to see patterns. He identified four core chronotypes that inform how people navigate their lives and assigned each one to a token animal. He describes himself as a “wolf” (a creative risk taker who is most productive late in the morning or late at night) and says he can now spot a “dolphin” (a cautious introvert who strives for perfection and has productive spurts throughout the day) in a matter of minutes.
Animal assignations aside, Dr. Breus drew from more than 200 clinical studies that show that when it comes to our health, timing really is everything. And some timing truths apply to all of us. For instance, if you need to go for surgery, schedule it in the morning – a study from Duke University Medical Center found that you face more side effects from the anaesthesia if you’re put under in the afternoon. Getting a vaccine? Again, morning is better. In 2014, scientists in Israel found that men were least sensitive to pain early in the day, so you may be less sensitive to a needle in the a.m. And consider timing a jog after the jab – researchers at Iowa State University found that cardio helps spread the vaccine throughout your body, so you produce more antibodies, boosting the protective powers of the medicine.
Dr. Breus says that when it comes to day-to-day activities, it’s often just a matter of being mindful of what works best for you. “I changed when I exercise,” he says. “I used to do it early in the morning because I thought that was the only time I could fit it in, but I learned that I perform better at night, so now I exercise in the evening.”
Timing things right takes planning, but even tweaking the little things can decrease stress, which means better health and wellness, says Dr. Susan MacDonald, a registered psychologist in Calgary. “And, like the saying goes, ‘There’s no time like the present.’ We just need to take a more proactive approach to our health and well-being.” Here’s how to time it right so you can do just that. >>>
Stop Wasting Time
We’d have more time for the things we enjoy if we wasted less of it on things that don’t make us happy, says Krista Roesler, a life coach and psychotherapist in Toronto. “Timing allows us to take the steering wheel and take control of our lives, but a lot of people are losing control when it comes to things like social media, emails and meetings,” she says. “People check social media and emails obsessive-compulsively, and most people admit that it doesn’t make them feel very good.”
Roesler says that reading emails more than once and checking social media to avoid doing other tasks are two of the biggest ways that people waste time without realizing it. “I created a better sense of balance for myself by planning to read emails when I have the time and resources to respond right away,” she says. She also suggests having a planned end time for when you go on social media and setting a timer to make it easier to stick to. Getting rid of excess TV, phone and Internet time leaves you more time for the things that truly fulfill you, she says. “Do the things that you tell yourself you’re too busy to do: play the guitar, go for a run or start writing that novel.”
Write It Down – And Cross It Off
To keep your timing on track each day, jot down a daily plan the night before – and stick with it. Roesler recommends setting a time limit for each task and breaking big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Scheduling your day this way also allows you to say “no” to extra tasks because you now have a reason to, she says. “Planning prevents committing to too many things, which can lead to burnout and stress,” she explains.
Even having a visual of how you spend your time can come in handy. Roesler says that creating a daily schedule shows you that what you’re trying to jam into the day is unrealistic. It can also help you see where you might be wasting time that could be better spent. The next step is to organize your to-do list so that you only have three major things to do in one day. (Once you cross them off, you can always add more.) “Getting things done boosts confidence and mood while decreasing stress and anxiety,” says Roesler. “It gives you a feeling of pride and accomplishment and eliminates the worry that there isn’t enough time to get these things done.”