Hi. How’s your day going? Rather, how’s each day going?
When your head hits the pillow each night, do you tend to feel satisfied that you did your best or are you disappointed with how you spent your time and energy?
When there’s a disconnect between how we wish to be spending our days and the reality of how our days play out, it’s tempting to buckle down, write up rigid schedules, set the alarm even earlier, and push hard, aiming for drastic changes. The white knuckle, all-at-once approach never lasts very long.
A gentler approach is to consider the rhythm of your day.
A lovely daily rhythm can be both comforting and motivational, offering a sense of familiarity and alignment as well as carrying us through to the next moment.
To find your rhythm, consider the innate rhythms of nature.
In kindergarten classrooms, for example, Waldorf school teachers employ a philosophy of daily rhythm that mirrors breathing. Students alternate between activities like free play and rest (exhaling) and creativity and learning (inhaling).
As adults primed for productivity and checking boxes, our days can easily feel like one big breath in—through which we push ourselves to do “all the things” until we’re turning blue. When we finally exhale, we’re spent and it’s only lunchtime.
Our days, our weeks, our seasons, and our lives have a rhythm to them. We can either fight against it or work with it.
As Waldorf philosophy draws inspiration from the ebbs and flows of breathing, so too we can consider patterns in our energy, our sleep cycles, and even the seasons of the year to inspire the rhythms we maintain each day.
The first step to finding your rhythm is to notice some things about yourself and your energy and understand your inner clock, also known as your circadian rhythm.
When do you experience the most mental energy in the day? When do you feel the most depleted during the day? When do you prefer to exercise? How much sleep do you feel is ideal for you? When do you feel most creative? When are you craving rest and nourishment?
Understanding the natural highs and lows of your energy levels throughout the day can help you manage your time to align your actions with what your body is telling you. If you’re a morning person like me, slate your mental work in the morning when your mind is sharpest. Reserving less mentally stimulating activities, like laundry and cleaning for example, to the afternoon makes good use of your time while allowing your brain to switch to autopilot for a while. Can’t handle laundry? Perhaps you need a nap instead.
Objectively observing your body’s natural rhythm can make your days run much more smoothly.
Adjust Your Expectations
Something that trips us up when our time management doesn’t align with our vision is that our hopes are too unreasonable. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a year.
As you adjust your daily activities to align with your daily rhythm, adjust your expectations as well. A 10-minute walk every day is actually better than a 45-minute walk once a week. Writing one page a day will result in 365 pages by the end of the year.
Give yourself a break and appreciate even the smallest accomplishment. Aim for consistency, not volume, on a day-to-day basis.
The Flow of the Week
You can also consider how your week tends to flow.
A typical week may see Monday as a ramping up sort of day, reentering work-mode. Tuesday may be super productive after having readied yourself on Monday. Wednesday and Thursday hum along and you begin to feel motivated to wrap things up by Friday. Friday you start off-ramping to the weekend. The weekend is focused on family, friends, fun, and rejuvenation.
Your week may look significantly different from that stereotypical week, but whatever it looks like, notice it and work with it.
Change With the Seasons
Each season of the year can inspire different levels of energy as well. In winter, we tend to want to stay home more, hunker down by the fire, sip tea, and replenish ourselves. This may be a great time to read those books you’ve been meaning to read or take an online class you’ve been considering.
In contrast, summertime is a time of fun, sunshine, and activity. Perhaps you can up your fitness game, bring a project to fruition, or reconnect with loved ones.
In spring, we’re sowing seeds, making plans, setting ourselves up for future success. In fall, we’re gathering and wrapping things up, harvesting the fruits of our labors.
The seasons give us hints as to how to use our time and energy well.
The next time you feel like your days aren’t that they could be, look to nature and see if you can better align your rhythm.