Makeover Monday: Timing Is Everything

For 30+ years, the order of my day was largely determined by my work schedule, but now that I’m on my own (doesn’t that sound so much nicer than unemployed?), I have the opportunity to tinker with my schedule and with any luck, to maximize it so that I’m getting the right things done at the right time.

Luck did indeed smile on me on Saturday when I found a nifty little article in an old copy (October 2004) of Real Simple magazine. Entitled “Beat the Clock” and written by Leslie Yazel, this article used the science of our natural body rhythms (a.k.a. chronobiology) and tips from experts in other fields to present the best times of day to do a variety of tasks. I’m all for that! I’m also all for sharing, so if you’re interested in optimizing your time, read on and enjoy!

I know that circadian rhythms (our internal clocks) have a lot to do with our energy levels, which have natural dips and rises throughout the day. Something about melatonin secretion based on messages our eyes send to the hypothalamus region of our brains. (That’s possibly an overlsimplification version of a very complicated event. It’s also possibly wrong. I don’t do science very well.)

Other factors influencing our natural rhythms: social environment, medications (including the best drug of all–caffeine!), work schedules, physical condition, travel schedules, and so on.

Best Times of Day to…
Links to various books included, but I have no affiliation with any of the vendors.

Clean the House – According to Michael Smolensky, author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, 4 p.m. is the best time to clean house. Our hand-eye coordination is at its best and our mood levels high during this period.

Take a Nap – Aforementioned author Smolensky also theorizes that a nap is most beneficial somewhere in the 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. range, with a maximum naptime of 30 minutes. Our body temperatures naturally dip during those hours (similar to the way they dip at bedtime), which is why we’re often sleepy after lunch. (Huh. For years, turkey on wheat has taken the rap.) For more info on nap optimization, check out this previous Makeover Monday post.

Take a Multivitamin – If you supplement your nutrition with daily vitamins, you should be taking them with breakfast for better absorption, according to Shari Lieberman, nutritional scientist and author of The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book. Certain nutrients, like vitamin B, can interfere with sleep, so dinnertime is definitely not the optimum time to take your vitamins.

Do Your Cardio Workout – Lots of theories out there about this one. I’m a fan of the “When can you do it? Okay, that’s the best time!” school of thought. Matthew Edlun, M.D., author of The Body Clock Advantage, recommends the 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. time frame. His reasoning is that our lungs use oxygen more efficiently, our coordination is better, and our muscles are warmed from our daily activities. The extra adrenaline that exercise brings {pause for moment of gratitude} can be handled by completing our workouts at least 3 hours before bed.

I can personally attest to another benefit to working out later in the day: stress reduction. When I worked for The Man, I scheduled my workouts immediately after my workday ended. Not only was it a nice exclamation point on the end of a healthy day, I could also exorcise any lingering workday demons. (You don’t know fun until you picture some workplace bozo’s face on the bottom of your shoe and then head out for a walk. Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!)

Okay, so those are a few suggestions based on “body clock.” There are other best times that are influenced by external events:

More Best Times to…

Return Merchandise to a Store – I knew this one already! The best time to make returns is in the first hour of the store’s opening. Staff is usually at its assigned post and typically, the staff working daytime hours are those with more experienced (gotta love seniority!)

Go to the Doctor – Most of us know this one already, I think. You’ll clock less waiting room time if you book the first appointment of the day or the first one after lunch. Exceptions to this occur if your doctor is a surgeon or makes hospital rounds prior to office hours.

Get Your Hair Cut – As with the doctor’s visit, early morning and just after lunch are the best times to see your stylist. The reasoning is similar, only surgery is replaced by a weave/cut combo. It’s also possible that your cut might turn out better, too, since the stylist’s stress level should be lower in the a.m. You could also simply ask your stylist what’s his/her favorite time of day for cutting hair. Then schedule your appointments for that time.

Go to the Post Office – The midmorning lull, which usually occurs a half hour to an hour after the office opening, is the best time to avoid lines. Or you can do like me and use the automated postal terminals available at many U.S. post office locations. I also go online for things like putting mail service on hold.

And there you have it. Some science, some practicality, possibly some luck. These suggestions might be accurate; then again, maybe not. But it could be fun to experiment a bit, knowing that your mileage may vary.

Got any tips of your own to share? Please do!

Thanks for stopping by this week! I’m off to maximize my day by experimenting with some of these suggestions! :)