The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Are 'Energy Cycles'?

Your body has Energy Cycles: natural rhythms of energy during the day.

Hacking your Energy Cycles (e.g.: not resting) can sound tempting but it's ultimately unproductive.

Here are four ways to work with your body and not against it:

  1. Learn your patterns: keep a track of your energy during different parts of the day, and you'll eventually see which are the best moments for you to work and rest.
  2. Maximize your peak cycles: plan your day in order to take advantage of the moments where you have the most energy.
  3. Take a break: When you're in a down cycle, it's better to rest than power through. Rest is not optional.
  4. Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation results in a prolonged cycle, lowering your productivity.

Paying attention to your Energy Cycles and working accordingly, will help you get the most out of your time available.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Energy Cycles'

Here's the problem with "time management": time is not what needs to be managed.

No matter what you Choose to do, time will inevitably pass.

The implicit assumption of time management systems is that every hour is fungible-equivalent to any other. Nothing could be further from the truth: all people are created equal, but all hours are most definitely not.

Throughout the day, your energy level naturally cycles up and down. Your body has natural rhythms during the day, which I call Energy Cycles.

Most people are familiar with the 24-hour circadian rhythm, which wakes you up in the morning and makes you feel tired at night. Lesser known is the 90-minute ultradian rhythm, which is described in The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

The ultradian rhythm influences bodily systems, controlling the flow of hormones throughout your body. When your energy is on an upswing, you're capable of focusing deeply and getting a lot accomplished. When it's on a downswing, all your mind and body want to do is rest and recover.

There's nothing abnormal about these changes in energy during the day, but we often act as though being on a downswing is somehow a problem that needs to be fixed.

Nowadays, it's popular to try to "hack" this cycle to get more done by resting less. Attempting to work 8-12 hours without a break is not uncommon in highly competitive workplaces.

Most of us try to overclock our brains with large doses of sugar and caffeine. Some people even resort to abusing prescription or illegal drugs to work a little bit longer or faster.

Like all biological organisms, humans need to rest and recover for peak performance. Taking a break isn't a sign of laziness or weakness-it's a recognition of a fundamental human need. Paying attention to your natural energy cycle will help you consistently perform at your best over long periods of time.

Here are four simple ways to work with your body instead of against it:

  1. Learn Your Patterns-use a notebook or calendar to track how much energy you have during different parts of the day, as well as what you're eating and drinking. If you do this for a few days, you'll notice patterns in how your energy waxes and wanes, allowing you to plan your work accordingly.
  2. Maximize Your Peak Cycles-when you're in an up cycle, you're capable of getting a lot accomplished, so plan your day to take advantage of that energy. If you're doing creative work, carve out a 3-4 hour block of time during an up cycle to get it done. If your work consists of attending a lot of meetings, plan the most important meetings during the up cycle.
  3. Take a Break-when you're in a down cycle, it's better to rest than attempt to power through it. Rest and recovery are not optional-if you don't rest now, your body will force you to rest later, either by cycling down longer than usual or getting sick. During a down cycle, go for a walk, meditate, or take a twenty minute nap. Relaxing on the down cycle can restore your energy, allowing you to take full advantage of the next up cycle.
  4. Get Enough Sleep-sleep deprivation results in a prolonged down cycle, which gets in the way of getting things done.

To ensure you get enough sleep each evening, set a timer to go off an hour before you'd ideally be in bed sleeping.

When the timer goes off, turn off the computer and/or TV, go through your evening routine, make a cup of non-caffeinated tea, and spend some time with a book you enjoy. When your reading comprehension starts to go down, you'll know it's time for bed.

Paying attention to your Energy Cycles during the day will help you get the most out of the time you have available. Take maximum advantage of your up cycles and rest on your down cycles, and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish in a day.

Questions About 'Energy Cycles'


"We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all."

Daniel Cohen, children's author


From Chapter 7:

Working With Yourself


https://personalmba.com/energy-cycles/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →