I read this quote this week, and realized I need to get better at resting. I usually have a long attention span and can get focused in on a project and a few hours later, realize that I haven’t even moved from my seat. It’s not very good for you, so said Nathan Kreitman, a renowned sleep researcher at the University of Chicago.
The typical person’s brain, he said, can only remain focused for about 90 minutes, and then it needs at least 15 minutes of rest. This phenomenon is based on our natural ultradian rhythms. By taking breaks roughly every 90 minutes, you allow your mind and body to renew — and be ready to fire off another 90-minute period of high activity.
Ultradian rhythms, I found out, are recurrent cycles of time you have during a given day.
I believe there’s something to this theory. I was thinking back to those high school days when you had a class and circulated to another one every 75 minutes or so. By the time you walked to the new class, it was a 90-minute cycle. In those days, you could focus for a bit, and take it a bunch of information (and retain it), and then you break and start over again. It was a time of great learning and opening of the mind.
We did the same in college, but as we got into an 8-hour work day as an adult, it seemed to be ingrained that you work for 4 hours, eat lunch and then finish up another 4 hours. The higher you go in an organization, those 4 hours can stretch to 5, 6 or 7 hours at a time. It’s no wonder that adults are so stressed out.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m highly productive with the long ultradian rhythms I’ve become accustomed to at work, but I wonder how much more creative, innovative and productive I would become if I could break my Boomer work habits and stop every 90 minutes. It’s worth investigating!
DAY 272 HOMEWORK: What ultradian rhythms have you created for yourself? Are they healthy, or is this something you need to work on too?