Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ultradian Rhythms

A few months back, I read a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project. Upon reflecting on the good sense his parents had to name him something as fantastic as “Tony,” I went on to actually read the article. Tony talked about Ultradian Rhythms, which are 90- to 120-minute energy-related cycles that human bodies go through. These are cycles of peaks and valleys. Tony concludes that if we take breaks every 90- to 120-minutes and temporarily get our minds off the work at hand, then our efficiency increases significantly.

This theory was tested successfully at Wachovia, where employee work groups took breaks every 90 to 120 minutes. And guess what? They were more efficient.

For go-getters, taking frequent breaks might seem lazy or ineffective. I know a guy who has his day planned to the minute. He races around all day long from one meeting to the next, timing his phone calls with his wife. And sure, he’s effective sometimes, but more often than not, he ends up crashing. I’ve actually been in meetings with him where he’s fallen asleep. His wife tells me that he comes home and just sits. He can’t help around the house. He can’t interact with his kids.

He would be much more productive if he took five-minute breaks every 90 minutes or so. I know this is true because guys named “Tony” don’t lie.
Today’s Challenge: Honor you body’s Ultradian Rhythm by taking five-minute breaks every 90 minutes or so. Note whether your level of productivity increases, decreases, or stays the same.

--Tony Rose is the author of Say Hello to the Elephants: A Four-Part Process for Finding Clarity, Confronting Problems, and Moving On.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wielding Your Strengths

My wife refuses to shop anywhere but Gelson’s, the upscale supermarket in our neighborhood.

What does Gelson’s have that its cheaper counterparts don’t have? I can think of a few things. The parking lot isn’t a zoo. It is always clean. Its produce and meat are of higher quality, and the lines are shorter.

Shopping anywhere else is simply unacceptable for my wife. With respect to my wife, Gelson’s has a monopoly on her shopping needs.

This got me thinking: What can we all do individually to become monopolies of one?

Everyone does something especially well. I am a passionate advocate for my clients that brings them new information in ways they can understand. It is my unique talent. And if anyone wants to get better clarity around a problem and how they can solve it, they come to me. I hold a monopoly on problem solving.

Recently, I blogged about the importance of wielding strengths. What would happen if we all identified that one thing that we, as individuals, hold a monopoly on? Maybe you are the fastest typist this side of the Mississippi. Maybe you can communicate calmly and effectively with everyone. Maybe you are the best damn night manager at a fast food chain. Perhaps you make amazing gut decisions.

Whatever it is, make that your focus. If you spend each day trying to secure a monopoly centered around your unique talent, all of your shortcomings would fall to the wayside. Who cares that you cannot operate a computer when you speak 16 languages? And who cares that you cannot speak 16 languages when you can dissect a computer and reassemble it in 12 seconds flat?

If you are the damn best (or the best that you can be) at one thing, you can offer the world so much more than your talent. You can offer inspiration.

Today’s Challenge: Spend time identifying your “Unique Abilities”.

--Tony Rose is the author of Say Hello to the Elephants: A Four-Part Process for Finding Clarity, Confronting Problems, and Moving On