The Key to increased Productivity and Lower Stress: Your Cycle
Are you powering through an intense workout, grabbing your coffee, and heading into work?
How about multitasking to the max, juggling home responsibilities between work meetings, keeping track of multiple schedules, and rushing from one thing to another?
Maybe you’re barely finding time for family, squeezing in time with your partner, and doing your best to keep up with your friends.
Maybe you’ve tried multiple time-management strategies to stay on top of all your to-do lists only to throw in the towel and just “survive it”?
By the end of the day you might be feeling so tired that you literally fall asleep at a stoplight.
Is this you?
Being the proactive, driven, successful woman that you are, you’ve probably experienced the intensity of raising a family, juggling multiple schedules, taking on projects to advance your career, holding on to healthy habits like fitting in exercise, trying to eat out less, and “doing it all” all of the time. There are so many demands on your time, and the pull to meet each of them is a relentless daily grind.
Living like this is exhausting.
But, you are extremely capable and driven so you power through your to-do list as much as you can and accomplish a lot in a 24 hour day. On the inside, however, you know this is not sustainable. You’re steamrolling over your needs and saying yes when you want to say no. The pressure is building and you feel it in your body. You feel that resigned “slipping away” feeling of not being able to do as much as you want in the way that you want. You’re short on steam, and you wish you had more energy.
This is a classic case of a woman “making it” in a man’s world.
Our corporate culture supports a masculine way of working, and has for hundreds of years..
As women, our biology is different than men’s
The masculine way of working is linear, goal-oriented, competitive, static, and the same every single day. It supports male hormones which run on a 24-hour clock, in sync with the Circadian Rhythm.
Our cultural conditioning has led us to believe that in order to make it to “success”, we must fit into the man’s world and do it like them. To put yourself through this is like shoving a square peg in a round hole. As women, our biology is different. We operate on two clocks, and as a result, our brains are wired to work differently.
Men’s hormones operate on a 24 hour cycle which syncs up with Circadian Rhythm. Their hormones are the same everyday, and they are able to operate the same linear way everyday.
Women have a 24 hour Circadian Rhythm that regulates their heart rate and sleep schedule, but they also have a second clock.
Allow me to introduce you to your Infradian Rhythm, your 28 day (or so) clock that is your menstrual cycle. Your hormones operate on a 28 day (give or take) cycle, so literally, you are different everyday of your cycle because your hormones are in flux throughout the month. You reset every 28 days, not every 24 hours.
Before you feel deflated, let’s dive deeper into why this is an advantage— your superpower, if you will.
Your cycle has four phases which follow the seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall.
Additionally, your cycle follows the creative process: initiation, growth, completion, and rest. Your brain changes about 25% through your cycle, so you are literally wired for different kinds of work during each phase. Here is an outline of what’s happening hormonally and how that connects with the activities in which you are most inclined to participate during each phase.
Follicular Phase (7-10 Days): Inner Spring
This phase directly follows your menstruation (AKA your bleed time). Estrogen is on the rise and so is your energy, specifically around starting new projects. You feel fresh and ready for new things. This is the ideal time to dream big, brainstorm, initiate, prepare, plan, research, be curious, interview people, set your intention, chart your strategy, clarify your vision, and fill in your planner with what you want to accomplish in the coming weeks.
Creativity is your strength during this phase. You also have rising energy, so this is a good time to tackle your most challenging tasks.
Ovulatory Phase (3-4 Days): Inner Summer
Estrogen peaks during this phase and makes you magnetic. Your strengths during this phase are communication and collaboration. This is the ideal time to socialize, talk about projects you’re working on, pitch ideas, be seen, collaborate with others, go on dates, have important conversations, go to lunch with girlfriends, host a party, and connect with others.
Luteal Phase (10-14 Days): Inner Fall
Progesterone is high. This is the “get it done” phase. Your strength during this phase is bringing things to completion. This is the ideal time to finish projects, attend to administrative tasks (like organizing your expense reports), accomplish your goals (that you set up during your follicular phase), attend to your home, perform detail-oriented tasks, do your deep work, deep cleaning, and celebrate that you are a productive powerhouse.
Menstrual Phase (4-7 Days): Inner Winter
All of your hormones are at their lowest point during this phase which makes it the ideal time to rest. Your strengths during this phase are evaluation and intuition. This is the ideal time to rest, relax, and reflect on the last month. How did things go? Are you still happy working at your job or business? Are your projects still interesting to you? Reflect on each area of your life and celebrate the good things you’ve accomplished. The two sides of your brain are the most open during this phase, so you are the most connected spiritually to listen to your intuition and receive inspiration to guide your life. It is an ideal time to assess where you are and direct what’s next for you.
Rest and reflection during this time is a vital part of the creative process, don’t skip this step!
Some seasons will seem easier, but all seasons are equally important
As a boss, the doing phases will be easy for you. It’s the resting or not-doing phase that may be the challenge.
So here’s my promise to you:
When you fully embrace each season of your cycle for what it is, your productivity will increase, your stress will go down, and everything will start to fall into place with ease and grace.
That’s the magic of living in sync with your menstrual cycle.
You can do anything in any phase of your cycle, but with your hormones fluctuating throughout the month, you are naturally wired to be more productive and efficient with specific tasks during specific times.
Shifting from following a “gotta do it all” to “everything in its proper season” mindset may feel like a big leap. However, you’ll see that the secret to success is not figuring out how to do it all—it’s about defining your own success, focusing your energy on the things that matter most to you at the right time, feeling good throughout the day, and continuously building energy rather than draining it.
Our energy is drained when we unconsciously compromise our needs for the sake of productivity or “getting more done”. This accumulates over time and manifests as measurable stress, mental overwhelm, and inflammation in the body.
Creating more energy and increasing your productivity is an inside job. It is a conscious step off the treadmill of tasks and a step onto a path of achieving more of the things that are important to you in an attainable way.
Listening to your cycle means managing your energy, rather than managing your time. The shift in your hormones throughout the month wires your brain to be drawn to specific kinds of tasks. Let your cycle give you the perfect blueprint for managing your energy and consciously choosing tasks that contribute to a life you love. Work smarter, not harder to play to your strengths during each phase of your cycle.
Corporate culture and your cycle
Alisa Vitti writes in her best-selling book, In the Flo:
“When you stop thinking about time management and start managing your energy according to your cycle phases, you’re going to reduce stress, support your biological systems, optimize communication, build energy reserves, and enjoy sustainable productivity. Everything in your life will start to feel easier, and you’ll accomplish more of what you want to do with less effort and stress.”
However, our corporate culture is not set up to support a cyclical way of working, so what’s a woman to do? Do you have to put a sign on your door that says: “I’m in X phase of my cycle, so I am only doing Y tasks this week.”
No. This is an internal adventure. But, you can certainly teach your team and create a cyclical culture in your workplace by simply taking the lead and living in sync with your cycle. Remember you are a powerful influence.
How can you harness the power of your cycle and be your most productive and powerful self?
Alisa Vitti also says,
“First, remember you’re not the same week to week, so stop expecting to work that way. Second, discard the cultural conditioning that has led us to believe that our hormones have a negative impact on our capabilities at work. Although our hormones can affect the way we think, feel and relate to others, and influence what we’re naturally interested in and stimulated by, there is not one single day or week when women are not just as capable as men in every work-related capacity.”
You don’t need to know which phase of the cycle your female colleagues are in or broadcast your own. Your focus is to bring the best of your phase to meetings, collaboration sessions, and daily workflow.
For example, if you’re in your menstrual phase during a management meeting, you can contribute your intuitive and reflective insights about performance on past projects and aspirations for future projects. If you are in your follicular phase, your natural strengths will be brainstorming new projects or contributing a fresh approach to an old challenge! Play to your strengths!
Valuing your cyclical nature and creative process makes you more productive and less stressed.
But, what happens when you have nonnegotiable activities or tasks that are out of sync with your cycle?
We don’t live in a world built around our infradian rhythm, not yet anyway. Some deadlines or tasks will fall out of sync with your cycle—it’s bound to happen.
When this happens, see what you can shift off your plate to another phase in order to make room for the non-negotiable task that will require your energy. Additionally, increase your self-care that day or that week to give yourself the space to recover. To minimize this situation moving forward, plan your activities and tasks based on your cycle phases.
So where do you go from here?
Six steps to integrate cyclical planning into your work environment
Alisa Vitti’s book In the Flo offers six steps to integrate cyclical planning into your work environment which caters to a masculine one-clock routine. Follow these steps to increase productivity, decrease stress, find and stay in your flow, and maximize your creativity.
- Do an end-of-month review. Set aside some time to look ahead at what’s coming up with work deliverables.
- Map out your cycle phases in your calendar, and slot projects where you have the flexibility to do so.
- Put in nonnegotiable deadlines wherever they fall in your cycle phases.
- Remove some nonessential tasks from that phase, and plan one self-care upgrade to compensate for the work that isn’t in sync with your cycle.
- Schedule all of your team meetings, and remind yourself to focus on bringing a point of view that is based on the strengths associated with that cycle phase to the conversation.
- Encourage your coworkers to become aware of this as a team.
Your proactive capacity is a strength, and so is your cyclical biology. The marriage of the two is where the magic happens. Your stress goes down and you get more done. It’s magic.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we’re all wonderfully unique.
About the author: Meredith Ashton Cohen, CD(DONA)
Meredith Ashton Cohen CD(DONA) is a certified holistic Birth Doula and Women’s Health Specialist who teaches women like you to sync with your menstrual cycle to get more done with less stress by finding your ‘flow’. She knows that the heart of your superpower (and your health) as a woman is your cycle.
Meredith’s passion for the menstrual cycle began when she restored her missing period in six months using cycle syncing. Since then, she has taught women like you to cycle sync and claim the benefits of higher productivity, healthy boundaries, balanced hormones, and less stress. Download Free Cycle Map HERE
Connect with Meredith: www.meredithashton.com/cyclemap | Social: @salubriouswoman