Quite some time ago, I don’t remember when, I heard about Chris Bailey’s Productivity Project, in which Chris set out to conduct a year-long series of productivity experiments on himself to find out how different strategies and tips affected his work. He wrote a blog about his experiences and followed that up with a book in 2016, which I’m currently reading.
I’m a big fan of experiments like this and even tried it out myself in 2016, inspired by Kylie Dunn’s Year of TED project, though I wasn’t quite as successful as Kylie in sticking with it for a year and it all rather fizzled out in the end.
I’ve decided to try my own experiment in March that combines the idea of Kylie’s 30-day experiments; one of Chris’ experiments, my 19 for 2019 thing 13 (an alcohol-free month); my ongoing wellbeing work that will give me the energy to be able to do all the things on my list (thing 6), in particular getting more sleep; and an increased level of exercise.
I wrote in Wednesday’s post about my goal for March being to move my hours of sleep from six (probably less) closer to seven a night and how one of the main things that will help me do this is to quit drinking for the month.
The second thing I’m going to do is try and move my bedtime from after 11pm to somewhere closer to 10pm.
A key reason I want to get more sleep is to improve my energy levels throughout the day and to become more aware of when I naturally have more and less energy. I’ve been reading about ultradian rhythms, the gist of which is that our bodies have natural cycles of energy and rest (or high energy and low energy) that last about 90-120 minutes. The theory is that we have a period of about 90 minutes of high energy, which is followed by a period of low energy of about 20 minutes (similar to sleep cycles of 90 minutes of non-REM sleep and 20 minutes of REM sleep) and that this continues throughout the day.
This is where Chris Bailey’s experiment comes in. In chapter 4 of The Productivity Project he writes about how, if you know the times when you have the most energy, you can schedule your day to work on the things that are most important to you at those times and take breaks and work on things that require less energy and focus at times when your energy levels are lower.
To get familiar with his natural cycle, Chris kept a log every hour of every day for three weeks of what he had been working on and how much energy he had during that hour. To make it as accurate as this kind of thing can be, Chris cut out all alcohol and coffee, ate as little sugar as possible and tried to wake up and fall asleep naturally, without setting an alarm.
I won’t be following Chris’ experiment to the letter. I’m already good with the no sugar thing, so I don’t have to worry about making any changes there, and am committed to the no alcohol month. But there is no way I am giving up my first coffee of the day, at least not at the start. (My second, I have plans for, but that can wait.) And I can’t sleep in on weekdays mornings and do all the things I want to do (and need to do) and still get to work on time. I know, I’ve done it a couple of times accidentally. So I have to set an alarm. But this is an experiment, not a regiment, so I’m just trying it out. The first week of March will be my adjustment period—Chris recommends cutting out the three stimulants (sugar alcohol and caffeine) a week before you start tracking.
The main thing I’ll be focusing on in the first week will be to have a shutdown for the evening routine that will make sure I’m in bed by 10.45. If I move this back by 15 minutes a week, I should achieve the goal of a 10pm bedtime before the end of the month.
Sounds easy, right?!
The final piece of the puzzle is increased exercise. I am taking part in the Cancer Council’s March Charge, and have committed to walking 300 km in March to raise funds for this very worthy cause, which is the equivalent of about 15,000 steps a day. My daily goal up to now has been 12,000 steps, which I’ve been meeting on most days but not every day. So I’ll have some extra work to do there.
Of course, I just made it all the more difficult for myself by falling down my front stairs on Tuesday and hurting my back, which has made walking (and moving in general) an uncomfortable exercise. Fortunately, it seems like nothing is seriously damaged. My doctor said that I’m still walking around is a good sign and I haven’t broken anything (since confirmed by the x-ray). I keep thinking how much worse it could have been if I’d tumbled rather than slid!