How can you find the perfect time to do everything?
There are those times in the day when you feel at your absolute best. You’re multitasking with ease, your mind totally in the flow, and it feels like you’re a productivity machine. Then suddenly 3 p.m. hits, and all that amazing organizational energy dissipates, leaving you drained and a little dazed. Or maybe it’s 8:30 in the morning, and you can barely keep your eyes open during your meeting, but come 5:00 pm you are ready to roll. What time during your day do you feel at your best? And how can you capitalize on it?
Michael Breus is known by everyone as ‘The Sleep Doctor.’ He's a clinical psychologist, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and recognized globally as one of the leading experts in sleep disorders. You may have already seen him on Oprah, CNN, The View, or Dr. Oz, and when he's not treating athletes, celebrities and executives in his private practice, he writes bestselling books, his latest is The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds and More. I recently interviewed Michael for the LEADx Podcast where we discussed the secret to time well spent. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: What is a chronotype and how are they different from each other?
Michael Breus: So if you'd ever heard of somebody being called an ‘early bird’ or a ‘night owl’, those are chronotypes. But it turns out that there aren't just two. There's actually four. I was able to create an assessment tool if you will, quiz, that people can take online. So for folks out there who want to figure out what their chronotype is, it's free. Just go to www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com and you can absolutely positively figure this out. You can learn which one of the four chronotypes you fall into.
So the next question you're going to say is, “Well, Michael, so what? Who cares if I'm a lion or a bear or whatever these crazy chronotypes are that you've been talking about?” Here's where it gets interesting: when you wake up, when your body genetically wants you to wake up is when your hormones switch on for the day.
As an example, if you're a really early morning person and you get up at 5:30, then your adrenaline and cortisol will spike at 5:30 to help wake you up and your melatonin will go down. Then all of your hormones are incredibly predictable for a 24-hour period, and so if you just watch the hormone curbs and you look at what hormones do you need when doing certain activities, you just make the match.
The first [chronotype] is the lion. So lions are my leaders. These are my wake up at 4:30, 5:00 in the morning people. They get 50 emails out the door before everybody else. It's pretty impressive some of the things that they do. They like to make a list and go from step one to step two to step three to step four. They're very orderly in their way of doing things. It's pretty fun to watch them because they really are pretty impressive people. They're usually what we would call a type A personality. The problem, however, with being a lion is socially they have some real issues because let's face it, dinner and a movie is out if you woke up at 4:30 in the morning, right? I mean, they're not party animals. They're not the people that you hang out with on a social level because they're so exhausted, they're going to bed at 8:30, 9:00 at night. They make up roughly 15% of the population.
Next are my bears. Bears are the largest group and bears are the best. I love bears. They make up about 50 to 55% of the population. They are my extroverts. They're my ‘get it done’ kind of people. These are the people that work really hard but also play really hard. While they can be leaders, and don't get me wrong, bears make great leaders, they're really good at relating to their team, at talking with their friends, and they're really a very social group of people who have a lot of fun. The biggest problem for bears is because this research hasn't been publicized very much, they don't know when the best time is to do things. There's lots of fun things for them to learn. But the world works on a bear's schedule. Bears get up around 7:30. They go to bed around 10:30. They're the people that the world kind of operates around.
Next are the wolves. Wolves make up also about 15%, and I am a wolf. These are the night owls. I rarely go to bed before midnight. I only require about six and a half to seven hours of sleep so I'm up around 6:30 or 7. Wolves are a little bit more introverted but they also have a tendency to be super creative. My wolves are my authors, my actors, and my musicians. Most teenagers are wolves as well. They have a tendency to be kind of night shifters in the middle of the night. Wolves have problems with society for a lot of reasons. One of them is everybody thinks they're lazy. Everybody says, “Why can't you be at work at 8:00 in the morning? Why can't you do all of these things?” The truth is is because their brains don't operate at that period of time.
Then the final category is what I call my dolphins. These are the people that have difficulty sleeping. A lot of times they're self-diagnosed as having insomnia. These are people who don't have a very heavy sleep drive, meaning that their body doesn't really want to sleep for very long periods of time yet they feel like they need a significant amount of sleep.
Dolphins have a tendency to be a little bit on the anxious side. They're my Type A personalities with just enough obsessive compulsive nature that it fact it sometimes it prevents them from completing their tasks. So dolphins are really the people that I wrote the book for, primarily, because it really helps kind of give them a schedule to really do a whole lot of things but all of the chronotypes benefit tremendously from what's going on in the book. By the way, these aren't just things that I made up. These are actually genetically predetermined. So you could go to www.23andme.com, as an example, and you could get your chronotype and learn if you're more of an early person or a night person.
Kruse: As we become fully grown adults, do we settle into one of these chronotypes?
Breus: Absolutely. So what we see is at different ages, people are different chronotypes then we kind of settle in at around age 20 and then it seems to change again at age 55 or 60. So depending upon how old your child is, you can reliably predict what is going on with them from a timing perspective.
Kruse: It's not that there is a universal best time to eat lunch or have sex, it's going to shift depending on your chronotype?
Breus: That’s correct.
Kruse: How can we use chronotypes at work for our career? What are some key things they should be thinking about scheduling at certain times?
Breus: Well, it's interesting because in the book there's an entire section about work where I go through a couple of different things.
One of the first ones is when to ask your boss for a raise. This is one of my favorite topics. There's some great research out there on it. One of the things that people have looked at in the happiness world is when people are the most happy during the week. I'll give you one guess which day of the week people are most happy?
Kruse: Friday, because it's the weekend.
Breus: Exactly. That is exactly right. Friday people are the most happy. Now, I'm going to test you one more time, Kevin, and I'm going to say when during the daytime do you think people are the most happy, before lunch or after lunch on Friday?
Kruse: After lunch because they're that much closer to the weekend, right?
Breus: Exactly. So no matter what your chronotype is, we've now narrowed down when your boss is going to be the happiest. What day of the week and what time of the day they're going to be the happiest, or at least you’ve got a range to work with here.
Friday afternoons are the best time across the board to get a raise. Now, here's where it gets interesting; we know that people who are lions, my early morning people, they're going to start to run out of gas by about 3:00 in the afternoon. They're not going to be as gung-ho and able to articulate their points, to get their information out there. So you don't want to hit your boss until after they've eaten on Friday because the last thing you want is a hungry boss when you're asking them for a raise. Because you are guaranteed to not get that raise, all right?
So right after lunch if you are a lion or your boss is a lion, then that's a good time to hit them. So now your next question is going to be, “Well, Michael, I can take my own chronotype but are you telling me I got to go get my boss' to take this chronotype quiz in order to figure out when I should ask them for a raise?” No. I'm not asking you to do that. You can actually kind of get an idea of what chronotype your boss is by just watching their behavior. As an example, does your boss fire off emails at 6:00 in the morning? If they do, there's a pretty high likelihood that they're going to be a lion.
If they get into work 8:30, kind of normal work time, then they're probably a bear. If they never make morning meetings because they can never seem to get it together and they're always up to having meetings later in the day, or even in the evening or dinner meetings, then they're probably a wolf. If you're getting emails from them all night long like they're not sleeping very well, then they're probably a dolphin, right? So once you've kind of guesstimated what your boss' chronotype is, now you know Fridays after lunch, then you look at your own chronotype and you decide when you are in your most ability to articulate your argument which, “Hey, I need more money and here's why.” So it actually all comes down to science at the end of it all.
Kruse: I like to challenge our listeners to get a little better every day. What's something we could do today to help us get more out of life?
Breus: Well, it kind of depends on the audience. But one of the most popular questions that I get asked is when is the best time to have sex? So let's talk about that for a second. Here's where it gets interesting. When you look at the hormones that everybody needs in order to have sex: it’s high levels of testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, adrenaline and cortisol that all need to be high and melatonin needs to be low. That's the sleep hormone.
I think it's like 93% or 97% of people have a tendency to have sex between 10:30 and 11:30 at night when their hormone profile is the opposite of what I just described. All of the estrogens, testosterone, all of that is going down and the melatonin is going up so you'll hear it here with Dr. Breus and Kevin, people should be having sex at like 8 to 9:00 in the morning, like let's say on a Saturday morning. Here's even further proof that we know this is true. Most men wake up with an erection. If that is not mother nature telling us this is when we're supposed to do this, I don't know what is.
So for folks out there who are interested learning your chronotype, it can be very, very useful.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.