For individuals in the helping professions, taking care of our well-being and efficiency to offer the best possible support to the people we work with is essential. An often overlooked but extremely powerful strategy is understanding our chronotype and using it to our advantage when structuring our work. In this article, we'll explore how knowing your chronotype can help you optimize your professional practice and provide practical advice on how to make the most of this valuable information.
What is a chronotype?
A chronotype is the manifestation of the circadian rhythm that defines an individual’s preference for activities that take place earlier or later in the day. Chronotypes are linked to our biological clock, also known as our internal clock, and to our genes. Knowing our chronotype and taking it into account when planning and structuring our schedules can improve our quality of life. A self-administered test was developed in 1976 by Horne and Östberg to identify an individual's chronotype: the Horne and Ostberg Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ).
What are the different chronotypes?
Dr Michael Breus, an American sleep medicine specialist describes the following 4 types: dolphin, lion, bear and wolf.
Dolphins (10% of the population): individuals with this chronotype sleep little and tend to be light sleepers. They generally need less sleep to feel rested (4-5 hours). Their productivity is highest in the morning and they find it harder to be productive in the afternoon.
Lions (20% of the population): individuals with a lion chronotype are generally early risers and early sleepers. They wake up rested and are productive at the start of the day, but find it hard to stay up late.
Bears (50% of the population): bears need a good night's sleep to feel fully rested (generally 8 or more hours) and tend to follow the solar cycle. They adapt well to the traditional working hours of 8 am to 4 pm.
Wolves (20% of the population): unlike lions, wolves are late sleepers and late risers. They tend to be sluggish at the start of the day and need time to start being productive. They are generally productive in the afternoon, with peaks of creativity in the evening or even at night.
It is important to note that these categories are generalizations and that individuals may have variations in their sleep and activity preferences throughout their lives depending on different contexts.
Impacts of chronotypes on professional performance
Knowing your chronotype can have a significant impact on your productivity and well-being at work. You will be able to better understand your natural rhythms, enabling you to adapt your professional practice accordingly. Here are some areas where this can be particularly beneficial:
Time management: Knowing your chronotype can help you plan your most demanding and important tasks during the periods when you are most alert and focused. This will allow you to make the most of your energy and productivity. For example, assign administrative tasks and clinical tasks according to your specific concentration needs.
Communication and collaboration: Understanding your chronotype can also help you understand your team’s, your colleagues’ or even your clients’ preferences. This will allow you to tailor your communication and collaboration to their peak performance times, thus fostering effective cooperation and harmonious professional relationships. It can also help reduce absenteeism among certain clients.
Stress and sleep management: Aligning your professional activities with your chronotype can reduce stress and improve your sleep quality. By not forcing yourself to work outside your peak performance times, you can increase your general well-being and resilience when faced with challenges in your professional sphere.
Practical advice for optimizing your professional practice according to your chronotype
Here are a few practical tips for incorporating the knowledge of your chronotype into your professional practice:
Identify your chronotype: use online tools or consult a specialized professional to determine your chronotype.
Plan your schedule accordingly, whenever possible: structure your most important and demanding tasks during your peak performance times.
If you have the latitude to do so and a 'traditional' schedule is not best suited to you, try adopting an atypical or flexible schedule. For example, you may prefer to work long hours (more than 10 hours a day, but fewer days a week), evenings or weekends, split shifts, part-time, multiple professional activities, or shift your working hours earlier or later in the day, etc. (Weibel and Gauthier, 2020).
Adapt your communication: be aware of your clients' or colleagues' chronotype preferences, and adapt your communication to promote better understanding and collaboration.
Take care of your sleep schedule: respect your sleep needs by taking your chronotype into account. Establish a regular sleep routine and create an environment conducive to relaxation and recovery.
In conclusion, understanding our chronotype and taking it into account in our professional practice helps us improve our productivity, well-being and quality of life. By identifying our chronotype, we can plan important tasks during our peak performance times, adapt our schedules and explore atypical or flexible working hours. In addition, by adapting our communication to the chronotypic preferences of others, we can foster better mutual understanding and harmonious professional relationships. Integrating this knowledge of chronotypes will help us maximize our professional potential while offering better support to the people we work with. It's a powerful and often overlooked strategy that deserves attention!
Social worker, B.T.S.
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