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I recently finished The Power of When, a book that helps you identify your chronotype — an individual’s behavioral manifestation of his or her underlying circadian rhythms. The book then goes on to recommend the best time to do essentially everything based on your chronotype: when to hold meetings, do creative work versus analytical work, eat, sleep, work out and more. I found the lessons personally helpful and tried to share them with my wife. Her response was unreceptive. “You read too much,” she said. “This is just another one of your reactive fads.”
As someone who consumes (i.e., reads and listens to) more than 200 full-length books a year, I realize this is a real danger. If my wife was feeling the negative effects, how does my team feel every time I have a “great new idea”? This led me to dig deeper into the lessons I was drawing from The Power of When and the implications of those lessons. What I discovered might be helpful to other leaders, so I would like to share them below.
In this specific instance, what I found most exciting was not the new insights the book provided, though there were certainly those. Rather, I drew the most value from the confirmation of lessons I had already learned on my own. What I mean is that many of the “best time” recommendations for my chronotype aligned with adjustments I had already made over my 10+ years of professional life.
One example is that I used to work out first thing in the morning. I get up early and tend to have lots of energy, so I would immediately hit the gym before the day started to burn that energy off. I also found myself lagging in every professional environment I worked in during the afternoon (2:00-4:00 p.m.) and was constantly looking for ways to combat this.
I should have been using these periods in different ways. In the morning, when I have all that energy and my brain is ready to go, I am better off focusing on big-picture and strategic thinking. In the afternoons when my mind is slowing and I have been up since 5:00 a.m., it’s a great time to hit the gym and drive a new burst of energy to see me through the rest of the day.
So that is what I ended up doing: I now use my mornings for reflection and writing (including this piece). In the afternoons when I am not my mentally sharpest, I go to the gym. This helps me use my mind when it is positioned to be most effective, and also helps create a second wind for my workday that I was previously lacking.
This is but one example, and there are many others. The point, however, is that for me the advice was spot on. Yes, I did come to the same point on my own, but it also took me a decade of trial and error to do so. A book that provided the same insight took me two days to read.
And so it is with insights from other books, articles, podcasts, board members and mentors. None of these sources can tell you exactly what to do. Everyone has their own unique circumstances. For example, my wife’s chronotype differs from my own, and we have a toddler, so my personal chronotype preferences are not the be-all and end-all how I live my life.
What these different sources of knowledge can do is share lessons learned over years or even decades of experience, and give you access to valuable insights in a far more efficient manner than having to learn each lesson for yourself. As one of my board members recently told me, sharing past mistakes with one another is a good way to help others avoid making the same ones.
This will seem incredibly obvious, because it is, but the best way to be open to such outside sources is to be open to such outside sources. What I mean is that you need to go in with a genuine curiosity to derive benefit. If you are just going through the motions in a conversation or while reading a book or listening to a podcast because someone pressured you to do so, chances are the insights you come across will pass out of your mind as soon as they enter it. If, instead, you go in with a specific question in mind, you will have primed yourself to be as receptive as possible when you eventually come across that helpful insight. This will ensure you are focused on the right sources and are unlikely to let those insights go to waste.
The lesson I now derive from my interaction with my wife is not that I am consuming too much knowledge, or that I’m attempting to act upon too much of what I learn. Instead, the lesson for me is that the lessons, like this one, are specific to me. While I can share them with others, trying to force them upon anyone else will only lead to disappointment and frustration for all involved.
As a business leader, friend or family member, you may constantly see individuals struggle with issues you think you can help with. However, until those people perceive they are actually issues and decide they want to do something about them, all you can do is share your experience and then wait for the request for help. Proactively trying to make recommendations before a person is ready can often put them on the defensive and make it even harder for you, or the insight, to help.
We all learn and explore at different speeds. Respect that, and hopefully your colleagues, family and friends will do the same for you.
March 7, 2019 at 08:16AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs