Find Your Seasonal Rhythms for Sustainable Performance and Happiness
Perfection is a myth. In modern work, the problem often is that we have a sense of what we need to do, but at the same time can feel overwhelmed of all of the things that we are supposed to do. Instead of trying to be perfect all the time, we should take a seasonal approach and look at life in phases and rhythms.
We all experience hectic times every now and then. Especially the beginning of every quarter and the beginning of each year tend to be very busy. During these expected busy seasons, unexpected events can still demand our immediate attention and time even further. Normal day-to-day operations mixed with possible change and transformation initiatives might double our efforts but won’t double our time. Sometimes it might be our personal life that requires more from us than normal.
People tend to have tightly planned schedules and optimistic minds. Without any preparation or planning for the hectic periods, this can result in negative stress and unhealthy habits. Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario: you have learned some good healthy habits, but fail to apply them due to a busy time period. This may leave you even more disappointed and unable to focus on healthy long-term change.
To avoid this negative cycle, it is critical to understand the concept of life rhythms, and how they relate to behaviour change. At Hintsa we divide life rhythms into daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms. The longer seasonal rhythms can then be divided into four different phases: normal time, mission time, recovery time, and renewal time.
Most of the time, we are experiencing the so-called normal time. It’s when life is just going on as it always does. During this time of normality, try to improve your holistic wellbeing one habit at a time or to maintain all the great habits you have already learned. You can try reaching 150 minutes of physical activity per week, 7 hours of sleep per night, having regular dinners with the whole family, or daily moments of idle time. It’s a good time for keeping in mind not just your own needs but the needs of the people closest to you as well.
Mission time is an extraordinary time when you need to use your “turbo engine” to produce more and faster. You might have a big deadline you need to meet, or a business trip, or some kind of challenge to deal with.
During this time, you typically need to prioritise one part of life (usually work) and may not be able to follow healthy habits in all areas. You might not have enough time for all good habits and might need to compromise on e.g. physical activity. Keep in mind that even during this hectic time, you still need to maintain the basic level of recovery to be able to perform.
You cannot run on mission time forever but can push yourself to the limits for a little while. Each person can have a different threshold for how long that can be. When you transition from mission time back to normal time, you should also return back to your best habits. This is a crucial point in time when many will not return back to these healthy habits and consider themselves unsuccessful.
Longer recovery time is a period of e.g. one week to pause and fully recover after really demanding mission time. During normal time, you should get adequate rest during the week, thus not accumulate sleep debt and chronic stress. But after a very busy and stressful period, both your body and mind and sometimes also your closest relationships, need a proper recovery. Just one weekend might not be enough to achieve this.
Recovery time is crucial. Extended periods of physical and mental overload without the balancing recovery time will lead to a physical, cognitive and/or emotional burnout. And after that getting back to mission condition or even to the normal condition can take a very long time.
When you invest in recovery periodically, you will have more in the tank available to draw from to support you during that mission time when most of those normal wellbeing behaviours may be thrown out of the window.
Renewal time refers to a time to reflect the past and the future, and renew ourselves by e.g. learning something new, developing ourselves physically or mentally, building new social relationships, or renewing already existing ones. This is a good time to try and be a bit closer to perfect. You can exercise a bit more than usual or really concentrate on your sleep cycles. Or you can learn and develop new skills, e.g. playing a musical instrument or participating in a development program.
Plan your rhythms
Understanding these different seasonal phases is essential. They are a key element in reaching sustainable performance and happiness. Many people drop the newly learned healthy habits when they hit the mission time and feel disappointed about not being able to keep them up. This may even discourage them from ever trying the good habits again.
But rather than thinking you have to be perfect all the time or feeling discouraged and thinking it’s all too hard, you should be realistic about your life rhythms and understand that different phases come and go and you need to adjust your behaviour accordingly. This is called controlled flexibility.
Try to recognise when you have mission phases and plan ahead when you can. Focus on maintaining recovery during mission time and continue with the other healthy habits when returning to normal time. Don’t forget to periodically pause to recover and pause to reflect and renew yourself either.
I encourage you to use this realistic approach as part of your holistic life management. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. Take some time to reflect. When is your mission season? Have you planned enough recovery time? What are the habits you want to learn or keep up?