It’s no secret that the corporate world was designed by men to suit men best. Our traditional nine to five work day and the 5 days on two days off work week were designed back in the Industrial Revolution where the majority of people working were men.
Interestingly enough, whether it was conscious or not, men created a corporate world that suited their natural hormone cycle. In the morning, testosterone is highest for men, it slowly decreases throughout the day, and resets approximately at the 24 hour mark. Women, as you know, have a much longer hormonal cycle (approximately 28 days give or take a few).
This creates a productivity disconnect between men and women, because the natural ebb and flow of creativity, mental focus, collaboration and efficiency resets every day for a man but does not for a woman. Does that mean that we as women are out of luck and just have to figure it out? Absolutely not.
As a woman looking to move up the corporate ladder, it’s imperative to learn these nuances of the male-designed corporate culture in order to understand how you can make it work best for you.
Before we can get into that, though, I need to bring you back to high school biology.
Female hormonal cycle has predictable fluctuations that affect mood, energy, collaboration and mental clarity. Understanding these fluctuations is the key to unlocking our productivity potential. There are four phases, each influenced by specific hormones which then increases our ability to utilize various skills and strengths throughout this 28 day period.
In the Follicular Phase when hormone levels are low and estrogen is just starting to rise, we are at our most creative and energetic which is the perfect time for strategic planning, experimentation, problem solving and innovation. This is also a great time to create proposals, apply for a promotion, and brainstorm how the team could be best utilized to achieve the goals outlined for the quarter.
Break out your paper planner or spreadsheet and start looking at the big picture. What milestones can you predict that will let you know you’re on track? What can you see as having a potential to become an obstacle, and how will you deal with it if that’s the case?
This is the time for creating mind-maps, to have a brainstorming session, and to dream big. Dive into this creative time and make the most of it!
During the ovulatory phase, our estrogen and LH levels are at their highest. This shift in brain chemistry allows us women to really tap into our emotional intelligence and our strengthened verbal communication skills.
You can utilize this phase by creating opportunities for collaboration and group-think projects. This is also the time to schedule those important conversations about the proposals you’ve created, or to schedule a time to talk about your much deserved promotion.
Bring on the productivity! This is the time for implementation!
When our estrogen and progesterone levels naturally decline, it is easier for us to buckle down and get shit done! We are the most task-oriented during this time and can experience a heightened ability to focus and notice minute details that might have otherwise been overlooked. To make things even better, this is the time where our motivation is highest so we’re able to scratch things off our to-do list in record time!
No great leader gets anywhere without analyzing what went well and what could be improved on, and the menstruation phase is the perfect time for this reflection. In Phase One you created your plan, Phase Two was the space for collaboration and communication of that plan, Phase Three was where you implemented that plan like a boss, and now it’s time to celebrate your accomplishments and take stock of what needs optimizing for your next cycle.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that meditation is an integral part of my day. During this phase of my work and natural hormonal cycle the insights and realizations are so much more profound and impactful. I am much more able to tap into my ability to think outside the box, to see things from an objective perspective and to consider how to adjust my current strategies.
You don’t have to meditate in order to gain these insights, but cultivating this awareness and resilience (pillars four and five of the CLEAR Career Program). In fact there are many ways you can do this including:
Whatever you decide to do, make sure to take some time to reflect. Your future c-level executive self will thank you for building this habit now.
Now you may be thinking “Ali, this is all well and good but how do I make this work in my regular work life? There’s no way my boss is going to go for this.” And to that, I have just one thing to say.
It’s not about following this outline perfectly; it’s about progress.
Yes, you’ll have tasks and due dates assigned to you that will inevitably not line up with your natural cycle. There will always be things that you don’t have control over. That being said, there are many aspects of your work that you do have control over and it’s up to you to start seeking those out. Prioritizing most of your month to align with your natural cycle will not only help you have more energy and lessen your desire to procrastinate, it will also make you more effective at the tasks that you have no control over and that aren’t in alignment with your hormonal cycle.
Interested in giving this a try? Download my free CLEAR productivity planner sheets and start aligning your work with your body’s natural strengths.