Cycles of the Day

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I’m old enough to remember (I start a lot of sentences that way now…) when computers were something of a novelty, when the bowling alley I worked in started installing arcade games like Asteroids and Missile Command and Centipede. But there were low-tech versions as well, and one of them was a free “app,” we’d call it now, that calculated your biorhythms.

What are biorhythms? Oh, children, you might as well ask me who Tom Selleck or Cybill Shepherd were, you pain me so greatly with your youth…

Biorhythms were a 1970s pop-psych version of astrology, basically, in which the moment of your birth launched a series of sine waves endlessly rolling from +1 to –1 but on different periods. Your Intellectual rhythm was a 33-day cycle; your emotional rhythm was a 28-day cycle; and your physical rhythm was a 23-day cycle. So, harnessing the power of the computer for trivia as we so often do, you could put in your date of birth, and the computer would calculate your cycles for the coming month, pointing out auspicious days during which all three sine waves would be in positive territory, warning of simultaneous troughs.

I am not a believer in biorhythms, but I have found that I have daily rhythms. My intellectual and emotional state is higher in the morning, my physical and emotional state is higher in the afternoon, and my intellectual state stands alone in the evening.

What does this imply for my working life? That in the morning, I have creative gumption. I can do things that are focused and risky, like teach and send out applications and contact literary agents. In the afternoon, I have physical gumption—time to do chores, to work in the woodshed, to sit through yet another meeting, things that don’t require a lot of creativity. And in the evening, I can do things that are focused and private—I can write, I can read.

I knew, back when I was writing my dissertation, that I wasn’t going to be able to come home and write in the evening if I’d had an intellectually demanding day ahead of it. So I got a job selling furniture, which I could leave behind at 6PM and be able to write for five or six hours after dinner. And I’ve learned to never teach a class between 12:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon. I have NEVER had a good class in the early afternoon, as a student or a teacher. I’m awesome before lunch, though.

You too should study your daily cycles, to understand what times of day work best for the various aspects of your life. Try to defend those times when your work comes most readily to hand, and schedule meetings during the slop time when you’re no good for thinking. The subcommittee on website revisions does not deserve your best resources.