That’s a weird blog post title, but I’m not kidding!
Okay. Let me start at the beginning. I’ve been sick for over a year. It started as two different kinds of eczema on my arms, knees, and hands (hurtful to the point I couldn’t type), then when those died down, I started getting migraines and extreme fatigue. A year later, I’m still having to take 2-3 naps a day to function on top of 8+ hours of sleep a night as my doctors and I try to narrow down what kind of auto-immune crap I have going on. With all that, I’m left with way less time than I had before to work and zero energy to do it. If you’ve read my How I Power My Career in 90 Minutes a Day post, this is part of that.
So then I hear about this book titled, “Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms” by Kate Northrop who (with a ton of super interesting research) discovered that while she was pregnant, she could cut her hours in half from running her business yet keep the same income coming in. Cool, right?
Well, I’m down for doing less to achieve more (aren’t we all?). Especially since I literally can’t stay awake 1-2 days a week right now. So as Northrop suggested in one of her experiments in this book, I started tracking monthly cycles in order to maximize the times I’d have the most energy and scheduling certain tasks during specific phases in my body. Oh, and I learned more about my reproductive cycles in the process. Win-win.
I will make a quick note here, that I’m always working on a book, and I can’t schedule my word counts around phases of my cycles all the time because I answer to deadlines. Whether I have energy or not, I’m writing six days a week, but Northrup suggest trying to schedule 10-20% of your tasks according to your menstrual cycle for optimal energy conservation and productivity.
Here’s what happened:
According to Northrup, the menstrual phase (when you’re bleeding) is a time for rest, reflection, and logical thinking. Energy is the lowest here, so it’s a great time to evaluate what’s working in my business and what isn’t.
And, yeah, we all know this is when we want to sit on the couch and eat chocolate for five to seven days, so not a whole lot of work gets done for me here. However, for this experiment, I decided I’d take Northrup’s advice and evaluate everything I have going on into two columns. What was working and what wasn’t.
What I found was a really big list of things going on in my business that wasn’t working. Such as:
• Staying up late at night to catch up on my word count (this leaves me with less focus for my next workday and more frustration)
• Instagram just doesn’t work for me (so why am I wasting time and energy getting angry with that fact?)
• Doing everything myself (I learned it’s not possible during this process)
• The relationship I have with my work isn’t healthy.
If you can believe it, I’d never sat down and applied a deep evaluation to my business like this before. I figured, I might as well try everything and see what happens, and then you know, keep doing it until I get it right. However, after this monthly exercise, I found I had the ability to start letting go of the things that were no longer serving me, such as knowing I’m not going to have a lot of energy during this phase, so I shouldn’t expect myself or plan to get as much work done or words written as usual.
All of this led into me actually saving time and energy on letting go of the things that weren’t working (for example, I’m focusing more on Facebook now), having me hire a nanny for 5 hours a week to help me with the kids, and helped me to start healing the relationship I have with my work.
During the follicular phase of my cycle (after I’m done bleeding), I’m most primed to plan, brainstorm, plant seeds of creation, and initiate new projects. Energy is pretty high during this time for me, so I’ve gotten into the habit of getting my social media marketing and content creation scheduled during this time (like right now!).
I have so much energy for four to five days, I can literally hit my word counts every day and get my marketing campaigns planned and created for the following month all at once. I, personally, still require a nap or two during the day, but I’m not as tired and I feel like my brain is firing on all cylinders. I just feel better at this point and that energy carries me through the most time-consuming tasks of the month.
During these five days alone, I launched the ideal hero quiz on my website, launched a Pinterest campaign, created a spread the word campaign for an upcoming release for newsletter subscribers, launched an Instagram stories campaign, and started the last book in my Blackhawk Security series. Yeah, not kidding. I felt like a machine.
No more babies for me (hallelujah), but tracking my ovulation phase definitely came in handy during this experiment. According to Northrup, at this time you’re most likely to be more open and receptive, magnetic even, and ready to get the word out about what you’re working on.
So I tried to schedule designing ads, creating posts to engage readers in my various reader groups, and responding to comments and messages during this time, but I also took it a step further. I’d sent out my latest work in progress to two critique partners, but I didn’t look at their notes or comments until my calendar said I was slipping into this phase.
I don’t ever really have a problem with critiques on my books. I don’t require attaboys. I just want to know what I have to do in order to make the book better and move on. In fact, the harder the better (that’s what she said!), but I wanted to see if using my receptibility in this phase made a difference in my reaction to the critique notes. I was surprised I actually felt more detached from the notes than usual, but that could’ve been because I was “supposed to be receptive” during that time, I was so over this damn book, or maybe all this mumbo jumbo actually works. Lol.
I’ll be honest. I have a hard time grasping the fact that for half the month I’m supposed to be resting, but the luteal phase (right before you start bleeding) is a time where energy turns inward, you’re more poised to complete projects, where your brain chemistry supports focus, and your body starts to slow down. So there are two phases of this cycle every month where I’m being forced to take a step back and slow down. I could plow right through them. I could try to push myself harder in order to get more done, but that’s not the intention I set when I started this experiment.
I wanted to find a way to be more productive by honoring the way my body feels because if I don’t, it’s going to make me one way or another. So I started paying attention during this phase more than most. And what I learned actually surprised me.
This phase is the longest of the menstrual cycle, and there’s a reason for that. It’s because as women, we’re not supposed to be going 100% of the time. We cycle on a 28-day cycle compared to men who cycle on a 24-hour cycle. However, the world we live in is built on starting fresh every day, doing the same things every day, being as productive as you can every day. But that’s not how women’s bodies work! We are not the same every day, so I’m coming to terms with accepting I can’t be as productive every day as I want to be because my body needs more rest and recovery for half the month.
During this last phase of mine, I found myself pulling away from everyone in my social circles except my husband and my kids. I live with them, I have to talk to them at some point, but as for everyone else, I cancelled social activities and said no to new ones. I didn’t respond to messages as quickly. I stepped back from social media and play dates in my neighborhood. I just pulled away. From everyone. And I realized, I actually do this every month. I’d just never realized why.
I had absolutely no focus on work though. I’d flutter from one project to the other, never landing on something for more than five minutes at a time. Everything got so overwhelming, I felt like I was shutting down. I think I watched more TV than I had in the weeks prior, but after learning pulling back is actually part of this phase, I was absolutely happy with that. For this purpose, I strictly started scheduling marketing tasks for the follicular and ovulation phases and just focused on writing. No pressure, just creation.
Whew. That’s a long post, but so full of goodness! If you have any questions, leave them below! I also highly recommend grabbing a copy of the book “Do Less” by Kate Northrup if you’d like to try your own experiments into doing less and accomplishing more.