How to Find Your Chronotype—And How Knowing It Can Help You
You probably know if you’re an early bird or a night owl. But did you know that there are two other in-between types? Discovering your unique bio-time—a.k.a. your chronotype—can help dictate the best time for you to make an important decision or take the next step in your career.
Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and fellow of the Academy of Sleep Medicine, examined more than 200 studies to write his new book, out September 13, called The Power of When. Take the 45-second free online quiz to learn your unique chronotype (Breus divides everyone into four categories: Bears, Wolves, Dolphins, and Lions), and then read on to see when you should be doing what.
THE BEST TIME TO MAKE A DECISION
In order to make a decision, your brain needs to function on an emotional level and on a logical level, Breus says. In emotional terms, if you feel afraid and insecure, it can cause you to act cautiously. Sleep deprivation and your tendency towards procrastination also affect your decision-making skills, but the biggest factor is your personal circadian rhythm, and this depends on your chronotype.
According to Breus, Lions will make the best decisions first thing in the morning, from 6:00 to 11:00 a.m. “You’ll be alert, ready to go, understanding what’s happening,” Breus says. Bears, who wake a little later, should plan major moves for before lunch (between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m.), while Dolphins do best from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Wolves, who are night people, have two windows for optimal decisiveness: 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. and again from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. They need the break in the middle of the day because their sugar levels drop, and they shouldn’t make a decision on an empty stomach. Also, right before bed in the evening is prime decision-making time for everyone, because creative ideas often come when you’re about to fall asleep and your mind is a little distracted, Breus says.
THE BEST TIME TO SCHEDULE A JOB INTERVIEW
In order to game your job interview, it’s best to know the circadian rhythm of your interviewer as well. “Most leaders are Lions anyway,” Breus says, explaining that they’re at their best first thing in the morning. But are you? You don’t want to be there at 8:00 a.m. if you aren’t going to be able to function.
On the flip side, you also don’t want to be the last interview of the day. “If [your interviewer] thought that everyone was good, they’re going to downgrade you because they’re going to think that they need to think that someone wasn’t good . . . and you’re up, so that must be you,” Breus says. Finding the right balance "is not an exact science," Breus says, "but it works well.”
THE BEST TIME TO ASK FOR A RAISE
First, it’s important to determine the circadian rhythm of your boss. Take notice of the time they arrive in the office relative to your company's required start-time. Say work starts at 9:00 a.m.: If they stroll through the doors at 7:30, they’re probably a Lion. Arriving at 8:30 makes them a Bear, and 10:00 a.m. (in this scenario) probably means they're a Wolf. If you’re getting emails from them at all times of the night, they’re probably a Dolphin.
Don’t time the question too close to lunch, because no one wants to have a big conversation when their blood sugar is low and they’re heading out to grab a sandwich. Right after lunch is best, and your boss's preferred lunchtime most likely depends once again on their chronotype. For Lions, it's likely around 12:30 p.m.; Bears at 1:00 , Wolves between 2:00 and 3:00, and Dolphins at around 3:30.
Next, choose the day. “People become more and more positive as the week goes forward,” he says. Friday is the most positive day, and most people are happier later in the day. But you don’t want to schedule anything for after 4:00 p.m., because anything past 4:00 on a Friday is margarita time, Breus says.