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  • Josh Vaisman

The Rhythm of Success

Updated: Sep 6, 2018



In high school I played guitar in a heavy metal band. That’s right, I had hair down to the bottom of my back and wore Metallica t-shirts and black jeans. You can imagine how incredibly popular I was. Oh yeah!


I’ve long since given up my fantasy of rocking out to 50,000 screaming fans. But rhythm – the tap, tap, tap of the beat – has stuck with me. I’m the annoying guy in the office playing a made up drum line on his desk. So, no surprise, I’m fascinated by the natural rhythms of the human body.


Most of us are familiar with the circadian rhythm. That’s the 24-hour biological clock that tells us bodies when it’s time to wake up and time to go to sleep. There’s another rhythm that drives our biological clock throughout the day (and night) in ways that significantly impact our productivity. It’s called the ultradian rhythm and it’s incredibly important to a successful workplace. So what is it?


There’s another rhythm that drives our biological clock throughout the day (and night) in ways that significantly impact our productivity.

Think of your brain as a powerful laptop computer. This brain computer runs entirely on battery power and, once the battery runs out of juice, the computer must be shut down for 5-10 minutes to “recharge.” That’s the ultradian rhythm.


Each of us has a natural ultradian rhythm, based on our Basic Rest Activity Cycle (BRAC), that determines two important brain cycles – how we pass through sleep stages and how productive our brain is during the day. While it varies slightly from person to person the average human ultradian rhythm cycles between 90 minute peaks of brain productivity and 20 minute valleys of brain rest.


Put simply, our brain wants to take a break from work every 90 minutes or so. In the typical, busy veterinary hospital (or any workplace really) that just doesn’t happen. How many of us push through our 10 to 14 hour days without every taking any breaks? Maybe that’s why we’re seeing a growing rate of workplace burnout?


Put simply, our brain wants to take a break from work every 90 minutes.

Here’s the good news – this is a simple (and free!) problem to fix. When you get to work set a timer for 90 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a hard stop from what you’re doing and take an intentional, 15-20 minute break. It could be a short nap, a walk outside, or a snack break. Should work perfectly for every busy veterinary professional right? Wrong.


Some more good news – even busy veterinary professionals can maximize their ultradian rhythm! How? When you get to work, set a timer for 90 minutes. When the timer goes off you’ve got a 30 minute window to take some sort of break – this time think of a break as anything that mentally removes you from your work. This could be something as simple as using the restroom, taking a quick walk around the office (or better yet, outside!), or grabbing a cup of water and asking a work-friend about their indoor soccer league.


This small, simple change to your workday routine will increase your well-being, maximize your productivity, and significantly reduce your potential for burnout. That’s a win-win-win in my book!


What will your ultradian break sessions look like?


- written by Josh Vaisman

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