Do you ever get the feeling that what you are doing should be so easy, but you are just not in the mood? Or sometimes, you are in the mood for something but somehow everyone else is disinterested. What exactly causes moodiness, and how do you make things happen despite it, or even use it to your advantage?
One of the main causes of moodiness is the daily Temporal Affective Pattern (TAP). An affective pattern is a pattern of emotions or moods. All of us experience daily mental mood swings. For most people, the TAP is similar. The mornings, from two to six hours following awakening, are a period of steadily improving mood, followed by a slow decline for the next four hours, which is again followed by an improvement for the rest of the evening. This would equate to 9am to 1pm, then 1pm to 5pm and 5pm and on. Well, now that you know this, what should you do with this information?
If you are on a typical work day, like the one outlined above, you should try to use the TAP to determine your daily schedule. High focus tasks, like client meetings, complex data analytics or complex areas of programming should be scheduled into the first part of the day. The increasingly positive affect that exists in the morning is ideal for this type of activity. For later in the day, plan the more creative or more robotic parts of your agenda. Data entry, design work or repetitive programming are examples. These activities will dovetail better with your reduced emotional state and will allow your mood to be in sync with your actions.
One surprise you may have noted here is that creative work is done best in periods of lesser cognitive strength. This is a rather odd phenomenon that is known as the “inspiration paradox.” This is best understood with the following thought process. For optimal cognitive function in analytical tasks, you must reduce distraction and limit your focus to a narrow range of thoughts. This is exactly the opposite of what creativity looks like. To be artistic and creative requires a broader mind frame and a less narrow focus. Therefore, periods of time that are great for mentally demanding tasks are actually poor for artistic ones and visa versa.
As with all rules there are exceptions. Not everyone is a “morning person.” Some people start their daily TAP later than others. Roughly 20 to 25% of people are what you may refer to as “evening people.” For the evening person the daily TAP starts much later perhaps even as late as 3pm for some people. The mornings for these people are better for creative or insight tasks or for work that does not require intense focus. Often people we think of as creative types are merely “evening people.” For this reason, if you are a “morning person,” you may be in the mood for one thing, while someone around you who is on a different daily TAP may be in the mood for something completely different.
Knowing that certain times of day are better than others for specific types of tasks is invaluable. If you find yourself staring blankly at the screen at a certain time of day, you are not alone. Try to restructure your daily routines to the best of your ability so that the times of day fit with your daily TAP. You will find that it is easier to do the work and you will face less resistance.
If you find this topic to be of great interest, I would recommend the book “When” by Daniel H. Pink. It is a fun and entertaining read and contains many further applications of similar ideas with ways of determining your own daily TAP and ideal times for specific activities. You can find it here on Amazon.
Go ahead, try to work on improving your daily schedule to fit your mood. Tell me how if went. I love to hear from you.