How to work cleverly around your menstrual cycle

We’re used to considering the best times of the day for us to work. But have you ever thought about planning your workload by the month – around your menstrual cycle?

As crazy as it may first sound, the idea in fact makes a lot of sense. Who doesn’t feel wiped out and tired during the first couple of days of their period? Or maybe grouchy and impatient a few days before it?

Extending this thought further, we can actually examine our menstrual cycle in more detail – and identify clear times of the month when we’re naturally more inclined towards particular tasks.

Our changing hormones affect our performance

Throughout our menstrual cycle, our levels of oestrogen and progesterone rise and fall, and with them our mood. You’re already familiar with the idea of PMT, but our hormones affect more than just our emotional moods. They can also impact on our work performance too.

Research shows that we are better at particular tasks at different phases of our menstrual cycle. So if you can understand the best times of the month to tackle particular jobs, you can work smarter and achieve much more.

And if we can learn to schedule our work around these periods, we should – in theory at least – be more efficient!

The four phases of your menstrual cycle

Our menstrual cycle generally lasts between 23-35 days, and consists of four phases (the days we use here are based on an average 28 day cycle):

  • Menstruation phase – days 1-5
  • Follicular phase – days 1-13
  • Ovulation phase – day 14
  • Luteal phase – days 15-28

Your menstrual cycle may be shorter or longer, and your phases can differ – for example, your period may last for 7 days, not 5. And even if your period is a regular 28 days, you may not always ovulate on day 14.

How to work out your own menstrual phases

So how can you work out when your phases start and end? The best way is to keep a diary for a few months. Note down when your period starts and ends, and if possible, when you ovulate.

You can also keep a record of how you are feeling each day – energised, reflective, tired, creative etc – to track your mood patterns.

The best times of the month to work

So which part of your menstrual cycle is best for what sort of work? Here are the types of tasks that research shows are better for each phase:

  • Menstruation – is a great time for organisation, tidying and emotional and physical cleansing. So tackle tasks like restructuring your office or workspace, and eliminating unhelpful systems or baggage, filing and accounts.
  • Follicular – is a creative, energetic time of the month for most women. It’s also when our left brain is more dominant, making us better at verbal reasoning and learning. So it’s a good time to embark on new projects, plan job interviews for, and tackle trickier tasks that require dextrous thinking and enthusiasm.
  • Ovulation and luteal – this is a time when your thoughts are directed more inward. It’s a reflective period in which we are better able to recognise and transform difficult areas of our lives and work. We’re also more intuitive, making it a good time to make big decisions and plan strategies.

How to make your menstrual cycle work for you

So how can you make this work for you? Firstly, as we suggested above we recommend you start charting your own cycle and emotions/energies to create an accurate calendar of your own phases, and what tasks you find easier at different stages of the month.

Then try, as much as possible, to organise your work around your menstrual phases, ensuring you get the best of yourself all month long.