Periods & Productivity
We all know the feeling. You know, that familiar sludgy, sluggishness that creeps in as soon as we’re about to start our menstrual bleeding? Yeah, that one. Feels like it always kicks in as soon as we really need to get something done too, right?
Like clockwork, a thought I often lament to my friends every twenty-eightish-ish days without fail when this dull, sloth-like persona takes over is, how am I meant to perform at peak productivity in these conditions?
As busy bleeders from all walks of life, we all go through periods (mind the pun) when productivity needs to be key – tiimes when life demands that we girl-boss through the hustle and bustle as best we can, no matter the state of our energy levels.
However, as frustrating as it might be, our energy and motivation stores can, and will dip depending on where we’re at in our cycle; whether our jobs, social lives or any other high-energy, productivity-demanding commitments like it or not.
But as much as we can’t stop the ol’ increase in exhaustion that comes with PMS, what we can do is get to know our cycle and the hormonal fluctuations constantly at play, in order to better understand how we can harness productivity throughout our cycle.
Sounding a little complex? Basically, what you should know is, as a menstruator, optimised productivity can go hand in hand with leaning into the hormonal ebbs and flows that come with having a menstrual cycle.
I chatted with Jemay Neldar, a Menstrual Educator and positive period circle Facilitator to help unpack some of the key pointers we should know when it comes to harnessing our cycle in order to maximise productivity. Check out her tips below.
Which part of our cycle is the best time to be productive?
The first half of your cycle. AKA, the Follicular and Ovulation phases.
Jemay says that during this time, most menstruators will experience heightened energy at this stage, priming the mind and body for peak levels of productive activity.
“These first two phases of the menstrual cycle allow [menstruators] the ability to reach maximum performance - the hormones that give them increased brain function, confidence, physical strength and stamina [to] reach their peak at ovulation,” Jemay explains.
Shortly after this phase, these hormones will decrease again. So, in order to maximise productivity in line with your cycle, try to schedule in any tasks that require keen attention to detail, focus or social skills during this energised phase of your cycle.
Make the most of what ya got!
During which phase of our cycle are we typically the least productive?
The good Luteal and Menstruation phases.
During this time, estrogen levels drop and cortisol (that pesky stress hormone) levels rise.
According to Jemay, this is when we want to pump the brakes and prioritise rest, which at the end of the day, is an all-important factor in maintaining that sustainable productivity we’re all chasing.
Instead of pushing through to try to be our best, most efficient selves, Jemay advises us to not put too much pressure on kicking productivity goals during this time.
“Trying to push through and do too much during [the] Luteal and Menstrual phases can lead to burn-out,” says Jemay.
“It is best to take [your] time, take on smaller tasks, avoid [attending] too many social engagements and use the time to plan your tasks and activities for the upcoming follicular and ovulation phases.”
Why do I feel less productive when I’m on my period?
Besides the fact that menstrual symptoms such as cramps, mood swings and bloating could be distracting you from your to-do list (fair enough - you should try The Fix!), Jemay explains that during our period, the hormones that fire up our levels of productivity are actually at our lowest on our period.
“It’s simple biology,” she says.
“This second half of a [female] cycle is when [your body] needs to slow down and honour [the] body as it prepares for [either] pregnancy or shedding.”
So don’t beat yourself up for not smashing through your WIP during this part of your cycle. It’s all a normal part of the fluctuating ebbs and flows of a healthy menstrual cycle.
How can we adjust our working environments to harness productivity throughout our cycle?
It all comes back to taking the shame out of period chat.
“Education is the biggest influence. Having open and unashamed conversations about our menstrual cycles and teaching women [and gender non-conforming menstruators] how to listen and take notice of their bodies is key,” says Jemay.
In an ideal world, every office would allow menstrual leave without pay cuts and tampons would be readily available in every bathroom.
But until that day comes, start by paying attention to how you feel throughout your cycle and if you’re comfortable, see if you can communicate what you need from your workplace in order to harness sustained productivity throughout your cycle; resulting in better outcomes for all.
“When the subject is spoken without shame women will be able to confidently embrace the conversation with their peers and be able to communicate their needs and limitations throughout their entire menstrual cycle.”