Women make up nearly 50% of the workforce, yet the world of work is not designed to support how we naturally are as humans. One of the ways our work culture falls short is in acknowledging and accommadating the menstrual cycle. As a result, many people who menstruate struggle with productivity and work-related stress.
I personally started noticing how certain types of tasks felt very different at different times of my cycle. Sometimes I can crush a to-do list, while the week following I would feel so much resistence to doing anything on that list. After reading a couple of books and finding other resources about it, I thought I’d try intentionally planning my work around my cycle. I found that I actually optimsed my work efficiency and productivity, while also feeling less stressed and frustrated with procrastination.
Let’s start by understanding the basics. The menstrual cycle is an integral part of a person who menstruate’s natural rhythm. It is a complex interplay of hormones and physiological changes that can impact mood, energy levels, and productivity. Despite this, many of us try to ignore or suppress these changes, which can lead to burnout and stress. Instead, we can learn to optimize our work around our menstrual cycle to increase productivity and reduce stress, and make work work for us.
The menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase. Each phase has its unique hormonal profile and physiological changes. By understanding these changes, we can tailor our work habits to optimize our productivity during each phase.
During the menstrual phase, it is a time to go inward and focus on tasks like planning, research, and organizing. I find that I’m particularly insightful during this phase so brainstorming and planning is key. The follicular phase is a time of renewed energy and focus. This is an excellent time to tackle more complex tasks and take on new projects. The ovulatory phase is a time of heightened creativity and communication skills. This is a good time to schedule big meetings or presentations. Finally, the luteal phase is a time of increased introspection and attention to detail. This is a good time to review and fine-tune projects.
The missed opportunity
The current world of work is designed around a 9-5 workday, with little flexibility or accommodation for the natural rhythms of our bodies. There is also still stigma and shame around periods that holds us back from leaning into the power and wisdom it can provide us in driving impact as individuals. This is a missed opportunity for businesses looking to deliver the most impactful work possible and also for workers who aren’t able to work in a way that makes them more efficient, productive, and not stressed. Recognising the value of the menstrual cycle can help destigmaise it and also help people feel more seen, supported, and valued.
Optimising work around menstrual cycles is just one way we can open up the conversation around creating work places and structures that enable people to do their best work. Nature often gives us case studies and examples of systems and structures that foster adundance and sustainable growth. And we can turn to our own bodies as part of nature for that inspiration as well. It will be an ongoing journey and exploration to be able to answer ‘what works for me?’ when our work cultures often normalise operating as if we were machines, encouraging us to ignore what our bodies are so generously telling us.
I've created a Notion dashboard to optimise my life/weeks/days according to my cycle. I use it to track my habits, my morning and evening routines, write out my goals and vision, journaling etc. But the main thing is task, workout, and food planning according to the phases of my cycle as well as daily circadian rhythm. I've turned it into a template so that you can copy it and adjust it to make it work for you. If you think this might be of use, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a link!