Clock It [Women’s Health Magazine]

When it comes to good timing, all hours are not created equal. Here’s your cheat sheet for when to pencil everything in from a workout to a root canal.

2007 Nov Womens Health

By Steve Mazzucchi
Women’s Health Magazine, November 2007.
[Interview with Jaya Schillinger]

Like a high-maintenance boss, your body has its moods. It can be sluggish or wired, chill or wigged out, in the zone or totally out of it. When it comes to cramming as much as possible into your insanely busy day, you can use those ups and downs (caused by cyclical changes in hormone levels, body temperature, even metabolism) to your advantage. Biological rhythms play a major role in everything from how good we feel during a workout to how well we tolerate booze and respond to mental challenges, according to Jennifer Ackerman, author of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body.

But reading your internal rhythms is only one piece of the puzzle — for smooth sailing throughout the day, you’ve also got to figure in traffic patterns, waiting-room crowds, and employee shift changes. If a little voice inside your head is whispering “Not worth the trouble,” relax. Just sync up your schedule with our guide, and pow! Suddenly your day’s running like a Swiss watch.

8:15 a.m. Lose the stubble

Shaving your legs during your morning shower isn’t just convenient. This is the time when your platelets — which help blood clot when you nick yourself — are becoming much more active, meaning you’re less likely to need a Band-Aid if you do get a cut, says Matthew Edlund, M.D., head of the Center for Circadian Medicine in Sarasota, Florida, and author of The Body Clock Advantage. But skip the razor if you’re getting a pedicure later. Shaving can remove a layer of skin cells, so exfoliants will sting, and any little nick is an open door for bacteria, says Marlene Reid, D.P.M., spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.

9 a.m. Go under the knife

Last year, a Duke University Medical Center research team analyzed more than 90,000 surgeries and found that patients undergoing afternoon operations were more likely to have problems related to anesthesia — including post-op pain and queasiness — than those in the morning rotation. Experts theorize that fatigue and shift changes may take a toll on the teams of doctors and nurses who put you under. A.M. slots can also mean a fresh attending physician and fewer administrative delays, such as backups in the lab for test results. Plus, you won’t have to starve for the entire day if you’re supposed to fast before your procedure.

10:00 a.m. Get your money back

Went on a wild shopping spree with your last paycheck? Show up at the mall in the morning to take some of it back, and you’ll be out in minutes. “Hit the store right when it opens. Even on weekends, that’s when lines tend to be shortest,” says shopping expert Kathryn Finney, creator of thebudgetfashionista.com. You’re also less likely to get a cashier who doesn’t know her store credits from her price look-ups, since more experienced workers often score daytime shifts, while rookies end up working through dinner.

10:30 a.m. Command the conference room

To make a solid impression, fire up the PowerPoint when your brain is most alert — 2 to 3 hours after you wake up, says Michael Thorpy, M.D., director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. By midmorning, your body temperature has risen (it dips during sleep), so you can run on all cylinders — neurons fire faster when your body is warmed up. The timing also suits your audience. “It’s not so early that people are nodding off, but it’s before stomachs start rumbling for lunch,” explains communication expert Ronnie Moore, author of Why Did I Say That? Communicating to Keep Your Credibility, Your Cool, and Your Cash!

12 p.m. Strike a tree pose

By midday, your warmed-up body is more supple and yielding, allowing you to get into poses smoothly, says Connie Chan, founder of Levitate Yoga in New York City. Plus, studios are the least crowded at noon, since the usual lunch break won’t cover a 90-minute class. Read: no unwanted warriors in your mat space, plus more individual attention, says Jaya Schillinger, president of Inspiration, Inc., a consulting company that works with holistic businesses. Just show up to work early and use the extra time at lunch to perfect your crow pose.

1:00 p.m. Open wide

What’s the best way to keep your next dental visit from becoming your personal Little Shop of Horrors? Schedule it for the afternoon. Even if you brush and floss after breakfast, plaque that builds up during the day offers a temporary protective coating for the areas around the gum line, where your teeth are the most sensitive, says Carolyn Taggart-Burns, D.D.S., a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. Plus, your gag reflex will be less active after lunch, when you’ve got a full stomach.

2:30 p.m. Get a cut that rates

Weekday afternoons are slow for most hair salons — it’s also a time when they’re blissfully free of shrieking bridezilla posses. So if you can sneak away from the office for an hour, “you’ll get faster, more attentive service,” says Jeanell Allan, an educator for the Naperville, Illinois, branch of Mario Tricoci Hair Salons and Day Spas. Bonus: Since your mane’s been weathering the workday, the stylist can accurately evaluate how limp, poufy, or cowlicky it is in its natural state, says Tiffany Ford, owner of Cleveland’s SalonBlu. “It helps us figure out the best way to cut and treat it,” she says. The downside: That also means no washing, blow-drying, curling, or flat-ironing your locks the morning of your appointment.

4:00 p.m. Book a training session

A 2005 review published in Chronobiology International revealed that people are stronger and less injury-prone between 4 p.m. and nightfall than they are earlier in the day. It’s also when you’ll get better access to machines — and trainers. Before work, after work, and lunchtime are when the masses hit the treadmills. But swing by in the late afternoon, and “you have the best shot at snagging a popular trainer who’d be booked solid during prime hours,” explains Lindsay Dunlap, a trainer at the Sports Club/LA in New York City. If you take your lunch break later in the day, you’ll avoid the sweaty throng.

5:00 p.m. Knock one back

Got happy hour plans? The earlier in the evening you gulp down that pint of Bass, the less likely it is to leave you tipsy. The science: Your liver detoxifies the body more efficiently in the early evening, when an increase in body temperature (which rises throughout the day and then bottoms out while we’re asleep) boosts metabolism, and that helps you break down the booze, Dr. Edlund says. But as the evening wears on and your body grows tired, alcohol’s alertness-dulling effects start to multiply. So shut down your computer and go grab a brewski.

6:00 p.m. Let ’em down easy

Unless it’s urgent, save a bad-news bombshell for after work. Drop it right before a meeting, and you’ll just max out the recipient’s stress level. An early-evening delivery gives them time to process what they’ve heard. “You can’t control the information, but you can control how they get it,” says Anthony Back, M.D., a Seattle oncologist and creator of Oncotalk, a training program funded by the National Cancer Institute that teaches young doctors how to break bad news to patients.

7:00 p.m. Replace your running shoes

Feet expand a half-size or more when you exercise, says Paul Langer, D.P.M., author of Great Feet for Life. Which means the kicks that fit you pre-run might be squeezing your toes at the finish line. Shop for running shoes right after an evening workout and you’ll be more likely to find a pair that fits.

A plan for all seasons

Now that you’ve got your 24 figured out, here are the best days and months to get bigger stuff done

Get a refill: Midmonth

At the pharmacy, the longest lines form at the beginning of the month. That’s when welfare and Social Security checks arrive — and when insurance companies adjust coverage, meaning pharmacists have to spend time explaining why a co-pay has changed, says Jennifer Athay, Pharm.D., a staff pharmacist at the American Pharmacists Association. And that extra traffic can lead to frazzled workers who are more likely to make mistakes. A 2005 study found that, partly due to those additional errors, medication-related fatalities are 25 percent more likely to occur at the beginning of the month.

Upgrade your wheels: September

This time of year, dealers are moving next year’s models onto the lot, so they slash prices on current-year rides to clear them out, says Philip Reed, consumer advice editor at edmunds.com. Also look for deals at the end of any month, when salespeople are more likely to cut you a break as they strive to reach bonus quotas.

Get that thing lasered off : October or November

Let your summer tan fade before scheduling hair removal, vein removal, or other skin treatments, says dermatologist Coyle Connolly, D.O., founder of Connolly Skin Care in New Jersey. Tanned skin tends to absorb the laser’s heat energy, increasing your odds of developing a condition called hyperpigmentation — darkened spots that can last weeks or even months. The fall is also a great time to have your dermatologist examine you for moles, which stand out more when skin is lighter.

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About the Author

Jaya Savannah - Chief Inspiration Officer. Strategy Coach for Holistic Businesses. Trainer, speaker, and writer. Spiritually aware, yet street smart. Elephant lover.