Moon Side facing Earth

Spark Labs: Exploring productivity cycles. In the firm, on projects, and beyond.

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When you live in a space station, a concept like people’s energy cycles can make the difference between a team blow up and a highly productive experience. In 2004, ASU Professor Wil Haywood shared this concept in an interdisciplinary class at the School of Design. The idea that our nature somehow sets us up with different intellectual, emotional, and physical cycles was encouraging, and stuck with me ever since. When I have a bad day, I tell myself that I’m probably hitting bottom of at least one of those cycles, and that after bottom I’ll be on my way to the top. A really bad day? Maybe several cycles overlapped in the worst possible moment, but hey, that means I’m on my way towards a rapid succession triple top, good things wait ahead. 

Fast forward to the present moment. I admit that I currently feel in one of those low points. We recently lost a close family member, the kids have been sick for over a week, and my health has been compromised to the point where I literally can’t talk (this might also explain the lengthy written post). People at work are stepping up to cover for me, I still have a hard time having telling clients that I continue to be fairly unavailable. A week is understandable, but between this month’s unexpected events we are approaching a month of limited availability.  When talking about all this with a good friend last week, she prescribed me “Do Less” (A book by Kate Northrup; Yay to sick-day reading / audiobooks!). Among a number of other cool strategies, Kate proposes to take cycles to a new level, and to use them proactively. As a time and schedule challenged person, I love that in concept this structures a chunk of time that goes beyond the individual day, and gives each period of time a theme. I’m excited about the prospect that this could enable a deeper engagement with those activities, instead of constant switching in between the full spectrum of tasks. I also plan to take my never ending to-do list and instead develop realistic weekly activity themes. If you are open to entertaining the thought that nature’s basic seasons, our physical cycles, or some astrological phenomena, read on. At this point this is new territory for me, but I’m willing to give Kate’s idea of developing an awareness of those cycles a shot. They may enable us to ride those waves, and be more self-compassionate on days when things don’t quite align.

Spark Architecture already has monthly billing cycles, and other recurring “seasonal” events. Taxes, Employee Reviews, Quarterly RFP responses,and so on. But there are also plenty of tasks that could benefit from an easy system, instead of having to exhaustingly deliberate backlog priorities and dealing with urgent but less important items. Could a little alignment go a long way? 

To get there, many recommend first tracking one’s own energy over the course of a few months. Being impatient, and somewhat realistic about my follow-through given two preschoolers, a business, and a backlog of more everyday chores in my life, I decided to instead jump in and give the whole moon thing a twirl. Lunar Cycles, really? In my days as a Yoga teacher I did have a general appreciation for the moon, and I still get spells of sleeplessness around full moons, so why not give it a try?

Are you aware of any cyclical patterns in your life? I’d love to hear from you. For now I’ll run this as an experiment:

Nasa’s website currently features this picture, showing the face of the Moon that we see from Earth. This image is based on data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Step one (yesterday): I just added lunar phases to my calendar ( as “private” events until I’m more comfortable around the whole concept). I have to admit to some hesitation as I ventured further into this concept. Overshooting the amount of hippy-skippyness I currently identify with (I generally like to find more Scientific data first). But after my first review of the concept I’m excited to explore what introducing some rhythm to work and life might bring about. 

In a very simplified version, a lunar cycle  gives you four weeks (29.5 days). If you entertain some of the moon literature, two of these weeks are pretty low key, the other two high-powered, or if you prefer Ying and Yang.  In the “low-key” phase (traditionally before and after the new moon), you complete work, tie up loose ends, declutter, reflect, rest, evaluate, learn, research, and set new intentions. In the “high-powered” phase (you guessed it, the full moon) we become do’ers. We can execute with the right boost of courage, determination and discipline; communicate and connect to others better, get out there, collaborate, and do big things.

In the next months I want to play around with this. In my world, architecture projects tend to be split up into phases with obvious “starter” and “finisher” , and review/evaluation parts, as well as various levels of client interaction and networking activities. They tend to span multiple months. And I have often been confused that I can be both a very extroverted and a very introverted person at times, this would offer a convenient explanation. Moon inspired or not, I can see how structuring various business activities over a period of time will be liberating. Just having a dedicated time for business development lunches, team connects, plan reviews, and writing has the potential to restructure long lists into manageable chunks. And after a week with lots of meetings making time to sit down, sketch, and review should be welcome. 

So long,

Sophia

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Sophia Sparklin

Growing up in a family with generations in medical practice, Sophia discovered her passion for architecture during an internship 1996. Since then Sophia received formal and informal education in Germany and the US. At Arizona State University she was honored by the Henry Adams Certificate for graduating on top of her (Master of Architecture) class in 2005.