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Like many folks geared towards the creative side of life, I tend to experience a broad range of emotions. And as Mr. Hyde must make arrangements to manage Jekyll, I’ve wanted to use my higher-functioning emotional states to manage the lower ones. I’ll put it into a more business-safe context and say this: there is some great research suggesting we should “manage our energy, not our time.

In that spirit, I wanted to create for myself a helpful reference chart that would match my mood with the best tasks associated with that particular state. I’ve had this idea for a while now: In a coastal town, you know that not every minute of the day is meant for fishing or beach-going. A lot depends on the tide. So you refer to a chart to help guide your decisions for how you spend your time. Why not make a tide chart for managing moods?

Not every moment or mood is meant for productivity and conversation. Why not use a mood for what it was meant for? This paper-napkin first-draft sketch will hopefully help us see if it works. Here is what I am hoping to test:

  1. Do I find this useful? In my day, does it become a helpful chart, or just a silly little map on my wall with faces on it?
  2. Do others find it useful? If you were to adapt this to your own moods and scenarios, would you find such a thing useful?
  3. Can we make it better? Because this is a first draft, I know I will simplify it/beautify it, but what would make it better? Better design? Shorter words?

So, anyway, I started by picking some moods. (My moods, I will assume, may be different from the ones you’ll pick when you build your own chart). The moods I chose for now are shown below: anguished, sad/post-lunch slump, bored/unsure, alert-but-distracted, happy, chatty/funny and overcaffienated.

Tide Chart for Moods

(I left out a few states that are simply lower-maintenance frames of mind: ie, feeling focused, feeling neutral. Those guys? They’ll figure it out for sure.)

For each mood, I filled out four rows:

  • Using this mood (Best way to take advantage of this state)
  • Changing this mood (For when it’s not just useful to feel this way)
  • Being ready for it (What I can do in advance to better use these moods)
  • Risks (What I need to watch out for)

I was thinking specifically of work and productivity scenarios, so I wrote answers that would steer me towards the best use of time assuming I’m on-the-clock. If you can’t read it, no worries, the biggest takeaway is the format of the chart, so you can consider building your own. Mine is a super rough draft anyway that will probably change tomorrow. Like…my…moods. Hmm.

Tide Chart for Moods

What I can see emerging is that to be ready for each mood, I need to keep running lists. For example, when I’m in a post-lunch slump or just plain sad, this could be a great time to do some reading. But if I don’t know what to read, I could waste that moment.

This so-called “tide chart for moods” was sketched on a ripped-off piece of blank newsprint taped to my wall. I expect it to evolve as I start actually referring to it and putting it into practice. I may find that once my consciousness descends into “anguished” that the advice I’ve given myself is terrible after all, and I may have to revise the instructions. Similarly, I may find I’ve left out a crucial mood that especially requires guidance, that I may need to add. AND, don’t forget, these are not YOUR moods or your scenarios: you could try adapting it to suit yourself.

But as a start, I’m excited to try this out: if the muse exists, this is like a transit timetable to help us coordinate our travel schedules.

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Kevan Gilbert

Kevan Gilbert is a writer, speaker and content strategy on the West Coast of BC, Canada.

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