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For High Productivity, Take a Nap

Naps are better than caffeine for improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning

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A study by researchers Sara Mednick, Denise Cai, Jennifer Kanady, and Sean Drummond published in Behavioural Brain Research (2008) found that naps are better than caffeine for improving verbal memory, motor skills, and perceptual learning.

Many people avoid napping during the day to not interfere with a good night’s sleep. “Why should I sleep now,” they might ask, “if it’s only going to make me toss and turn in bed tonight?” Actually, naps can be helpful in recovering from sleep deprivation, refreshing your energy supply, and reducing stress. Naps can do more harm than good, however, when taken at the wrong time or for the wrong amount of time.

The “When” of Napping

So, when to nap? Health.com advises that the preferred time to experience deep sleep is between noon and 2 pm. Naps at other times of the day tend to not be as deep, and therefore will not be as refreshing.

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Alternatively, according to Dr. Jack Eddiger at Duke University, the ideal time to take a nap is between 1 pm and 3 pm to 4 pm. These guidelines particularly apply to weekdays. Dr. Eddiger further suggests setting a timer to keep your nap to 20 minutes or less. In that time frame, you can awake refreshed, and more easily resume what you were doing. Longer than 20 minutes and you run the risk of entering into deeper REM sleep. Thereafter, you might need a while to return to where you need to be mentally.

Refreshed or Groggy? – Experts at the National Sleep Foundation concur that when you nap prior to 3 pm, you’re less likely to incur difficulties falling asleep that night. The journal Sleep published a study concurring that shorter naps can be more beneficial. A 10-minute nap both diminishes sleepiness and improves cognitive performance. A 30-minute nap or longer can result in lingering grogginess.

When napping, seek a dark, cool place, in any comfortable position. Once you find the perfect nap time for you, you’ll find that your mood, productivity, attitude, and energy increase. When you start experimenting with your nap hours and your nap lengths, don’t be surprised if you can succeed outside of the recommended guidelines.

Where oh, Where

When you do nap, choose a cot or a bed, versus a chair, in a location where you won’t be disturbed. If at home, hang a sign to tell others in advance. You’ll find that the quality of your nap is higher and the benefits to you will be apparent.

Forbes reports that some high-powered executives and CEOs, whose names are well known, are advocates of taking naps. Many have elaborate napping procedures, knowing that once they awake, they’re ready to jump back into the fray to do great work.

Beware: Naps are not to be used as a substitute for getting the right amount of sleep each night. They are a supplement. It is not ideal to be taking naps to make up for sleep that you missed during the night. In fact, that misses the point altogether.

Weekend Naps

What about napping on the weekend? Generally speaking, it’s okay, and you can loosen up on the time intervals and the length of the nap. Presumably, on the weekend, you have more flexibility. Nevertheless, don’t nap too late in the afternoon or approaching the early evening, if you intend to get to bed at a reasonable hour. You can let the 4 pm guideline slip, but don’t go much past five or six.

An exception is when you have a late night activity planned. For example, when you’re heading out to a social gathering at 9 pm or 10 pm, a nap as late as 7 pm could be to your advantage. You’ll have the alertness and energy to fully participate in the event, even if it extends past midnight.

Napping later in the afternoon or in the early evening is a useful strategy when you’re going to watch a television program that you know will run long. In the U.S., most major events, including the World Series, Academy Awards, Grammys, and NBA finals are scheduled to start at 9 pm on the east coast and 6 pm on the west coast. Hence, Californians have no real issues in finishing the telecast. East coasters, who want to watch the end, can benefit from a nap of a couple hours before a telecast begins.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Family

Spend Less, Owe Less, Live More

If you spend less than you take in, inexorably your debt will decrease

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Society conditions us to consume more than we need and to spend more than we make. However, this kind of lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Taking back control of your finances can help you free up time and make you feel more in control of your life more of the time.

Think back to your high school and college history classes: can you recall a nation in the history of the earth that accumulated huge deficits over a prolonged period of time, lacked a concerted effort towards reducing these deficits, yet was able to sustain economic prosperity for its citizens?

Can a nation, in debt for trillions annually, or a person – namely you – consistently run up huge deficits and expect no consequences?  For decades, tens of millions of Americans have accumulated personal debt via credit cards, loans, and other forms of financing. It’s likely that you have some financial debts.

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Subtle Servitude

Sustained deficit spending eventually erodes your ability to prepare for the future, and worse, to capitalize on current opportunities. The more you owe, the more enslaved you are! In Consumerism, Dr. Judith Schor notes that you’ve likely been taught to consume more than you need.

Right now, how would it feel if all your credit cards were paid off? How would it feel if you paid your monthly rent or mortgage several months in advance? How would it feel if your car loan was paid off? How would it feel if you were actually able to pay some of your utility bills for months in advance? For most people it would feel great. You’d feel in control of your time.

We all know the arguments about losing the (minuscule) amount of interest you could have earned if you let your money sit in the bank instead of paying the electric bill three months in advance. Ah, but wait. A month after you’ve paid your electric bill three months in advance, you receive the next month’s bill. Guess what? It shows that you have a huge credit and that nothing is due – you’ll smile when you see these kinds of bills!

A Moratorium on Spending

To reduce your personal debts, place a moratorium on optional spending, regardless of what items entice you, until your credit cards have zero balances.

Paying for material things which you don’t need, and certainly don’t save your time, might be satisfying, but ultimately can be draining.

Here are some strategies and tactics for controlling your checkbook, and hence reclaiming your life:

1. Write out checks to pay bills in advance of their due dates. Then, keep an advance file with a folder for each day of the month. Place the check in a sealed, addressed, and stamped envelope. Then put the envelope in the folder of the day it’s to be mailed. This way the money is allocated in advance in your checkbook, and your bills are paid on time. If your checking account pays interest, you don’t lose interest.

2. Occasionally, overpay the balance on your continuing accounts, or pay early. This gives you the aforementioned psychological boost when you see a credit on your next statement, and gives you a good reputation with your creditors, which is handy!

3. Keep a stick-on note in your checkbook for an immediate reference that lists what’s coming in this month and what needs to be paid. This provides you with a running mini-cash flow list to which you can refer at will. Update it weekly, or daily, if needed.

4. Review old checkbooks and see what you paid to whom for what. Do the same thing with your monthly credit card statements. Put a red mark next to all those expenditures that you didn’t need to make, or that you could have done without after further consideration.

5. Now, considering expenditures on the horizon, which ones can you do without?

Spend Less, Save More

As author Roger Dawson says, “It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making; if you’re spending more than you take in each month, you’re headed for trouble.” If you spend less than you take in, your debt will decrease, even if only a little at a time, and one day perhaps  disappear.

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Life

Ignore Much of What Pundits Have to Say

Can we be confident in advice we receive from people who have not mastered what they teach?

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When the opportunity arose, I attended a lecture by one of the most well-known authors and speakers in America. I had previewed his CD and read two of his books prior to his lecture; in person, he lived up to my expectations. So, I was intrigued when a friend, involved with bringing this speaker to our area relayed a personal incident to me. 

Directly following the speaker’s presentation, my friend was responsible for driving him to the airport, and accompanying him until his flight departed. That summer afternoon, it was rainy and the skies were dark.

As it turned out, the author was a nervous flyer and took several drinks in the airport lounge prior to boarding the plane.  I found this incident to be amazing because I had so often heard him say things such as, “Everything in this universe is perfect.” It struck me that, in many ways, the speaker wasn’t practicing his philosophy. Nevertheless, all human beings have their faults and foibles and, as time passed, I forgot about the incident.

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High-Priced Gurus

One morning, I had the occasion to pick up USA Today. In the lifestyle section, there was a feature on a relationship guru and author of international best-sellers on relationships. She had won the “Oscar” of infomercials, earning $24 million in a single year.  

In this published interview, the reporter asked her why we should listen to a relationship guru who had been married five times. Five times? I couldn’t believe it! She had wedded her fifth husband, some 11 years her junior, only a short time before producing her award-winning infomercial on having a successful relationship. 

In the infomercial, she is featured as having a loving relationship with her husband. Okay, but in no way does the infomercial tell us that he is her fifth husband and that she had married him three weeks ago.

Not Walking their Talk

I had a flash from the past: I recalled the story about the nervous flyer author. Yet, nothing prepared me for the revelations about the relationship guru, a self-proclaimed expert, using the slickest 21st-century marketing available to sell her information and products.  

She was well-versed in her subject matter. Upon hearing her advice, I recognized that it did seem sound. However, the larger issue is, “Can we be confident in the advice we receive from those who have not mastered what they teach, or who do not even remotely walk their talk?”

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