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Energy Fatigue Focus Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake

Power Napper?

Fast Recharge

Super Booster

You may have noticed that we are living in an age of abundance. Never before has it been so easy for people to pass information between each other at such great distances and across multiple timezones.

Depending on where you live there is an abundance of choices on the types of food, clothing and entertainment that you can consume. Even the choices that we can make regarding what we do to make a living have increased (although this too is also changing, but that’s another topic).

But this abundance comes at the cost of something that we humans have been taking for granted since the industrial revolution. Something that is so fundamental to our health and wellbeing that not getting enough of it can be disastrous to ourselves and those around us.

Power Napper
Photo by @readart via Twenty20

Devalued

Sleeps importance has been downplayed for a while now. Popular culture praises those that are willing to sacrifice their sleep in order to make it to the top.

Do a search in your favourite search engine to find “famous people who claim that they only sleep for four hours or less” to find endless results of people that “…all have one thing in common. They sleep less and are all successful in life.”, (an actual quote from one of the results I got back)!

The countless lists of CEOs of the biggest corporations that appear to devalue sleep is also reflected in books and articles detailing how they got to the top with little to no sleep.

Even CEOs of companies that apparently allow for their staff to be able to take a nap at work, don’t do that themselves.

 

Looking the Part

Not surprisingly those that do take a nap at work or nod off whilst working are seen as being lazy or not up to the task. Add to the fact that no one wants to be seen as the slacker, so will happily point to those that appear to be slacking off so as to look more favourable to the boss.

This attitude to tiredness is dangerous and especially so for those that operate heavy machinery or drive for long hours. In an attempt to make deadlines or quotas, people are putting their life and the lives of others at risk.

If you’re feeling tired at work or whilst studying and someone notices, you may have been offered a coffee or told to have a coffee break. Coffee, or caffeine may make you feel more alert in the short term, but you body is actually telling you that you need to stop.

Many of us feel tired in the afternoon, and that’s not just because we’ve had a big lunch. Our circadian cycle typically alerts us that we are starting to slow down and so sleepiness increases. But instead of listening to the warning we reach for a coffee or caffeinated beverages (or caffeine pills, chocolate), to perk ourselves up.

Reclaiming Ourselves

But there is an alternative; having a 10 to 20 minute nap. Instead of taking a coffee break, if possible, find somewhere quiet and take a nap. In the past I’ve used libraries, quiet coffee shops, or during the summer, a green space in a park, to take a nap.

Many researchers are now finding the benefits of a 10 to 20 minute nap may help boost productivity and possibly increase companies revenues.

“During an average work afternoon, a disproportion of the circadian alerting signal to the rising homeostatic sleep pressure occurs, resulting in increased sleepiness and reduced alertness. These factors, along with other impacted cognitive and emotional performance metrics, result in decreased productivity. There is a wealth of evidence that brief daytime naps of 10-20 minutes decrease subjective sleepiness, increase objective alertness, and improve cognitive performance. Daytime napping facilitates creative problem solving and logical reasoning, boosts the capacity for future learning, and consolidates memories. These benefits are not restricted to those experiencing sleep deprivation. Even in well-rested individuals, napping can enhance alertness, performance, and productivity for several hours. Daytime naps also allow for the regulation of emotions, relieve stress, and strengthen immune system function, reducing levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine and normalising levels of interleukin-6 an immune-regulating molecule. Taken together, allowing time to nap during the workday and reap the collective benefits will result in greater productivity and quality output rather than simply pushing through the fatigue, producing sub-standard work.”

Alger, S., Brager, A., Capaldi, V., & , (2019). Challenging the stigma of workplace napping. /SLEEP,/ /42(8),/

Review

I know it’s difficult to take a nap during the day whilst at work or studying, but there are ways around it. Like me, you can find places outside of work to take a nap. If not, then unfortunately it will have to be your car, or book a meeting room for 15 mins and put your head down on the desk.

If you want to boost your productivity then an afternoon nap is well worth it! Napping:

  • Decreases subjective sleepiness
  • Increases objective alertness
  • Improves cognitive performance
  • Facilitates creative problem solving and logical reasoning
  • Boosts the capacity for future learning
  • And enhances productivity for several hours

Afterword

Life is not all about productivity and study. You have to look after your health. Napping is valuable and a great protector of your health:

  • Daytime naps allow for the regulation of emotions
  • Relieve stress
  • Strengthens immune system functioning
  • Reduces levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine
  • And normalises levels of interleukin-6 an immune-regulating molecule
Categories
Energy Focus Insomnia Productivity Studying Tension

Don’t Loose It, Just Use It?

Step Back & Breathe Slowly

Or Just Loose it…

The frustration was building, and my patience was running short. Up until this point I thought that I was doing well. It seemed to me that I was handling things the right way.

For weeks I’d been putting in the time and the grind and couldn’t bare to think that it might of all been for nothing. What was going on? What did I miss? Maybe I’m not as brilliant as I think!

Now I felt my breathing becoming more shallow and faster. It was difficult to focus on any one thing, but then, in what felt like the back of my mind, I heard a voice that told me to step back and breathe slowly.

Non Stop Progress

The events leading up to this point were pretty normal. Assignments had to be done, social life was buzzing, and I was learning new skills privately that I hoped would further my career .

What could go wrong? I was doing the things “that you’re supposed to do” to be successful in all areas of my life. Yet I had a strange unnerving feeling that all was not as good as it seemed.

I noticed little things at first that I just brushed off as nothing. Little things such as laying awake in bed at 03:00 in the morning, and then not being able to switch off after a long day.

Soon I started to feel a little apprehensive about assignments that I once looked forward to getting into, and I started to lack the motivation to go out and socialise.

 

Real Progress or Busy Stuff

I didn’t talk to anyone about it but just kept on going. Plodding along and hoping that no one would notice. If anyone asked if I was ok, I would just say that I’m busy with assignment stuff or learning stuff.

But this could only go on for so long before someone would notice. And then it happened. My martial arts instructor kept on saying that I looked distracted, and would ask if everything was ok. I responded with the usual busy rebuttal defence, but she saw through it.

Looking back it wasn’t hard to tell for anyone that was paying attention, but somehow I missed it myself. Instead of taking some well earned time out for myself, to recover or catch a breather, I just kept on going.

And like a lot of people, I hid behind something and blamed that instead of standing up and facing myself. I kept the deception going. Productivity slipping, well just do more. Feeling tired, ok where’s the coffee.

I was burning out! But the need to not fail or let anyone down stopped me from looking at what I was doing to myself. My trainer noticed and said, you’re not going to the tournament next week!

I became angry but said nothing. Then when it was time to spar I lost it. I kept going in too hard and my partner kept telling me to take it easy. I didn’t listen. I angrily snapped a front kick forward, which my partner took advantage of, then boom.

I was on the floor looking up at the ceiling. It hurt when I tried to breath, so I took shallow breaths, frustrated that I couldn’t get up. My partner hit me in my solar plexus with a well timed punch that took advantage of my forward momentum. That’s what made it worse. I did this to myself.

As I got up I heard my trainer tell me to step back and breath slowly. Later my trainer had a one on one with me and told me that sometimes we just have to stop and assess where we are. If we find ourselves loosing it, then redirect it towards something positive.

Positive Steps

The lesson I was being taught was to make sure that I don’t loose sight of the big picture and step back from constant pushing and yearning.

My trainer pointed out that nothing progresses constantly in a straight line, and that we should take note of that and incorporate that idea in our lives.

So since then over the years I’ve been finding ways to adapt this notion into my daily life and have found some of the following to be quite useful:

  • Setting Good Routines
    I like to be spontaneous and try to resist being tied down to one way of life, but that said, I also like routines. Why, because it takes the battle outside of my head and places it on a path I can follow without too much thinking. As a result, I have all types of routines for all areas of my life.
    My start the day routine – do at least an hours worth of exercise.
    My work routine – list my tasks for the day, drink water and jump in to it.
    My before bed routine – unwind watching silly videos then reading.
  • Micro Breaks Throughout The Day
    I suffer from tunnel vision when I get into something, so it’s important for me to be reminded to take a 5 to 10 minute break every so often. I used to use the Pomodoro technique and work in 20-25 minute blocks. But after we created V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert, I’ve found that I take the breaks as my focus starts to drop off and the watchOS app alerts me, which is more in tune with my rhythm rather than a static clocks rhythm. And, it really works. I’m less likely to power through when I’m tired now and the difference is amazing.
  • Drinking More Fluids
    For a long time I became a purist, water only type of guy. It was part of my routine. A set amount every day. Now I’m a bit more relaxed and drink a range of liquids not just water. The point is to get enough fluids in you so you are not dehydrated. BTW if you are feeling really dehydrated then drink some milk, apparently it’s more hydrating than water!

In Hindsight

If I could go back in time and tell myself that I needed to chill a bit more then of course I would have. The problem is that I’m stubborn so probably wouldn’t have listened to myself anyway!

So rather than tell you what to do, I thought it best to point out the signs to look for if you find yourself struggling in anyway to meet your progressive aims.

  • Take a step back and assess what you are doing and how you are doing it.
  • Create a plan that incorporates routines that will help you to achieve your goals without sacrificing your well being.
  • Take short regular breaks
  • Keep yourself hydrated

Afterword

As far as we know it’s only one life that we get. We get to choose the attitude that we take through it. It’s not what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us that counts.

Categories
Alert Focus Productivity

Take Some Timeout And Put Your Feet Up

“Rest is not idleness”

John Lubbock, The Use of Life (1894)

Many of us are under a lot of pressure and don’t seem to have five minutes to spare to just stop and do nothing. Despite all the advances in technology we still haven’t come up with a way to remove stress from our lives.

And nor should we as stress is a natural part of life that helps us to find balance in our characters and bodies. But a lot of the stress that we experience is not necessary, and if we are not careful, can lead to a lot physiological as well as psychological harm.

One of the ways in which we can lessen this stress can be as simple as stepping away, especially before we become overly tired which can compound the problem.

The Build Up

I find it very frustrating. Just when you think that you’ve completed a task, either something else gets added to it or the next task seems like it will take triple the effort to complete compared to the last one.

I would then proceed mumble under my breath and just get on with it, but this would have the effect of sapping my energy slowly without me noticing. As I became more worn down, it would feel like I had a great weight on my shoulders weighing me down and making all my actions feel like they were in slow motion.

Eventually, after what would feel like an age, I would get something done, but not be happy with it and would have to redo the work which made everything feel twice as bad.

Lack of Alertness, Focus and Productivity

What I’ve found in the past is that when things seem to be getting worse, with regards to work or personal items, the default response was to reach for a cup of tea or coffee (usually coffee) to pick myself up and get more alert so I could get things done.

But what I found was that after the initial caffeine backed power up, the crash would be horrible and the pick me up didn’t work as it once did; eventually making me feel much worse than what I did before.

This was due in part to my caffeine addiction which over time increased my tolerance to the effects of caffeine, which in turn made me think that I needed more!

Add to that the crash that I once experienced as a normal occurrence, was due to the withdrawal symptoms that I suffered from not having enough caffeine in my system to make me feel normal. If you’re a coffee/caffeine drinker then there’s more than a slight chance that you have experienced at least one of the following before craving you’re next caffeine fix:

  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Simple Solutions

A friend of mine gave me a study that he read about idle time and doing nothing. At first I thought he was commenting on what I do, but then realised he was commenting on how I work and go about things.

The article was calling for more research into the benefits of idle time on the minds ability to develop and learn. The basic premise is that when we day dream or our minds wander, we are actually helping our brains to function more efficiently, particularly in the relation to personal awareness and relationships.

“Further evidence from social and affective neuroscience suggests the importance of brain systems implicated in the DM (default mode) for active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing, for example, in tasks involving self-awareness and reflection, recalling personal memories, imagining the future, feeling emotions about the psychological impact of social situations on other people, and constructing moral judgments…

Studies examining individual differences in the brain’s DM (default mode – daydreaming, mind wandering, etc) find that people with stronger DM connectivity at rest score higher on measures of cognitive abilities like divergent thinking, reading comprehension, and memory“

Immordino-Yang, Mary Helen, Joanna A. Christodoulou, and Vanessa Singh. “Rest Is Not Idleness.” /Perspectives on Psychological Science/ 7.4 (2012): 352-364.

But here’s what my friend was trying to point out to me. If I’m constantly forcing myself to get things done without taking a break, (and by break he meant stepping away from all electronic devices and people for a few minutes every day), and not spending some idle time and letting my mind wander, then what kind of results would I expect in my personal and professional life.

Point taken Sir, thank you 🙂

Since that time I’ve taken what he and the study said to heart and it was part of the reason for us coming up with the V-CAF app and this blog.

Without taking the quiet time to be idle we would never of come up with the idea to start this blog and build the app. In fact , the app embodies the idea of taking quiet time away from your desk and work by notifying you when your focus is lowering and tiredness increasing. Giving you ample chance to take a break from the hubbub of the day and gather yourself so that you can be more focussed, productive and contented.

Review

So to wrap this up:

  • Take regular breaks from work/study/being busy and put the devices down.
  • Get up go for a walk and let your mind wander
  • Stare out the window occasionally and let your thoughts carry you to where they may
  • And if you’re finding it difficult to give yourself time for a break, use our app V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert to notify you when your tiredness is increasing, reminding you that your productivity levels are falling, so take a break.

Afterword

Health is on everyones minds at the time when I’m writing this. Use this time as an opportunity to do the things that you know you can and should do.

Take a break and let your mind wander, it may help you have better connections with yourself and others.

Categories
Energy Focus Productivity Staying Awake

Are the Stairs for Going Up or Down?

“It’s not the Destination, It’s the journey.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The title may seem nonsensical but does anything make sense right now? An escalator leaves no choice regarding direction but with stairs – you get to choose. Dah dah! Finished. No six minute read here but are we finished?

By finished, I’m not referring to the current situation, which at the moment on any media platform you like seems to indicate that life as we know it has long gone and we should wait with a mask to soften our humanoid features, so as not to scare any aliens that arrive with a vaccine. Deep breath and no.

But What If..?

Anecdotes like “chin up” and “best foot forward” failed as soon as our chins had to be covered as we went around in measured steps. As we go from A to B with justification needed for C, it can be easy to not only long for things to go back to your normal but even worse, imagine how things would have been. This is where the real torture lies for most of us and it can be a union of extremes. Firstly, we were in such a great place in our lives (really?) and about to turn the corner into a wonderful life and now it’s completely ruined with one problem after another. Ok – so the last part might be OTT but look me in the eye and tell me, you haven’t had that thought but with different words? It isn’t a few of us, either! 

Keeping Up Appearances

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-motivation has been something of a crash course this year with a much clearer appreciation for pyjama days as a rarity. On the bright side, we had time to do all the things we said we would do when we had time. Thumbs up emoji from everyone when you said you were going to do it but the next part; doing has not been easy. Shiny achievers beamed with new skills and we felt pleased for them with a tinge of guilt/shame/jealousy. If you paused to chose between the three emotions, better to be human and accept that all three were in there somewhere.

Do You!

By now I could have added ‘ten ways to….. or perhaps five tips to……. ‘. 

You’d probably fall asleep to the sound of advice and wake up to it but this is no time to have an aversion to advice, as if you’re some kind of president! Remember that random question at the top of the page?

Are the stairs for going up or down? Of course, the stairs are not the determining factor – you are. It really doesn’t matter where you are in terms of goals, ambitions, new skills (ouch) all that matters is now – well I can’t put it any clearer than Eckhart Tolle! So, about those stairs? What can you see from there?

Categories
Energy Exercise Focus Productivity Staying Awake

Boost Your Productivity, Focus and Wakefulness

V-CAF watchOS/iOS/macOS

Stay Awake, Stay Alert, Stay Focused

We’ve been a little busy over here at V-CAF. Tight deadlines, issues to fix and increasing demands have been taking their toll for the past few weeks!

Anyways, being that we espouse the virtues of working smart without having to resort to caffeine, I thought I’d share some of the techniques and processes that proved to be invaluable .

In a relatively short amount of time, we accomplished a fair amount (if I may say so myself), and I hope that you’ll find what we’ve done inspirational and more importantly, useful to you.

V-CAF Stay Awake, Stay Alert
Use the Apple Watch app with the Mac desktop app to help keep you awake, alert and focused.

Heavy Workloads

Since the new year I’ve had a ton of work that I’ve been committed to. We had decided to make some major changes to our app V-CAF, which included a new version compatible with macOS desktop and laptops.

Unfortunately at the same time we also had personal commitments that couldn’t be ignored, and would take up a great deal of our time.

My head felt like it was going to explode and at the time I had no idea how we could honour all those commitments.

Decline in Standards

A lot of people faced with tight deadlines tend to power through and force themselves to achieve their goals through thick and thin.

I’ve done this in the past, and although I met most of the goals, I knew that it wasn’t my best work, leaving me feeling flat and exhausted.

Working like this once in a while doesn’t do too much harm, but if it starts to become a regular occurrence both the quality of your work and temperament can suffer.

Quality Wins

So, how did we get through our recent busy spell? By using some of the techniques that I’ve written about in the past, and using some new combinations.

  • Planning Work Ahead of Time
    Before diving straight into the tasks, we planned the order and importance of work that needed to be done. This way we had a clear view of what work should be done and a clear indication of what work had been done so that we could visibly track our progress. Tools such as Kanban or Jira are good for tracking your progress. (both are primarily aimed at software development, but can be adapted to any project or task)
  • Breaking Down Tasks Into 20-25 min Blocks
    Instead of trying to complete everything at once, divide and conquer. Each of the major tasks were broken into smaller sub parts, which had the result of helping us to focus on one specific issue at a time. This helped us to work faster and improve quality. The Pomodoro technique worked wonderfully here – The Pomodoro Tracker — A useful tool for time management based on Pomodoro Technique.!
  • Take A Break When Tired
    It can be hard to stop when you are tired, especially when a deadline approaches. Also most people become so focussed on their work that they don’t realise how tired they are, but working whilst tired leads to an increase in the probability that the quality of your work will diminish. V-CAF, an Apple Watch app, informs you when your alertness decreases and is ideal for helping you stay alert and focused.
  • Get Enough Sleep
    This is the master key to all the other techniques. I don’t know about you, but when I have tight deadlines I tend to work longer hours and cut into my down time, which in turn cuts into my sleep time. Again, once in a while is okay, but constantly working like this for a week can really have a detrimental effect on your productivity.
    Prioritise your sleep. Make time for it and get enough good quality sleep. If you are finding it difficult to sleep (due to stress for example), then try exercising at some point during the day for 30 minutes or more. Exercise has been proven to improve the quality of your sleep almost immediately! Just make sure you don’t exercise within two hours before you plan to go to bed.

In Retrospect

These are the main techniques that I used and they worked well. Not listed are the new combinations that we tried and got very positive results from.

As an example, one of our tasks was to create V-CAF Desktop. We had built desktop applications for other platforms, but this was our first for macOS.

To help us achieve this goal we planned the tasks that would get us to our desired result, and stuck to using V-CAF the watchOS app to keep us from working whilst being overtired. In addition we added another task that was dependant on completing the desktop app which involved using V-CAF desktop to complete the video editing and sourcing tasks.

This allowed for us to test the desktop app in the real world whilst completing another of our tasks. A classic “Two birds, one stone” situation, that helped us boost both our productivity and quality.

Conclusion

Increasing your productivity, focus and wakefulness doesn’t rely on any one special secret technique, but the willingness to experiment and find what works for you.

Before you start your next deadline or goal plan which techniques you’ll try.

Finally, post your tips and the techniques in the comments so that we and other readers can try them out too!

Categories
Focus Productivity Staying Awake Tiredness

A New Productivity Hack

A New Way To Be More Productive

Hack Your Productivity

Everybody wants to be more efficient and productive. For years I’ve been searching for the golden mean between minimum effort verses maximum output.

This has lead me on some strange and wonderful trials that overall have helped me to know what works for me as compared to those things that don’t.

In this post I’ll share with you my trail of discovery that lead to me finding a new productivity hack that has changed the way I work and I hope that you will find useful too.

Reach your goals with this new productivity hack.
Photo by Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith on Unsplash, Weekly Review for Your Goals

The Slog

Feeling tired when you have a school, work, or personal deadline looming really is the worst. No matter how many cups of coffee is drunk or how many breaks that you take, nothing seems to be making the difference.

The effect of tiredness on your work can be compared to working after having a few drinks at lunch time. This in itself can make you feel frustrated and decrease your productivity even more.

That’s without taking into account the effect on the quality of your work. At best, the drop in quality in your work can be seen as you not putting in enough effort, at worst, being incompetent.

Tiredness Was Wining, I Wasn’t

The Slog (or the grind), can really demotivate you and sap your will to carry on when you are tired. We all have bad days once in a while, but when they become more frequent they can be quite worrying.

I my case I found myself making avoidable mistakes and had difficulty in focusing on my tasks. Not only did this have the effect of me looking less than capable, but also started to mess with my own view of my skills. It got to the point where I was constantly second guessing myself just to make sure that I didn’t make any mistakes (which in turn affected how much work I could get done)!

Being tired:

  • Affects your memory
  • Reduces your concentration
  • And can negatively effect your motivation

Look out for these tiredness symptoms whilst working, to identify if your work efficiency and quality are reducing:

  • Heavy head
  • Watering eyes
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Loss of interest
  • Poor concentration
  • Not wanting to talk to anyone
  • Irritability
  • Yawning

The Hacks

The best hack isn’t really a hack, but more common sense, and that is to get enough sleep. How much is enough? That depends on you and your body but as a rule of thumb make sure you get enough sleep so that you don’t feel tired during the following day.

To find this out, make a point of going to bed at the same time every day for a week, so that you have enough time when you wake up to still get ready for the day ahead. Note what times you wake up and how you felt during the next day. By the end of the week you should have a rough guide to your body’s sleeping rhythms and how long to sleep for.

Other hacks include:

  • Get good quality sleep as well as quantity.
    You’ll find that having good quality sleep can actually reduce the time that you spend sleeping. What is good quality sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation:
  • Where possible reduce your workload or reorganise it.
    Make sure to prioritise your sleep, work and play (in that order). If your workload becomes too great, then try to reschedule or don’t commit to taking on new work until you have cleared your current tasks. Whatever you do, try not to cut into your sleep time.
  • Avoid caffeine in all its shapes and forms after midday.
    This will be tough for some, but caffeine can stay in your system up to 8 hours after ingesting it. And as caffeine is known to reduce the quality of your sleep, it can make you feel even more tired after the effects of caffeine have worn off.
  • Don’t nap for more than 25 minutes during the day.
    And avoid sleeping after dinner!

The New Way

Using the above mentioned points as a guide has helped me to feel less tired during the day, especially whilst working. I have also increased the amount of exercise that I do, am drinking more water and getting better results because of it.

However, the biggest productivity hack where I could see the results immediately was when I started testing our app V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert.

The idea behind the app was to have an alert that would tell us when we are on our way to being tired or sleepy so that we could take a natural break. This way we could consistently produce high quality work by not working whilst we are tired.

V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert does just that. It’s an Apple Watch app that works with your heart rate to alert you when you are tired. The alert is a vibrating nudge (if the Apple Watch is in silent mode, otherwise an alarm and nudge), which discreetly lets you know that you need to take a break.

I’ve used V-CAF while in meetings and working, and it’s great. In meetings it’s kept me focused on the discussions that can seem to go on forever, and whilst working its kept me from working long stretches without breaks by notifying me that alertness levels have dropped.

Although no one thing listed can keep you more awake than getting enough sleep, using V-CAF in combination with the suggestions in this post has made a big difference in the teams’ and my productivity.

From Here Onwards

Get enough good quality sleep. Nothing beats that. Make it a priority and stick with it!

That said, using the other suggestions in this post will help you to get good quality sleep daily.

There are no shortcuts to productivity, but there are things that you can do to help improve it, and number one on that list is to reduce your tiredness.

Good Luck

Categories
Energy Focus Productivity Staying Awake Tiredness

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!

Love Working, Hate Workaholism

It’s easily done. You have a tight deadline, the works not finished but you reckon if you put the extra time in now, you can salvage your reputation and get everything done.

There are times when you just have to burn the midnight oil to get things done and it’s understandable. But recently I’ve been noticing that people seem to think that this type of effort is normal if you want to get things done and get ahead.

Officially corporations, government bodies and global institutions talk a good talk about work life balance, but honestly, does that ring true with your everyday experiences?

Are over worked and over stressed employees really as productive as those in charge think?

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!
Photo by Tim Gou @punttim on Unsplash, Gastown, Vancouver, Canada, Busy people at a coffee shop

Feeling Compelled

Have you ever found yourself staying at work for longer than you needed? That includes skipping lunch, coming in early and staying late and cancelling holidays.

Or how about agreeing to an unreasonable deadline and not having a plan outside of working long hours until the work is done, to meet it?

During these difficult economic times it can be challenging to say no to the impossible deadlines; or working within your limits instead of the arbitrary hours of what the workplace culture dictates (outside of your contracted hours, of course).

If you are either one of the lucky few that like your work so much that you just can’t tear yourself away, or if you feel that you must be seen to be a ‘good worker’, workaholism can be very destructive.

What’s The Cost?

Compulsion is a horrible condition to have. It robs you of your self esteem and makes you feel like a hostage to your own life.

The time that you spend doing work related tasks is time taken away from:

  • Doing the things that can enhance your life
  • Time taken away from loved ones
  • And time stollen from your self worth.

Everyone who can work should work, but as with the case with most things in life, balance is key. An unbalanced work life often leads to:

  • Increased stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Low productivity
  • Relationship breakdowns

Balance cannot be achieved through a dictate from up on high, but must be actively pursued. What that means is that you must make more balanced choices in order to improve your quality of life.

But How Can I Change?

The first step to implementing any kind of long lasting valuable change is to truly acknowledge that a change is needed in the first place.

Without that, change can still be achieved but you risk making your task more difficult than it needs to be, and you can find yourself just going through the motions.

Still, sometimes going through the motions actually helps you to implement the change anyway, so above all just start.

Implement any of these points as you see fit to help you stay the course and become more productive.

  • Plan you work and break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Where possible aim for more reasonable deadlines.
  • Include down time in your work plans.
  • Prioritise getting enough good quality sleep.
  • Take regular breaks when working on your tasks. We created an Apple Watch app called V-CAF to help you with that. It alerts you when you start to feel tired reminding you to take a break and reenergise yourself before getting back to work.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Set hard to break after work appointments with your family/friends and block the time in your work calendar.

A Brief Summary

We’ve gone over a lot so here’s the summary:

  • Workaholism reduces productivity and increases stress.
  • Time spent obsessing over work tasks is time taken away from other priorities in your life.
  • Make a commitment to change your work life balance and implement steps (like those listed above) that will help you stay the course.

Hope

Workaholism is a drain on your health, your personal life and work life!

To increase your productivity you may have to decrease the amount of work you do.

The choices you make regarding your work life affect all areas of your life. Hopefully you’ll choose a balanced life.

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Caffeine Productivity Side Effects

How To Work Productively

Work Productively

Enjoy the view…

Caffeine has been accepted by society a while now. It is normal to meet up for a coffee with friends in our leisure time; and in a work setting we attend meetings where coffee is freely available.

In part it has been accepted because it is seen as a valuable aid to help us be more productive and that it also keeps us alert.

But how true are these claims?

Does consuming caffeine really make us more productive?

Working productivity
Photo by Simon Abrams @flysi3000 on Unsplash View, Midtown, New York, United States

The Need To Be More Productive

“Get it done!” – seems to be a phrase that embodies the dominant mindset prevailing in our societies these days.

In an effort to be recognized as a valuable and productive member of society and/or the workforce, many are constantly looking for that silver bullet that will put them ahead.

Competition is tough and in an effort to be on top we make sacrifices that are seen as acceptable.

Sleep is one of the more common sacrifices that people make. Working long hours and consuming caffeine is seen as a basic tenant of working towards success.

More Productivity or More Problems

Unfortunately the drive for more productivity doesn’t come cheap when consuming caffeine.

  • Caffeine tricks the brain into producing more adrenaline, which can lead to exhaustion, which in turn encourages an increase in consumption.
  • Exhaustion increases the chances of developing anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Increased consumption of caffeine causes degradation in sleep quality, and therefore increases tiredness during the daytime.
  • Over consumption of caffeine can lead to headaches, which are not conducive to productivity and may be responsible for an increase in absenteeism in the workplace.

Natural Production

There are many healthier ways to increase our productivity without having to resort to caffeine. A lot of them are to do with making better lifestyle choices.

  • Moderate your caffeine consumption. 
    Unless you have a caffeine addiction, I am not suggesting completely giving up caffeine. Caffeine has its place. Just be aware that there are an increasing amount of food, beverages and medications that contain caffeine.
  • Get more quality sleep. 
    Quantity and quality are what counts when it comes to sleep. It is possible to experience immediate improvements in productivity with this tip. A well-rested mind and body does wonders for your mood, creativity and productivity.
  • Be more aware of when you are tired and make the appropriate adjustments. 
    Tiredness alarms like V-CAF subtly alert you when you are most likely to be tired so that you can take measures to wake yourself up and get more focused.
  • Exercise more. 
    Whatever exercise you find comfortable that moderately raises your heart rate for between 25-60 minutes daily will have a positive impact on your productivity. How? By making your heart stronger and inducing deeper sleep cycles. Both of which can increase your focusing ability over time.

Review

In your drive to be more productive, protect your most valuable asset. You!

Make lifestyle choices that enhance your life and encourage you to grow:

  • Reduce your caffeine dependency
  • Get more quantitative sleep
  • Be aware of your tiredness, use tools such as V-CAF
  • Exercise daily

Conclusion

With the right mindset and healthier lifestyle choices there are no bounds on your productivity.

Choose to be in control and look after yourself.

You are worth it.

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Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Productivity Side Effects Sleep

Caffeine-Free Productivity?

Caffeine-Free Productivity?

Yeah, right!

Sometimes when I’m in a work or semi social environment and I say “Thanks, but no thanks” to coffee, an inquisitive soul asks what’s wrong with coffee. 

I usually say nothing much, but sometimes I tell them about coffee and caffeine’s affects on the body and mind, whilst reassuring them that moderate consumption is ok.

Most leave it at that, but there are still the few that say something like “I don’t know how you function without it?”

From now on I’ll point them to this article.

Working man behind a mug
Photo by Javier Molina @javier1997mo on Unsplash Working man behind a mug

Caffeine For Productivity

Caffeine can work wonders when you settle down to work through a task, helping you to get the job done.

Feeling a bit groggy? Can’t think straight? Struggling to stay awake? Then have a cup of mud and you’re good to go; but are you really?

1,3,7 trimethylxanthine, or caffeine is a member of the methylated xanthines chemical family, which are toxic to the human body. In low doses they do little harm, but people have died taking higher doses.

Fake Energy

The energy you have available to you at any given time is the energy you have available. It is common for people to believe that coffee and caffeine gives them energy, but not think about where that energy comes from.

Adenosine is a brain chemical that is widely known for causing drowsiness. It is produced in our brains as a by-product of ATP, the source of energy for all cells in the body.

As we go through the day, adenosine levels in the brain build up latching onto adenosine receptors within our neurons which then produce a concoction of proteins that suppress nerve cell activity and make us feel sleepy.

Caffeine does it’s magic by binding to the adenosine receptors in our brains without stimulating the release of the chemicals that suppress neuron activity, masking the fact that we are tired.

Scientists suggest that a little caffeine is not harmful, but too much can have negative side effects such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations

“In fact, over a three-year period, the Illinois Poison Center in Chicago counted more than 250 cases of medical complications that involved caffeine, 12% of which ended in hospitalization. The average age of the patients was 21, suggesting that young people are particularly prone to overindulging in caffeine. So be careful not to overdo it!”

Kristin Harper, So Tired in the Morning… The Science of Sleep, December 2014/January 2015, American Chemical Society

Real Productivity Hacks

Now to answer the, “how do you function without it?” part.

It depends. I personally have found that the many lifestyle changes that I’ve made over the years have helped tremendously. If your situation is due to an illness or deficiency seek qualified medical assistance.

As everyone is different I have listed the more general things that have worked for me, but the key here is to realize that there is no one cure for fatigue or tiredness and that you will have to find what combination works best for you.

  • Get more in tune with your body’s circadian rhythm, or body clock, and go to bed between 9pm and 10pm daily. Your body starts releasing melatonin around 9pm and if you are in bed around this time your deepest sleep should occur naturally around 2am.
  • Do more daily exercise.
    It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous and could be an extra 25 to 30 minute walk every day. Exercise helps you to achieve deeper sleep, and the effects on your energy are almost immediate.
  • Take short breaks when working before you start to feel tired.
    Most people don’t realize how tired they are until their productivity starts to fall off. V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that subtly notifies you when you are tired so that you can take the necessary measures to get back on track.
  • Avoid caffeine and drink lots of water.
    The most direct of all the tips listed here. As I’ve outlined, caffeine hides your tiredness from you. Tiredness is natural and by knowing when you are tired you can take measures to take back control of your life. 

Review

So that’s how I do it. By reducing my caffeine intake (I still eat chocolate from time to time), and being more active, as well as going to bed at a set time most days, I’m actually doing better than when I was drinking coffee to get through the day.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Listen to your body clock. Get to bed between 9pm and 10pm.
  • Go for more long walks (25 to 30 minutes every day should help).
  • Give yourself micro breaks when working and feeling tired (use V-CAF to notify you when you are tired).
  • Reduce, or even better, cut out caffeine from your diet.

Final Thoughts

It is possible to be very productive without the use of caffeine. 

Most people find it hard to believe, but it is possible. Maybe their caffeine dependency is clouding their perception of reality and they don’t realize it yet.

Why not try giving up caffeine for a while? What have you got to loose?

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Focus Productivity Study Studying

How to Beat Tiredness, Stay Awake, Stay Productive

Beating Tiredness, Staying Awake, Staying Productive

That’s what we do…

Recently I’ve been working long hours and not getting enough rest. Even though I know better, I’ve just pushed through.

My deadlines were tight and something had to give. Unfortunately it’s been my sleep. 

As sleep wasn’t an option I had to find quick fixes that worked for the short term without being too harmful to my long-term health goals.

Let me share them with you.

Trying to beat tiredness, trying to stay awake and trying to stay productive
Photo by Tim Gouw @punttim on Unsplash Full focus at a coffee shop

When Sleep Is Not An Option

There are times when getting any qualitative sleep is just not possible. Whatever the cause the reduced amount of sleep that we get eventually makes us feel tired.

The best option is to get more sleep. But when we can’t what should we do? 

The Problems With Not Getting Enough Sleep

Not getting enough sleep is a sure fire way to kill your productivity! 

Sleep loss equals loss of productivity:

And it seems that more people are willing to concede that tiredness is affecting their productivity at work:

Tiredness and fatigue epidemic is affecting employee work productivity

Quick Stay Awake Fixes

Okay, so what can one do? I found the following tips helpful, but the number one fix is to get more quality sleep and schedule your work priorities appropriately!

  • Take a break every 20 – 25 minutes
    Step away from your desk, go for a walk or talk to a colleague.
  • Work standing up
    if you have a desk that can raise then great. If not, work leaning on a cabinet or raised coffee bar
  • Use a gadget
    Set the alarm on your smart phone to alert you every so often, or if you have an Apple Watch use an app like V-CAF . It senses when you’re likely to fall asleep and alerts you automatically
  • Drink coffee or an energy drink
    Just be careful you don’t have too many and stay under the 400mg limit (or 3 to 4 cups of coffee per day)
  • Drink water
    By keeping your brain hydrated you help reduce the effects of tiredness and increase your ability to focus

Review

Hopefully these tips will help you be more productive when you are feeling tired and have a tight deadline.

Don’t forget:

  • Make sure you have a short break every 20-25 minutes
  • Work standing up
  • Use gadgets and apps like V-CAF to alert you when you’re most likely to fall asleep.
  • Don’t drink too much coffee, but have some non the less
  • Drink water to help you focus 

Be More Productive

Thank you for reading this article.

But what’s more important is that you take the steps to prioritize organizing your sleep patterns so that you get more qualitative sleep.

In the meantime I hope that you find my suggestions useful.