Categories
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
Alert Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Fatigue Focus Insomnia Lethargy Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

When Caffeine Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

When Too Much Becomes Too Little

It’s time to change…

During one of our insanely busy work cycles, Darren looked limp and worn down. In our daily meetings he just stared into the distance, occasionally checking his watch.

As time went on I noticed more often than not that some management types would pull him to one side and have what looked to be an intense discussion about something that they felt the need to point out to him.

Then one day Darren came over to me and asked if we could have a quick chat over a coffee. We found a quiet corner, him with a mug of joe in his hand and me with water in mine, and Darren came out bluntly and asked “How do I do it?”

When Coffee Doesnt Do It
Photo by @potochnyi via Twenty20

The Promise

Confused I responded and said something like “Do what?”. The reply I got back shocked me. “You always seem to be with it. It’s rare that I see you getting angry or upset.”.

Now I got where this was going. In the past I’d been fairly stressed out and not working at my best. I looked sleepy and some would come by my desk and tell me to wake up!

Under pressure to perform, I started drinking diet sodas with caffeine to help keep me awake. But before long, I found myself needing more sodas to just feel normal and staying alert became harder.

 

Getting Let Down

It wasn’t long before my increased caffeine consumption started to affect my sleep. Most evenings between 6 and 7 I would go from feeling lethargic to suddenly being hyper alert.

At the time I put it down to finding work boring and that because the evening wasn’t all about work my mood picked up. But as it became normal for me to be wide awake at 3am laying in bed, I knew that something was wrong.

Also, when it was time to wake up I felt like I hadn’t slept. This feeling would continue until about 10ish after I had my first diet soda of the day. But after lunch until I got back home was a struggle.

It became so bad that my manager asked if I had a sleep condition and told me to fix up as other workers were noticing that I would nod off in front of my screen.

As Darren listened to what I was saying he nodded, laughed and said that he remembered those days and in fact a manager had told him to talk to me to find out what I did to turns things around.

What Darren and I appeared to be suffering from was a bad mix of unhealthy sleep practices and a raised tolerance to caffeine. Because caffeine blocks our brain’s adenosine receptors, our body found it difficult to work out if we were tired.

Adenosine is a chemical released by our body throughout the day. As the amount of adenosine builds our tiredness increases which let’s us know that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

Caffeine blocks our brain from being able to correctly measure how tired we are and so tricks us into thinking that we are more awake than we really are. To make matters worse, caffeine can stay in our system from between 7 – 15 hours depending on our weight and age.

Because I was drinking so much caffeinated sodas throughout the day I was actively blocking my body from being able to regulate itself which in turn led to me being too awake by bedtime, but tired throughout the day.

A Better Way

I told Darren that I tried a few different approaches, but the best results came from getting more quality sleep and reducing, then removing caffeine from my diet.

  • Avoiding Caffeine
    I stopped drinking caffeine straight away, but it may be best to take it slowly and gradually reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume. This boils down to how bad your withdrawal symptoms are and what is going on in your life at the time.
  • Eating Healthily
    Eat more iron. magnesium, and protein rich foods like beans, nuts, spinach and eggs as a deficiency in any of these can make you feel drained.
  • Staying Hydrated
    Dehydration makes it difficult for you to focus and concentrate, so by being hydrated you can increase your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate whilst reducing drowsiness.
  • Knowing How Tired You Are
    A lot of people are so busy or focused on what they are doing that they don’t realise how tired they are until they make mistakes or are feeling frustrated. By being mindful of how you feel you can train yourself to recognise the tell tale signs of fatigue. Using an app like V-CAF, an Apple Watch app, you can be notified when you are tired so that you can stop and take a natural break before continuing with whatever activity you were engaged in.

Alertness Tips

Darren thanked me for my openness and went on to try some of my tips as well as what he thought would work for him.

And that’s the beauty of being human, we are all similar but unique enough to make it interesting. Darren started to change things around based on his needs and experiences.

My tips are what worked for me, but perhaps you can use them as a base to start from if you ever feel that caffeine isn’t working for you anymore.

  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Eat Healthily
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Know when you are tired

Afterword

Don’t suffer in silence, if you’re in a difficult place, reach out and ask for help. There’s no shame involved. Everybody has times when things aren’t as good as they can be.

Whether we like it or not, we are part of a community, it’s just the way it is. Help your community and they will help you.

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
Focus Productivity

Best Practices for Effective Remote Working

Best Practices for Effective Remote Working

Guest Post By Earnin

As the world hunkers down to weather the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), work is shifting gears as well. In many industries, working from home (WFH) is going mainstream. It’s a smart way for companies to limit the potential exposure to the virus and keep employees safer while at the same time remaining productive.

Working from home is not a new concept. Most of us, especially those in the tech industry, have worked from home occasionally, but it is uncharted territory when the entire company is working remotely. This poses several challenges and opportunities – and there is a lot to determine in setting up the right systems for company-wide WFH scenarios.

A New Set of Challenges and Opportunities

Working remotely has its benefits – it allows people to focus on individual deliverables and often provides the time and space for people to concentrate on difficult or intense tasks. Modern open-office layouts have stripped workers of quiet spaces, and WFH can be a refreshing break from the buzz of the workplace.

However, WFH makes a lot of things more challenging, especially communications. Remote teams often miss out when it comes to the critical conversations and relationship building that are so important to team cohesion. While video conferencing and collaboration technology do bring teams together, remote work makes it harder to read body language, hear what people are saying, read in-room dynamics, ask follow up or side questions, or drop by and quickly sync with a coworker at their desk. It is even more difficult to conduct a brainstorming session when everyone is on a phone or logged in via video.

The good news is that most people save a significant amount of time by not commuting. Some people now may use the time they would normally spend commuting to talk and message with their colleagues more, which could overcome communications challenges.

Below are some of the best practices for remote working, segmented them into company-level, team-level and individual-level tips. These suggestions may work best for startups, but there should be some things that work for departments in a larger organization as well.

Best Practices

For the Company

  1. Keep the same goals as you normally would, but provide more clarity. Customers must remain top priority – we don’t have the option to be less aggressive on achieving our business goals, just because we’re working remotely. Since remote workers have a harder time dropping in to clarify things, each level of leadership should take extra effort to make sure their teams have a clear understanding of expectations.
  2. Ensure you have critical coverage for the most important areas of business at all times. Working remotely gives people the flexibility to walk the dog or take lunch whenever they want. This can lead to gaps in coverage if people don’t coordinate schedules – this is especially important in mission-critical areas of the business.
  3. When working remotely is uncharted territory, managers need extra tools and training. For example, consider using bots to help monitor the level of communications across teams, review velocity, and help in other ways.
  4. Executive office hours are important – especially when there isn’t a physical office. Make sure executives and teams hold a time on their schedule when they’re available to answer questions from anyone in the company.
  5. Maintain transparency – establish a communications channel visible to the whole company where key initiative leaders can submit weekly status reports and get feedback from executives. This will help ensure everyone is up to speed.

For Teams

  1. Continue to host meetings as if you were in the office. This is an important factor in maintaining a productive cadence. Schedule and budget your time around meetings. Delaying or canceling meetings will not only impact the way a team spends time but also deadlines and workback plans.
  2. Use team channels on Slack, Hangouts, Whatsapp or whatever tools your company uses as much as possible. Avoid small group chats and one-on-one threads unless it’s a confidential or personal conversation. This way everyone can benefit from the dialogue and have access to fuller context for their work. Don’t worry too much about message overloading. In a remote working environment, making sure people are sharing enough information is more important than word economy.
  3. Establish standard routines. Start the day with a 9 am standup meeting over Slack or Zoom. Some have found the Slack standup app helpful for tracking progress. When people can’t make these “meetings,” have team members post their daily top three priorities in the team channel.
  4. Start a team-wide Zoom session throughout the day for those who are not bandwidth-constrained so that people can talk to each other easily. People should feel free to leave the session for other meetings.
  5. Do not forget about fun. Relationship building is such an important piece in our professional life. Since we cannot have happy hour or hallway jokes and laughter anymore, we need to be more creative. Try to find something suitable for your team, such as personal storytelling or watching funny Youtube clips together during lunch time.

For Individuals

  1. Effectiveness is tied to having the right tools and using them the right way. Install commonly used apps on both your laptop and phone so that you can join remote meetings from your phone when the VPN on your laptop slows down your video conferencing. Add phone numbers to Slack profiles or email footers so people can reach you for quick answers if needed. A short phone call is not an excessive interruption and can replace the quick in-person drop by conversations you would normally have at someone’s desk.
  2. Strictly follow your normal daily routine. Avoid delaying meetings with the hope you will meet in-person at a later time.
  3. Flag issues or slow-downs to your manager or function leader right away – not doing so may just compound delays for you and your team. When you flag an issue, you’re benefiting the entire team.
  4. At the end of the day, ask yourself two questions:

    “Am I as productive remotely as I am in the office?” If not, figure out why and explore ways to improve.

    “Are all critical communications done?” If not, finish up before you log off.
  5. Step away for 10 minutes: Find time throughout the day to step away from your desk – stretch, get some exercise in, or grab a cup of coffee. Taking short breaks every couple of hours will help improve your productivity and focus.

By ensuring that efficiency and communications remain high at the company, team and individual levels, remote work forces can be as productive, if not more so, than traditional work forces.

This article originally appeared on Earnin.

Categories
Focus Productivity

Increase Productivity Through Consistency

Productivity & Consistency

Consistency Increases Productivity

Recently, during one of my downtime breaks, I found myself reflecting on the times that I’ve felt the most content and satisfied with who I am and where I find myself.

As I thought about the different phases of my life I found that the times when I felt most content compared to those when I didn’t, were when I got involved in activities that required me to put in consistent effort and maintain a certain level of discipline, whilst at the same time being able to track my progress in said activities.

Conversely, the times where I had no direction and seemed to be doing things ad hoc were the time times where I felt most stressed, unsatisfied, and least productive.

As we’ve slowed down a little after our last busy stretch, we discussed how and why this was and wanted to share a little of our discussions with you.

ncrease Productivity Through Consistency
Photo by KRISTINE ISABEDRA, Weekend Brainstorm 7

In a Slump

I, like most people, get fed up from time to time, especially when I’ve got a lot to do, but for whatever reason, I don’t start them; or when I do start them I realise that I have more work than I planned for!

Frustration soon sets in because it either feels like it’s impossible to make any progress or I become overwhelmed and eventually nothing gets done. It only takes a few sessions like that to cause your productivity levels to fall into a slump whilst your dissatisfaction levels reach all time highs.

And, as is the case with these kind of situations, you can find that your lack of progress leads to less productivity which leads into even more lack of progress, and so it goes on.

The Lack of Progress

The feeling of not making any or significant progress whether related to a specific life goal or routine tasks can lead to feelings of despair, helplessness or even depression.

Perceived failure to accomplish a task or reach a goal can reinforce a negative self image which can make it more difficult to start any future projects for fear of failing again.

This compounds the problem because the act of accomplishing a goal or completing a task can help raise your self esteem which can then act as a positive reinforcement mechanism to help fuel your will to complete further goals.

Turning things Around

Fortunately the steps needed to break out of this cycle are relatively simple to start. The trick is continue to use them until they become a habit or part of your being.

  • Divide and Prioritise
    Whatever task you have, look at what the big goal or purpose is and keep this as the higher level or main purpose for the sub task(s).
    Subtask(s) are made up of the smaller tasks that need to be completed in order to complete the higher level goal. Make these subtasks as small, focused and defined as possible.
    The result will be that you have manageable, and more importantly, visible steps towards your goal. Each task completed helps motivate you to do the next one as you come closer to achieving your goal.
  • Do something every day towards your goal
    Make it your number one priority to do something towards your goal every day. This will give your willpower a boost so that it eventually becomes second nature for you to complete the tasks that get you closer to your goal. As you become more proficient your productivity levels will grow and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get things done.
  • Stay Consistent
    Even when you don’t feel like doing your planned tasks for the day, just start. The act of starting can help focus your mind for the task at hand and you may even be surprised at how productive you’ve been when you finally complete your task(s).
    For example, I’m writing this after a long day of training, completing various planned tasks, completing various unplanned other tasks, and feeling like I want to go to bed. However, the consistency bug is in me now and I’m happy with the results so far 😉
    Also, schedule your planned work for the same time every day! I’ve found that by doing this I now naturally find myself just getting on with my tasks without too much pontification.

What We’ve Learned

There’s nothing said in this blog that we don’t already know:

  • Plan, divide and prioritise your goals/tasks
  • Work on your tasks every day
  • Stay consistent

Being productive can help you feel more content with yourself and your life in general, and being content helps to boost your productivity.

Progressing from Here

I don’t think life is all about goals, but they are a useful tool that can help you appreciate life in general. Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , Volume 34 (11): 14 – Nov 1, 2008. Take it easy people…

“There certainly are benefits to thinking of goals at a higher level; these higher level goals are more self-relevant and holistic and give us a sense of direction in our lives. However, when focusing solely on the higher level goal, a person is more vulnerable to the detrimental and amotivating effects of momentary failure. This does not mean we should never look up from what we are doing: There are times when the prize must be referenced, re-examined, or even rejected. However, as a general strategy, it seems that especially during times of difficulty, it is more beneficial to keep your nose to the grindstone.”

Houser-Marko, L., & Sheldon, K. (2008). Eyes on the Prize or Nose to the Grindstone? The Effects of Level of Goal Evaluation on Mood and Motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(11), 1556-1569.
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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?

Categories
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.