Life can feel as if it has its own momentum with meetings, timetables, meal times and our list of things to-do can seem endless. We can go weeks, months or years knowing that we are stuck in a rut and need a new direction, change of scene or some type of action that calls us out of our comfort zone. In our minds we carry solutions to problems and sometimes even talk ourselves out of the solution before we have even fully realize them! With so much chatter in our daily lives, we can get lost in the cacophony.
Call it what you will but the universe always has a way of grabbing our attention and giving us moments to pause. It can be in the form of hearing a few notes to a forgotten song, a smell that reminds us of someone or even a taste that transports us almost instantly to a memory held inside us. Whatever it is, it gives us a moment to pause. Just like seeing amber at the traffic light we make a quick intuitive decision. Slow down and pay attention to what is being communicated or rush on with the belief that it’s too late to stop – regardless. With V-CAF there is a gentle reminder to take care. The beauty of the pause is that we can lead ourselves to the stop. A place not of failure but a chance to check-in with our authentic self and consider whether our actions are from deep within. Sometimes busy is an excuse in disguise. It is not easy but there is joy in connection to purpose and not the ego driven taskmaster of the mind.
Many of us as children found amazement and wonder in everything. Try to discover this again and start to see & feel the precious gift of the present moment. There is something to unfold in even the most mundane tasks or surroundings when you start to connect all of your senses and give yourself permission to be fully alive. So next time you have an ‘amber’ moment, decide if you are going in the best direction or take a deep breath and turn onto a new road.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
Hopefully these tips will help you be more productive when you are feeling tired and have a tight deadline.
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.
It’s common for us to associate coffee and caffeine with alertness. So much so that we have hundreds of coffee phrases such as “Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it’s hard to go back to sleep” and “I don’t have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without it.”
For many people a coffee first thing in the morning helps wake them up and sets them straight for the day, but by the time they get to work they need another, then another.
What most don’t realize is that it might be the caffeine that is making them feel tired in the first place!
Various population-based studies suggest that ingesting more than the recommended daily limit for caffeine can be linked to daytime sleepiness. Ohayon MM, Malijai C, Pierre P. Guilleminault C, Priest RG. How sleep and mental disorders are related to complaints of daytime sleepiness. Arch Intern Med 1997;157(22):2645-52.
A Sleep Habits and Caffeine Use study of workers for the French National Gas and Electricity Company found a link between an increase of consumption of caffeine and the decrease of time spent in bed. The association suggests that caffeine is shortening sleep. Sanchez-Ortuno M, Moore N, Taillard J, Valtat C, Leger D, Bioulac B, et al. Sleep duration and caffeine consumption in a French middle-aged working population. Sleep Med 2005;6:247-51.
Daily moderate to low usage of caffeine can interfere with your sleep and contribute to some people’s insomnia complaints; but stopping caffeine consumption can cause people to experience excessive sleepiness.
If you don’t consume a lot of caffeine then cycling your caffeine intake will keep you balanced without affecting your energy too much. That is, enjoy your caffeine product as usual but take a couple of days a week where you don’t have any.
If you do consume a lot of caffeine then it may be best to gradually wean yourself off over several weeks. If you suffer from withdrawal, use the following:
Keep yourself occupied. By keeping busy you will have less time to think about your cravings.
Exercise. It helps lift your mood and helps you to have better quality sleep.
Have a sleep routine. Choose a time to go to bed and to wake up and stick to it. Be mindful of falling asleep during the day, and use a tiredness monitor like V-CAF. V-CAF will notify you when you are most likely to fall asleep, helping you to stay awake during the day.
Eat nutrient rich foods and drink plenty of water. Fuelling your body with the right foods and drinking water helps raise your energy over time.
Over reliance on caffeine is causing us to deplete our energy levels. Reducing our caffeine intake or cutting it out completely can help reverse this trend but may initially make us feel even more tired.
Stick to your sleep routine.
Use a tiredness monitor, like V-CAF to keep you awake during the day.
Eat whole foods and drink plenty of water.
Your body deserves the best treatment that you can provide. Using caffeine ultimately takes from you and gives very little back.
Spend your time and energy on the things that will help enhance your life, not on things that cost you money and give you suffering.
Start giving back by following the advise in this post and making the right lifestyle changes.
Many of us go through phases where we feel too tired to get the job done but we do somehow. In my own life I’ve experienced this as a student, employee, employer and parent.
Even though we get through these phases and complete the tasks or goals that we have to achieve, the experience is far from pleasurable. Over time if we repeat these cycles it can become extremely difficult to motivate ourselves to even attempt to get things done.
This is bad as we can start to attribute these feelings with the tasks that we have to do, making us feel resentful and depressed.
What Tiredness Costs You
Having feelings of resentment because you are tired whilst working (or studying) makes the work more difficult than it needs to be.
Feeling tired makes it difficult to do basic cognitive functions such as paying attention, concentration, accuracy and memory recall, which results in less than stellar performance and less productivity – leading to feeling even more resentful and frustrated.
Over the long term this can lead to mood disorders and chronic diseases, causing harm to your career or long-term life goals.
Mix and Match
There are a myriad of techniques that you can use to get you over that hump when you’ve got to get some work done.
But what I found that worked surprisingly well was mixing and matching the following techniques. The beauty of this is that everyone is different so it gives you the opportunity to tailor it to your own needs as you see fit, giving it more chance of success because it is your work that you put the effort into.
Motivation This is probably key to making all the other steps work, or work better. Give yourself a target that if you achieve you’ll get a reward of your choice. Make multiple or incremental goals to help motivate you to get through the difficult parts.
Give yourself time limits Set a time limit for blocks of work or study, say three twenty to twenty-five minute periods, using the Pomodoro technique, or other themed timer app (I use Forest).
Use a tiredness monitor or alarm Even though you are tired, use a tiredness alarm like V-CAF that notifies you when you are going to nod off. That way you can stop where you are and refocus yourself and wake yourself up so that you have full concentration until the next alarm.
Drink something (not alcoholic) For me water is best, but there are other alternatives to caffeine based energy drinks such as B vitamin products, herbal and protein supplements. And of course there are caffeine drinks and products too, but these are my last choice.
What eventually worked for me was to motivate myself with a reward, drinking water and using the tiredness monitor.
You are free to try the same or make your own mix, as long as you try something to get over that hump.
Motivate yourself by setting goals that give you a reward if completed
The reasons for why this appears to be a growing trend are numerous and are beyond the scope of my understanding, what I do know from personal experience are that there are measures that we can take personally to help beat tiredness.
Although tiredness appears to be a growing trend, I personally believe that it has always been a factor in a lot of people’s lives. The difference today is that with social media and the Internet people are more willing to talk to others about how they really feel.
Of those that seek medical advice, many come away feeling disappointed as they were expecting a magical cure to something that is fundamental to the human experience.
Holding Me Back
Tiredness reduces your ability to fully appreciate life. It reduces your productivity; alertness and can affect your mental health as well as your relationships and social interactions.
If not dealt with effectively, tiredness can manifest in numerous ways in your life:
Lack of confidence
Increase in risk of being involved in an accident
What Can I Do?
The one thing that you can do every day to reverse this condition in your life is to commit to yourself to take action to overcome your tiredness.
Unfortunately there are no quick fixes, but there are steps that you can consistently take to help yourself overcome your tiredness. I know it’s not a very popular message these days, but by taking responsibility for your response to the problem, you empower yourself to eventually succeed in overcoming your tiredness.
Here are some steps to help you on your way:
Sleep Make sure you get enough quality sleep. Deep sleep is quality sleep. This helps you feel less tired during the day and helps your mind and body prepare for tomorrow. How do you deep sleep? See the next point.
Exercise Just 25 – 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 4 hours before you go to bed can make all the difference to your sleep. It can help you fall asleep faster, improve your sleep quality and help you sleep longer. Also, the effects of exercise on your sleep can be seen to benefit you immediately, on the same night.
Be aware when you are tired Notice the signs of tiredness in yourself and act appropriately. Tiredness alarms like V-CAF subtly notify you when you are most likely to be tired. Best of all it’s tailored to you.
Eat healthily don’t eat processed foods, reduce your sugar intake and avoid caffeine in all it’s forms.
The points outlined in this article aren’t easy, especially if it means a big lifestyle change, but at the same time they are not so hard. You can do this.
The most difficult part is agreeing to take responsibility and start.
Increase your quantity and quality of sleep.
Increase your exercise (amount or intensity or both)
Be aware with your tiredness (use a tool like V-CAF)
What Will You Do?
Thank you for reading this far. This was a bit of a tough article, but hopefully you can see the benefit of a little tough love 😉
For most of life from my teens I can remember feeling tired to the point of distraction.
School was difficult because I felt like I was constantly fighting to stay awake. By the time I went to University I was known for falling asleep at the back of lectures.
One lecturer even called me out and asked if I found his lectures boring, and another student shouted out “Don’t worry Dave, he does that to everyone”!
Drinking more coffee and taking caffeine pills actually made things worse. Things finally came to a head at work when one of my colleagues told our boss that I would nod off briefly.
Tired of being embarrassed about being tired I decided to take back control of my life, and with the help of another colleague who also had a similar issue, we decided to share what we have found that works and to let you know about a tool that we built to help people like us stop being embarrassed, to be more alert, and to be more awake.
Tiredness affects everyone. No matter how skillful, knowledgeable, or proficient someone is in his or her profession, nobody is exempt.
Not Seen in the Best Light
A lot of people will not admit to being tired at work due to how they would be perceived by their colleagues.
However, this can be at the least detrimental to productivity, and at worst dangerous or even fatal as tiredness directly influences people’s physical and mental abilities needed to complete even simple tasks.
The affects of tiredness in the workplace include:
Reduced or lack of motivation
Slower reaction times
Lower hand eye coordination
Difficulty in retrieving and storing information in memory
Inefficient information processing and
Tired people can also become quick to anger and therefore potentially dangerous to themselves and others.
What We Found That Works
The secret to beating tiredness during working hours is to efficiently manage the different layers that cause you to be tired.
Use the techniques outlined below togetherto help manage your tiredness and eventually overcome it:
Get more sleep Sleep longer and deeper. Most people need about 8 hours a day to be fully alert. But everyone is different. Use a measuring tool to find out the quality and quantity of your sleep. I use Pillow to track my sleep.
If you are in a sleep deficit, grab a few minutes nap when you can If it’s possible, have a 30 minute nap. It’s been proven to increase alertness whilst at the same time reducing tiredness. Use your lunch break to catch up.
Use a tiredness alarm V-CAF is an app that alerts you to when you are most likely to be tired and fall asleep. We developed it in response to our need to stay awake whilst working, studying or traveling. Used with the other tips in this article we’ve been able to increase our own productivity and feelings of accomplishment. Available only on the Apple Watch (at the moment).
Use Stimulators This includes modafinil, amphetamines and caffeine. Caffeine didn’t work for me too well as my tolerance levels were/are quite high. Speak to your medical advisor or doctor about the other two.
Drink Water Water helps keep you hydrated and helps you to focus more easily.
Move If possible stand at your desk, or go for a walk. The act of moving will get your heart pumping and help your brain to be more alert.
This is a very sensitive issue for a lot of people, which is why I decided to write about it. By facing up to what we feel we are weakest at, we help strengthen our resolve to overcome it.
So, summarizing the steps we can take to overcome tiredness at work, or school:
Get more sleep
If possible have a nap (30 minutes)
Use V-CAF to alert you to when you are most likely to fall asleep or be tired
There is no need to be embarrassed about being tired. Many people in the workplace feel tired, but try to hide it by drinking too much caffeine.
By taking the step to confront your tiredness, you are putting yourself back in control of your mind, body and life.
For a lot of people drinking black coffee (or energy drink) and intermittent fasting works.
Reduced hunger, faster fat burn, more alert, what’s wrong with drinking caffeine?
Caffeine and its Potential Problems
Caffeine can affect some people rather negatively. The affects on your mind and body depend on how much caffeine you drink daily, your age, fitness and gender.
Some of the harmful side effects are:
Addiction to caffeine
Also, that alert or awake feeling is caused by caffeine tricking your brain into believing that the levels of a chemical called adenosine (which tells the body how tired you are) are reduced.
By blocking your brain’s cells ability to know how tired you are, neuron activity increases which alerts the pituitary gland to release hormones that tell the adrenal glands to increase production of adrenaline.
The Miracle of Water and Exercise
There are many ways to overcome this problem, but the first one is to take action and write something.
If you are used to drinking coffee or energy drinks, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop.
The key here is to keep going and use some of the tips outlined below, which will not only help with your withdrawal symptoms, but also increase the benefits of your fast.
Drink more water your brain is mostly water. Drinking more will improve your concentration, help balance your mood and emotions, increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain and help prevent headaches. And as a side benefit can increase your metabolism by 24-30%.
Use a tiredness monitor or alarm by knowing when you are feeling tired you can take control of your mood swings and act accordingly. V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that alerts you when you are most likely to be tired.
Preserve Keep track of the days that you complete a fast without caffeine and set yourself goals. Take things a day at a time, and over time you will reap the benefits.
On the face of it caffeine and intermittent fasting seem to be a match made in heaven. However, I’ve outlined that you can in fact get better results naturally, it is just a little bit more uncomfortable at first, but you will be in control.
Virtual Caffeine and What It Can Do For You And Your Tiredness
For years I found myself falling asleep at the most inopportune times. During college lectures, whilst attending very interesting corporate meetings, and when having to complete tasks that I wasn’t enthusiastic about!
Each time, I found that I needed more caffeine, in any of its various forms, to get that woke feeling whilst its effects lasted shorter the more I used it.
Tired of my tiredness, I found other poor souls that wanted to change this sad state of affairs and we came up with V-CAF. A solution to consuming ever-increasing amounts of coffee and caffeine, without the diminishing returns.
What Is V-CAF?
V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that subtly notifies you when you are tired or about to fall asleep. We see it as a digital alternative to caffeine and / or coffee with none of the side effects that are associated with increased caffeine consumption. And unlike coffee or caffeine pills, you only pay once. You get to use it for life for the cost of a cup of coffee or thereabouts!
So What’s This Blog About Then?
V-CAF The Blog is a resource that we created to help inform people about tiredness, sleep related issues such as sleep deprivation and insomnia, and caffeine. It is a collection of our experiences and information that we have found useful related to anything to do with staying awake and tiredness.
We hope that you will find it informative and useful.