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5 Ways Midday Naps Can Improve Work Performance

5 Ways Midday Naps Can Improve Work Performance

If you’ve never been affected by the two o’clock slump, consider yourself lucky. Most of us hit the wall at work sometime between our lunch break and the five o’clock whistle. While we’re always tempted to reach for that second (third? fourth?) cup of coffee when we start to feel burnt out, deep down we know it’s just a superficial fix that will come back to haunt us later on. What would help our performance; however, is if our bosses were to let us roll out a sleeping bag and take a quick snooze. A midday nap has many benefits, including these five listed below.

1. Recuperated lost sleep

Duh? Obviously taking a nap will help you get back some of the sleep you’ve lost over the week. Let’s think about that for a moment. If you’re supposed to sleep seven hours a night, but you habitually only get six, throughout a single week you lose a full night’s sleep. A lot of that lost sleep is probably due to getting to the office early, or being up late fulfilling other responsibilities because you were late coming home. A quick nap in the middle of each day could make up for lost time, energizing you enough to power through the rest of the day.

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2. Improved memory

Sleeping does wonders for your memory. An hour of sleep will help new information that is being temporarily stored in your short-term memory to transfer into your long-term memory storage. The benefits of this are two-fold. For one, information that has been taken in throughout the morning will almost effortlessly become part of your total recall. Secondly, since the information gathered throughout the day will be transferred into your long-term memory, your short-term memory capacity will be free to take in new data after you awaken.

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3. Stimulated cell repair

Working long hours isn’t just exhausting to the mind, it also can be extremely debilitating to the body as well. Sleeping produces a protein that repairs damage caused by stress and other toxins accumulated throughout the day. When a body is stressed and sore, the mind can’t perform. Allowing the body the opportunity to recharge during the day will lower overall stress levels, and result in an increase in productivity throughout the remainder of the day.

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4. Perseverance

When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to give up when the going gets tough. Since a midday nap will rejuvenate your stress and energy levels, you’ll be more apt to stick with a task even when you hit a roadblock. Not only will being well-rested make you more likely to push yourself through a struggle point, but taking a nap can also be a nice break when you hit a point when productivity is absolutely impossible. When you awaken, you’ll be able to come back to the problem with a fresh mind. Walking away from a problem for a while is also a great way to gain insight and perspective. This may lead to a breakthrough the next time you sit down to tackle a problem.

5. Improved overall performance

Based on the length of your midday nap, you will experience varying levels of increased performance. A quick 10-20 minute nap leads to increased mental and physical performance. This can be done even if your boss doesn’t approve of naps at work (but we at Lifehack don’t condone this!). An hour-long nap will lead to the aforementioned short-term to long-term memory shift, while a 90 minute nap increases your emotional and procedural memory. If you’re in a position that requires you to be creative, napping for an hour and a half in the middle of the day will ultimately benefit your work in the long run. There’s one more thing to note: Avoid napping for 30-40 minutes. Doing so will lead to sleep inertia, and actually leave your mind more groggy and distorted than it was before you hit the hay.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 17, 2020

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

There’s nothing quite like a state of “flow” when you’re working. The rare moments when your inspiration aligns with your motivation likely lead to some of your most creative work. Plus, it feels great to actually check a task or project off the list so you can move on to the next thing. Meanwhile, a mental block — its opposite — can cause work to feel laborious and uninspired. Forget creativity when you have a mental block — it makes it difficult even to start working on what you need to do.

A mental block can manifest in several ways. Perhaps your imposter syndrome is squelching your creative ideas, for instance, or you’re overwhelmed by the breadth of a project and its impending deadline. Maybe you’re just tired or stressed.

Either way, having a mental block feels like being trapped in your own head, and it can seriously dampen your ability to think outside the box. The problem is, you’re so locked into your own perspective that you don’t see more innovative approaches to your problems.[1]

Luckily, jumping over these mental hurdles is simpler than you think. You just need the right strategies to get your flow back.

Try these five practical ways to overcome a mental block.

1. Break Your Project Down

A few years ago, I was working on changing a company product that I believed would hugely benefit our customers. Sounds great, right?

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As inspired as I was to make people’s lives easier, though, the sheer magnitude of the task at hand felt overwhelming. Every morning, I cracked open my laptop to work and felt totally paralyzed. I loved the idea, yes, but actualizing it felt risky. What if it didn’t turn out the way I pictured in my mind? More importantly, where would I even begin?

A former colleague gave me great advice over coffee:

Change how you think. Start by breaking the big project down into small tasks.

When a major project overwhelms you, you only see the entire forest instead of the individual trees. And as you stare it down, you start to feel discouraged by your own lack of progress, thus slowing you down further.

Breaking down a massive task into smaller chunks makes the work feel more manageable. You’ll have multiple clear places to start and end with, which will lend a motivating sense of productivity and mastery to your process. Learn more about it here: The Motivation Flowchart: The Mental Process of Successful People

Think of it as accumulating small wins. When you realize you’re more capable than you have once thought, you’ll develop the momentum and confidence needed to get your big job done little by little.[2]

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2. Change Up Your Scenery

Of course, there’s a time and place for sitting down to get things done. But if you’re experiencing a mental block, switching up your surroundings can make a big difference in your output.

Have you ever noticed how your environment directly impacts your performance and mood?

Your brain associates your physical surroundings with certain feelings and activities. So, if you feel mentally stuck, your mind may need some new sensory stimuli.

During this time in your life, it may not be possible to set up shop at a cafe or move from your cubicle to a conference room, so you may need to think outside the box. If you’re working remotely in a home office, try going to your dining table or couch. If the weather cooperates, sit outside for a bit with your computer or take a walk around the block.

You can also simply rearrange your workspace. Not sure where to begin? Try decluttering. Some studies show that an organized desk enhances productivity.[3]

The point is to stimulate your brain with new sounds and sights. You may find a much-needed dose of inspiration when you work while breathing in the fresh air, listening to city sounds, or staying in the comfort of your own living space.

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3. Do an Unrelated Activity

When it comes to productivity, a bit of distraction isn’t always a bad thing. That’s especially true if your chosen distraction helps you get things done in the long run.

Have you realized how your most creative thoughts tend to bubble up when you’re, say, lying in bed or taking a shower? In their research of the “incubation period,” scientists have discovered that people’s best ideas seem to surface when they aren’t actively trying to solve a problem.[4]

In a 2010 study, participants needed to look for a roommate or new employee based on the profiles that the researchers gave. The people who had a brief “incubation period” — in this case, working on an anagram — consistently made better choices than those who spent more time weighing their options.

If you can’t seem to prime your brain for a project, try doing something completely unrelated to work, such as washing your dishes, working out, or calling a friend. Some experts say finding another low-stake project to work on can help jump-start the creative part of your brain and activate your flow.[5]

The key is to allow your unconscious mind to do its best work: eliciting the new knowledge your conscious mind may be ignoring or suppressing.[6]

4. Be Physical

Feeling antsy? When your mind won’t seem to settle into a state of flow, it may help to swap out your mental activity for a physical one and see how it impacts your perspective.

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While any physical activity is beneficial for your body — and getting up to move can serve as a helpful form of distraction — certain forms of exercise can more directly impact the mind. To be specific, relaxing, flow-based exercises like dance, yoga, or tai chi can create a gentle sense of momentum in your body, which can prime your brain for the same state.

Stress-reducing activities may also be necessary. Meditating or taking slow, deep breaths will also calm your nervous system if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Evidence shows that the logical, creative part of your brain essentially shuts off when you’re stressed.[7]

On the flip side, when your mind and body are relaxed, you can think more clearly, be more creative, and focus for longer periods — all of which will help you overcome a mental block.

5. Don’t Force It

It can be frustrating to fight against your own mind. If your mental block won’t go away after some effort, it may be time to take a break. Forcing creative thoughts only adds to your stress levels, which in turn inhibits your ability to think creatively. And if you sit and stare at a project for too long, you’ll not only waste valuable time but also begin to associate this specific work with frustration and produce work you’re not proud of.

“I know that forcing something is not going to create anything beyond mediocre, so I step aside and work on a different project until it hits me,” the artist Ben Skinner said about his creative process.[8]

If your work isn’t time-sensitive, then it may make sense to step away for a while to focus on something else, be it an administrative task that requires less creativity or a project that you feel motivated to work on.

When the time is right, you’ll find your way back to the original task with a fresh, creative perspective (hopefully).

More on Getting Rid of a Mental Block

Featured photo credit: Jonas Leupe via unsplash.com

Reference

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