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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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Last Updated on November 18, 2019

5 Hacks to Speed up the Learning Process

5 Hacks to Speed up the Learning Process

The ability to learn things quickly is a tremendous asset. People who can rapidly grasp new concepts, learn and apply new and effective skills, and process new information in a short amount of time have a distinct advantage over those who struggle to learn.

Is speed learning reserved for a select minority, endowed with the gift of intellect that few possess? Is it only available to the “geniuses” among us?

The answer is, “No.”

Every one of us can learn to learn faster, and there are a few simple tools that can help us. If these tools are committed to mastery through habit they will produce massive results in our ability to learn concepts faster, process new information in a shorter amount of time, and rapidly expand our abilities and knowledge.

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So, without delay, here are 5 hacks to speed up the learning process:

1. Focus on number of repetitions, not on the amount of time we practice.

When we say that we “studied for five hours straight,” we are often deceiving ourselves. How much of that five hours was spent in focused attention? How much time did we spend on distractions, like checking our email, or Facebook or Twitter? The key is not the length of time we spend when learning something. The key is the amount of learning repetitions that we engage in.

Repetition is one of the most powerful levers we have because it wires our brain. The power of repetition is well known by top performers, athletes, musicians, and the military. Time spent is not nearly as important as the number of reps.

So here is the first step: get rid of the watch. Instead, focus your attention on completing repetitions. Instead of saying, “I’ll study my notes for two hours,” say, “I’ll read my notes through, line by line, three times from start to finish.” This causes you to focus your attention on results. It also eliminates the “illusion of effectiveness” because you can’t fool yourself. Either you completed the task, or you didn’t.

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2. Break everything down into small chunks.

Author and talent expert Daniel Coyle, in his best-selling book, The Talent Code, says that “chunks are to skill what the letters of the alphabet are to language. Alone, each is nearly useless, but when combined into bigger chunks (words), and when those chunks are combined into still bigger things (sentences, paragraphs), they can build something complex and beautiful.” Chunking is important because it is the way that our brain learns. Every skill or piece of knowledge that we attain is comprised of many smaller pieces, or chunks, of information.

One of the first things that we should do when attempting to learn something new is to break the material or task down into many small chunks. Do it for the entire task or material. What we are left with then is a whole bunch of small chunks. Once this is done we proceed to step three.

3. Perfect each chunk and then create a “chunk chain.”

Now that we have a whole bunch of chunks we can then proceed to master each individual chunk on its own. This is what we focus our repetitions on (see step 1). The task or skill that we are trying to learn is comprised of a whole bunch of smaller parts. We have determined what those smaller parts consist of, now we just perfect each part on its own, and as we perfect the parts we form a chunk chain. This is where we start to build on each chunk with another chunk, and over time we will completely master the entire process.

Most importantly, by doing it this way, we will find that we master the process much quicker than if we tried to memorize the entire task on its own. Thus, since we have built a chunk chain, we can see how each individual piece is related to the other pieces. This gives us a complex understanding of the task or material and allows us quick recall ability in the future.

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4. Turn the learning process into a game, with rules and rewards.

We like games and our brain likes games. When learning becomes an enjoyable game, time stands still, and we immerse ourselves in repetitions of the material. So if we are trying to learn something new, an effective strategy is to “game it.” Create a game that we can play. Set the rules to the game, and create a rewards systems (this is another very important thing as the brain loves rewards).

Rewards are at the foundation of habit formation, as noted by Charles Duhigg in his best-selling book, The Power of Habit. Once a behavior becomes a habit we perform it much easier and faster. If we can create a reward system based on a game from the learning process, then we can crystallize learning as a habit and we will learn faster. Daniel Coyle, concerning the importance of games in learning also notes:

The term “drill” evokes a sense of drudgery and meaninglessness. It’s mechanical, repetitive, and boring—as the saying goes, drill and kill. Games, on the other hand, are precisely the opposite. They mean fun, connectedness, and passion. And because of that, skills improve faster when they’re looked at this way.

5. Repeat “focus bursts,” where we give our very best effort for a short period of time, then take fulfilling and refreshing breaks.

There are multiple studies that confirm that proper rest increases brain functioning. The typical, caffeine-induced, late night cramming session that most students engage in at least once in their life is not the most effective way to learn.

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In fact, there is evidence to suggest that it is the least effective way. If we want to learn something quickly, we need to do it when our minds are fresh. We need to engage in “focus bursts” where, with fresh energy and a well-rested mind, we focus all our attention on learning, perfecting, and linking the chunks (see step 3). Then, when we start to feel our effectiveness dissipate, we take breaks to recharge.

Focus burst, recharge, focus burst, recharge. Over and over again. This is the way to speed up the learning process. Long study sessions are not as effective as short bursts.

In long sessions, we are prone to distraction, and we are also prone to focusing on time rather than repetitions. However, if we will train ourselves to learn like a top athlete trains (in smaller, high intensity chunks) we will be very happy with the results that we get.

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Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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