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Science Says Within A Week You’ll Be More Productive If You Try This

Science Says Within A Week You’ll Be More Productive If You Try This
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When someone starts taking about productivity, and how to be more productive our mind often drifts off. We may think that to become more productive we need to undertake some difficult model of behavior or to adopt habits that we feel will be hard to stick to. However, recent scientific findings have indicated a week of camping can effectively change our sleeping patterns, which in turn can lead to greater alertness and productivity, because early risers are found to be more productive than night owls.

The study

A study published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology sought to discover the effect that sitting under artificial light bulbs all day in the office has on our sleeping patterns. The research team was led by Kenneth Wright, the director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Wright stated: “We already knew that electrical lighting, especially at night, can push the time of your clock later, and that leads to later bedtimes,” but what they did not know is how ordinary light exposure during the day could affect our sleep. To find the answer Wright and his team recruited eight volunteers. Each of the volunteers were given wristbands that measured their light exposure and sleeping times.

The first week of the experiment required the volunteers to undergo their usual activities; such as going to work or school. “Then we took them all on a camping trip,” Wright says. “They slept in tents, and they received only natural sunlight and campfires.” The participants were forbidden from bringing any electronics that produced artificial light; even flashlights.

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The results of the study

Wright and his team found that the sleeping patterns of the participants changed after their week of camping. Even people who were going to bed very late and were having difficulty being alert in the morning saw a change in their sleeping schedule; they were going to bed earlier and waking up like the early rises.

“If you consider people who are very late night owls, they stay up late and have a greater difficulty of being alert in the morning,” says write “After camping, we found that their clocks were shifted — and they looked more similar to the early risers.”

The participants continued to get the same hours of sleep in the wilderness as back home; their internal clocks simply moved two hours (on average). So they were going to bed and waking up two hours earlier. “Individuals who had the latest bedtimes back at home had the larger shift in their internal clocks after camping,” Wright says. By the end of the week all participants had become morning people.

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Interpretation of the results

Two factors are believed to be the cause of the change in the participants sleeping habits. Firstly, the lack of artificial light in the wilderness setting allowed the melatonin (which aids in sleep) levels of the participants to naturally decrease at the right times. Such decrease in melatonin can promote sleep. Secondly the exposure to natural light that was achieved by living in the outdoors helped to set their circadian clocks, which decreased melatonin levels before waking.

This decrease in melatonin levels helped to prevent the groggy feeling or tiredness people can experience when they first rise in the morning.

The theory

Human beings evolved to work according to a 24-hour cycle, which was based on the daily rising and setting of the sun. Our bodies knew to secrete the hormone melatonine (which aids in sleep) just before the sun went down. It also had the ability to reduce the production of melatonine before the sun rose in the morning. This worked together with other biological patterns (our internal circadian rhythm). The circadian clock is a flexible system; it can slow down or speed up depending on how much light is around. Both these systems helped us sleep well and ensured that we woke up fresh and rested.

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This system worked well until the invention of electricity and other electrical devices that allow us to have light at all hours of the day; including the night hours. As we spend most of our days inside, at school, work, shopping malls and the like, we miss out on a lot of sunlight exposure. Sunline is needed to set our circadian clocks. Thus, our modern way of life has in a sense put off balance our internal mechanisms that are supposed to tell us when to sleep and when to wake. This is why so many of us now a days have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up in the mornings.

What you can do apart from camping

How can you use the finding to improve your own sleep habits?

“We can achieve earlier bedtimes by having people be outside more, especially in the morning,” Wright says. “You could start your day with a morning walk. Raise the shades in the house. Or if you read the newspaper, do it outside.”

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“On the flip side,” he says, “reduce exposure to light at night by dimming the lights or computers. This is especially important within the hour prior before bedtime.”

Summation

If you decide to make a big change to your lifestyle and improve your sleeping habits a week camping vacation is the way to go. Why not take time out of your daily routine and reconnect with the outdoors? Not only will you find that you will be able to sleep and wake earlier you may also find that you become more alert and productive during the day.

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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