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A 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

A 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

Everyone experiences tiredness at work sometimes. At some point (usually around 2:00 PM), you find yourself ready for a nap. Your energy fluctuates naturally throughout the day.

Productivity expert Chris Bailey charted his motivation, focus, and energy levels for 21 days and found that all three tend to spike between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM, and 6:00 and 7:00 PM.[1] For all those highs, he also noticed times when focus, energy, and motivation were nowhere to be found. Chris was tired at work.

Your peak productivity times may be different than Mr. Bailey’s, but the overall shape of your energetic graph would still look like a series of zigzags. The amount of sleep you have, the food you eat, and how you exercise are a few of the factors that cause rises and falls in your energy level.

You’re battling your biology when you don’t take a nap

We can fill up on caffeine and sugar as much as we want, but we’re fighting a natural downturn in energy when we do this. Most people feel fatigued in the latter half of the standard workday. Your tiredness may seem like an inconvenience, but it’s really your body telling you that it needs rest.

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Our bodies operate on a natural clock called a circadian rhythm.[2] This sleep/wake cycle is perfectly adapted to give us adequate sleep over the course of a 24-hour period. Natural light is the primary means that your body uses to assess whether or not you should be asleep.

Much to our collective chagrin, circadian rhythms do not coincide with the average 9 to 5 job. Irregular sleep schedules, the light from electronic devices, and natural light exposure can also affect the cycle. This is why people working the graveyard shift have an increased risk for developing health problems.[3] They must remain awake when their body tells them it’s time for bed, and their sleep schedule is constantly disrupted when they try to stay awake on days off.

Neglecting to follow your circadian rhythms and not taking a nap go against your body’s natural balance.

Taking a nap is natural

We usually feel the most tired between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. This is the post-lunch crash that most of us try to fend off with sugary snacks or espressos. We’re also naturally more inclined to sleep between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM, which is why waking someone up during that time can feel like raising the dead.

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Since most of us are already asleep between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM, we need only concern ourselves with the post-lunch crash. Taking a nap right after lunch helps most people feel more alert, energized, and motivated.

Why you should squeeze a nap into your day

Taking a nap can replenish your brainpower and leave you feeling just as sharp as you were first thing in the morning. You can’t change the fact that your body operates on a circadian rhythm and your energy level rises and falls, but you can pay attention to what your body tells you to do. If you want to feel energized, you need to recharge.

When you don’t take a nap, you struggle against your body’s need for sleep. You may look busy while you’re sitting at your desk, but the simplest tasks will take you much longer to complete. You’ll have a harder time making decisions, and you’ll likely feel a bit grumpy.

Taking a nap may put you out of commission for 20 minutes, but you’ll be refreshed when you wake up. You’ll be able to do more work in a shorter amount of time, and you’ll probably have a better outlook on the rest of your day. That nap is the reset button that you need to do your best work.

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You can reap amazing benefits from taking a 15-20 minute nap.[4] Longer naps put you into different phases of your sleep cycle, and if those are disrupted, you might end up feeling more tired. A nap of 20 minutes is all you need.

The catnap is a low-cost energy booster. It requires so little energy and effort to give yourself this time to refuel, and the return on investment is huge. Some studies suggest that a 20-minute nap has the energy-boosting equivalent of more than 200 mg of caffeine, or two cups of regular coffee (minus the jitters). A power-nap has the potential to add an extra three hours of productivity to your day.

My napping experience at work for the last 2 weeks

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that you bring your sleeping bag and grab a little shuteye anytime you feel lethargic. That’s definitely not going to go over well with your boss. You won’t be napping the entire afternoon away on the clock. You just need to take a 20 minute break after lunch to do what I’ve been doing.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been taking 20-minute naps in my office after lunch. I silence my email notifications and set an alarm so that I wake up at the end of the 20-minute window. I put in my ear buds and listen to this relaxing playlist. I rest on the couch with a small cushion that I keep stashed in my desk.

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At first it felt weird to be taking a nap at the office. It took me about 5 minutes to fall asleep the first few days because I wasn’t used to unplugging in the middle of the day. After a few days, though, I was able to fall asleep soon after I started listening to the relaxing playlist.

Within the first few days of conducting this little experiment on myself, I felt a big difference. After I woke up from my naps, I felt so much more energized. I could concentrate, and I was able to work all the way up until the end of the day instead of watching the clock in anticipation of closing time.

After just one week, I found that my productivity had dramatically improved. I used to feel so inefficient after lunch, but when I implemented the short post-lunch nap, I felt as energetic as I do in the morning. My energy seems to be more evenly distributed throughout the day, and I can be productive for longer.

Give power-napping a try

It may seem counterproductive to take a nap in order to do more, but there’s science behind the catnap. Instead of staring off into space and battling your natural fatigue, take a nap. You may think that you’ll lose 20 minutes of work, but the increased energy and focus you experience after your nap will more than make up for it.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on May 23, 2019

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

How do you usually go about your day?

Do you wake up in the morning, get ready for work, and then spend the whole day looking forward to being at home and unwinding?

We often hear about work life balance – having a good balance between work and personal time. Whilst this may sound like a smart idea, it can also imply that we should dedicate at least half of our time to work–and sacrifice time for our “personal life”.

To me, that seems…off balance. Because, the truth is, it’s nearly impossible to split your time equally between the two. And, you may end up stressing out if you’re not able to meet that expectation of balance.

Instead, why not think of having work life harmony instead?

With this mindset, you can actually integrate work into your life in a way that feels more complete. This way, you don’t need to view work and having personal time as separate.

So, how do you achieve work life harmony?

Work Life Harmony Explained

The difference between work life balance and work life harmony is pretty simple. With the former, there is an implication that you have to sacrifice your “life” for work. But, this is the worst way to go about things! How can you truly be at peace in life if you dread 8 hours of your day?

Work life harmony on the other hand, allows your work to be a part of your life. This means that you can choose to be happy both at home, and at work! Work no longer needs to be seen as the ‘bad’ or un-fun activity.

Having work life harmony also ensures you’re truly present in whatever place you find yourself.

Just take a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon for example.

He uses a non traditional approach to work by making time for breakfast every morning with his family, doesn’t set his alarm before going to bed, schedules surprisingly few meetings, and still puts aside a few minutes every day to wash his own dishes.

He believes that all his staff should stop trying to achieve a ‘balance’ in their work and personal lives as that implies a trade off. Instead, he envisions a more holistic relationship between the two.

As the world’s richest man, he must be doing something right!

Rethink Time Management

Now, when we think of striking a balance, we usually associate it with time, don’t we? How much time are we spending at work versus how much time are we spending in our personal lives?Are we taking enough time to be with our loved ones, to do meaningful activities with others or even for ourselves, or are we just dedicating all our time to work?

This is the so-called-balance that many struggle with.

With work life harmony, we learn to rethink time management. By re-assessing how you manage your time, you’ll have a lot more of it. It’s incredible how much time can get wasted over the period of a day–especially when you’re not accurately tracking it.

Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls when it comes to prioritizing. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefit; when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is otherwise known as Priority Chaos.

In order to overcome this and be in better control of your time, identify the tasks that need the most focus to get accomplished. If it’s a big task, then it’s good to break it down into smaller bite-sized actions that will provide you with a clearer short term benefit.

When setting up tasks, give yourself a time limit. The brain has a bias towards short term benefits, and your attention span is limited, so if your tasks are going to take ages to complete, you’ll end up losing focus… and wasting time.

Once you have all your tasks written down, it’s time to prioritize them. Since you have a time limit, your focus should be on the top priority tasks. By doing this, you will already be able to get more done in less time at work!

Have Passion for What You Do

Managing your time is important in achieving that work life harmony. But, perhaps of greater importance, is loving what you do in life. One of the most effective ways to achieve a work life harmony is to really enjoy, or find a purpose, in what you do for a living. Even though everyone isn’t always lucky enough to find a position that pays them for pursuing their passion, you can strive to find meaning in what you are already doing, or pursue something new entirely!

For example, say you work at an office that sells paper. While many people wouldn’t consider this a world changing pursuit, I beg to differ. Think of all the individuals in the world that rely on paper. From creative types to quantum physics experts, your role at your workplace brings incredible value to many many people all over the world. You will have, without a doubt, helped bring a new idea into existence. Several new ideas to be precise.

So have a think about what you’re doing now. Is it something that allows you to embrace your passion?

Or perhaps you might not even know what it is that you love or enjoy doing. Why not explore and reflect on what gives you joy and contentment? Is there an area or industry that you could see yourself exploring to experience that fulfillment?

Can you find a deeper purpose in what you’re already doing?

When you’re able to find meaning in your work, you’re that much closer to achieving work life harmony.

Don’t Be Intimidated By Obstacles and Limitations

Creating work life harmony is also about understanding yourself–which includes your limitations and past obstacles–as this allows you to become more resilient.

If you never had to experience struggles, challenges or setbacks, then you would never be forced to adapt and mature. So in theory, having to face obstacles in life is actually quite necessary.

Most of us think of setbacks and obstacles as negative. Though, if you’re able to maintain an optimistic attitude, you’ll almost always have a higher chance of success of overcoming those obstacles to reach your eventual goal.

Your attitude towards setbacks will define the outcome of whether you rise from the challenge or remain stuck in it. So, in order to achieve work life harmony, it’s important to have a resilient attitude as challenges will always come your way–especially when you strive to integrate work into your life, and not a separate or dominant part of life.

Delegate When You Need To

Of course, when you want to increase productivity and minimize the time or effort spent, a great way to do so is to delegate!

If you spend a lot of time doing tasks on your own that could be delegated to others (whether at work or at home) you’re losing a lot of precious free time that could otherwise be spent elsewhere.

At the end of the day, we all have a limited amount of time. So we should all be striving to create a harmonious work and living situation where we can find meaning in all that we do.

While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones or tasks needed to get there may be meaningful. That’s because we have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Not every task is going to be enjoyable or easy to complete. That’s where delegation comes in.

Delegation simply allows you to leverage time from an external source, thus giving you opportunities to increase your own quality of time. Keep in mind that delegation should be done with deliberate attention, otherwise you may end up over relying on others.

If you find that you’re running into the problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Embrace the Circle and Become Happier and More Productive

Living in harmony is about feeling good about the ways in which you spend your time, despite how busy you may be.Your switch from work mode to a more personal mode should be effortless. It’s about integrating your personal life and the things you love into your busy work life!

It all begins with the shift in perspective. Understanding what your passions are, and learning to be resilient, before taking a different approach to the way you manage your time and everyday tasks.

These are steps that you can start taking to move away from balance to harmony. 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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