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7 Caffeine-Free Ways to Increase Alertness

7 Caffeine-Free Ways to Increase Alertness

    Do you need caffeine to get through your day? I’ve experienced every over-the-counter wakefulness supplement produced before 2007 (when I smartened up) and can promise you that it all has the same effect: A brief period of increased alertness is followed by a dramatic increase in lethargy (a crash) or anxiety and fidgeting. Consume enough caffeine combined with whatever jungle juice is in vogue and you’ll eventually turn into an over-clocked grouch.

    Perhaps you already are? You don’t have to be. Here are 7 ways to increase your alertness and subsequent productivity without reaching for that 6th cup of coffee before lunch:

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    1. Drop Napping

    A quick version of the power nap, a drop nap takes only a few minutes and will usually give you enough of a boost to get through the last few hours of work. How to do it? Sit in a comfortable chair and hold something in one hand that, when dropped on the floor, will make enough noise to wake you from a shallow sleep. Hold the object you’ve chosen so that it will drop to the floor when you relax your hand and let yourself fall asleep. As soon as you fall asleep the object will drop and you’ll wake up with a boost of alertness. If you’ve ever fallen asleep for a few seconds while driving you already know what it feels like to wake from a drop nap!

    2. Micro projects

    A micro project is any small project that can be completed in a very little time. Taking a few minutes away from your sleep-inducing labor to work on a small project of your own can provide the excitement and immediate fulfillment needed to get your brain back in gear for the less interesting work you face.

    3. Stretching

    Get your hind parts out of that seat and release some of that lethargy and tension with a few minutes of stretching! You can start with some basic stretches and move to more complex ones as you feel comfortable.

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    4. Competitive games

    Play a game that makes your mind work as you push for a win over another, preferably somebody you know. The combination of competition, strategy, and social interaction will give you the boost in brainpower you need to keep going. WeeWar is a recent favorite of mine. The combination of strategy, simplicity, and a bit of luck make for a fun way to take an “alertness break” from my work while connecting with a friend.

    5. Hydrate!

    Your brain is mostly water so it makes sense that you’d need to keep yourself hydrated for maximum alertness and productivity! They Mayo Clinic recommends three hydration styles to make sure you keep your body stocked with fluids:

    • Replacement – The idea is to replace all the fluid you lose throughout your day. The average adult loses about a liter of water each day due to evaporation through the skin, breathing, etc. If you sweat a lot or live in a very warm climate you’ll want to up that amount appropriately. Combine that amount with the amount of water you lose as urine and you’ll have a good idea of how much fluid you should be consuming on a daily basis to stay healthy.
    • 8 by 8 – 8 ounces of water 8 times per day (about 2 liters total) is an easy way to remember how much you need to keep from getting dehydrated and losing precious brainpower because your body is struggling to operate.
    • Prescribed quantity – Check with your doctor or registered dietitian for a more exact idea of how much water you should be consuming based on your body weight and gender.

    Trading that 4pm cup of coffee for a glass of water may have the extended benefit of guarding you from the hours-long affects of caffeine that might otherwise keep you up late.

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    6. Phone-a-friend

    Fight away the drowsiness by connecting with a friend for a short conversation. Making plans for the weekend or just chatting about something that’s on your mind can give you a big mental boost and get you back into the game quickly. Keep your conversation short so you don’t end up spending any of your new-found wakefulness on chatting while you still have work to do!

    7. Exercise

    Depending on your fitness level, you should be able to engage in an activity that raises your heart rate for a few minutes without breaking a sweat. Feel stupid doing crunches or jumping jacks in your cubicle? You’d feel much worse if you were caught sleeping on the job! If you have more time and don’t mind getting sweaty, take an hour to make use of that gym pass you bought in January or go for a run. You’ll come back mentally refreshed and enjoy increased alertness for a few hours as your heart continues the increased blood flow to your brain.

    What about you? Have you got into the habit of gulping caffeinated beverages whenever you feel a bit drowsy? Perhaps you’ve broken free of caffeine and have a tip or two of your own to share?

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    Image: Jraj7

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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