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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 June 12, 2019

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

    With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

    #10. Look for Joy in Life

    An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

    • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
    • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
    • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
    • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

    #9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

    If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

    • 13 Movies
    • 11 TV Shows
    • 5 Words or Phrases
    • 19 Personal Stories
    • 5 Cartoons
    • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
    • 11 Comedians
    • 7 TV Personalities
    • 7 Funny Photos
    • 7 People You Know
    • 15 of Anything Else
    • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

    Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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    #8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

    Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

    • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
    • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
    • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
    • Times of change or learning
    • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

    When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

    #7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

    Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

    Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

    • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
    • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

    #6. Understand Your Audience

    Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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    • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
    • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
    • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
    • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

    In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

    #5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

    There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

    Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

    • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
    • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
    • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
    • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

    With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

    #4. Get over Yourself

    Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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    You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

    • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
    • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
    • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

    Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

    #3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

    The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

    As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

    • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
    • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
    • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

    #2. Surround Yourself with Joy

    If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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    Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

    Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

    #1. Dive into the Fun

    Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

    • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
    • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
    • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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