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How to Fake It Till You Make It While Running On No Sleep

How to Fake It Till You Make It While Running On No Sleep

Deadlines have a way of ganging up on you. For those times when you’re faced with multiple due dates in the same week and feel no sleep is the only answer, here are some top tips to get through with your sanity and relationships intact.

Before: Prepare

1. Recruit your support team.

Or at the very least, warn those at home! The people you live with are the ones who will be seeing less of you, picking up the slack on the jobs you normally do and putting up with your sleep-deprived mood-swings. If you can, give them a start and finish date so that they know for how long life will be weird. Plan a special catch up treat for all of you on the other side. Help them understand why meeting these deadlines will not only be good for you, but for them too.

2. Postpone and plan.

Put off anything that is not essential until after you’ve met the crunch. Make a list of all the things you won’t be getting to and keep it in a safe place. This is an important step! Use this time to get to know your natural rhythms. What time of day are you most productive? When does your energy lag? Pay close attention, and learn the patterns so that you can make the most of them while clobbering your deadlines.

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3. Organize your environment.

Now is a good time to throw out unnecessary clutter, tidy your desk drawers, and pack away anything that you won’t need. A cluttered work area can be overwhelming when you are tired, but keeping your space tidy during your deadline crunch will help your mind to feel ordered and function more efficiently.

It is a proven fact that our brains don’t operate at 100% when we haven’t had sufficient sleep, but there are ways to work around this. Build in backup plans. An easy example is to have a specific place to always hang your car keys. This will save you hours of frustrated searching when your fuzzy brain can’t quite remember. If you are normally a messy person, train yourself to live tidily. It may seem like a small thing, but the point is to make your life as simple as possible while you focus on your deadlines. Living tidily means being able to find your stuff without spending precious working time hunting through piles of clutter.

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    During: Persevere

    A single all-nighter is a sprint, but an extended period of sleep-deprivation is a marathon and needs to be handled differently. Pace yourself, listen to your body, and split up your work into smaller, manageable sections. You will achieve more in short, focused sessions, with breaks in between, than longer sessions that cause you to fall asleep sitting up, drooling on your keyboard. Pay attention to the following.

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    1. Refuel your body.

    Just as your car won’t run on water, your body needs proper fuel. Avoid junk food: chips, sweets, and energy drinks. Instead, opt for healthy options: seeds & nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and healthy, light, regular meals. Choose water over fizzy drinks.

    2. No sleep; take naps instead.

    If you can’t afford a full night’s sleep, never underestimate the power of the humble nap. Your productivity will suffer if you keep working for too long without any sleep at all. If you struggle to wake up afterwards, take a quick shower, walk outside in the fresh air, and splash your face with some water; you’ll soon get to know what works best for you.

    3. Get up and move.

    Stretch to de-tangle your muscles and ease stiffness from sitting in the same position for hours. Get your heart rate up by running in place, skipping or doing jumping jacks. This gets the blood flowing to deliver fresh oxygen to your whole body and mind. If it makes you feel daft, don’t worry—we all feel silly leaping around by ourselves at three in the morning. Ignore your ego; your body will love you for it, and it will bring you closer to conquering your deadlines.

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    4. Include motivators.

    What makes your brain buzz? Play music that gets your feet tapping, or let your favorite tv show run in the background. If that is too distracting, line up the (healthy!) rewards at the end of each section. Find those things that switch you on and shamelessly bribe yourself.

    5. Avoid driving.

    Any pill that makes you drowsy comes with a warning for you not to drive or operate dangerous machinery while you are under the influence of that medication. Deadline crunching on no sleep can be just as lethal. Organize a carpool, or take the bus or a train. You might even be able to sneak in some zs while travelling—bliss!

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      After: Recover

      1. Take time off.

      Schedule time off to find yourself again. Get some decent sleep, and reward yourself for your hard work. Give your brain time to recuperate. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself feeling completely demotivated, directionless or even slightly depressed. Be gentle on yourself as you recover; give yourself plenty space to regroup and recharge. Beating yourself up will only delay your recovery. It won’t take long to find your groove again.

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      2. Prioritize time with loved ones.

      Make reconnecting with your support crew your chief priority. Spend time catching up on all the tiny details that you may have missed. Give them your focused attention. Turn off your cell phone, and leave the laptop shut. Go for long walks, cook meals together, do all the things that you said no to while meeting your deadlines.

      3. Take out your “postponed” list.

      With a brain that is still in recovery, you will be grateful that you made a list of all the things that you postponed. By now, some of them will need your attention. As you feel up to it, find your list and work your way through it one item at a time. Having a list in hand will help you get out of the post-deadline-slump in small, easy steps.

      Does your family still love you? Did you meet your deadlines? Congratulations! You successfully faked it til you made it while running on no sleep!

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      Featured photo credit: IMG_5944 by Oleander via mrg.bz

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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)

      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.

      More on Building Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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