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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!

      Featured photo credit: IMG_5944 by Oleander via mrg.bz

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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