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How to Start Napping…and Why You Should

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How to Start Napping…and Why You Should


    Before you read the title and get angry, touting the same ol’ “I’m too busy!” argument, hear me out:

    You can save time, energy, and get way more done by taking naps.

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    I know you’re in denial, but it’s true. I’ve used these techniques myself in the midst of a full-time marketing job, a part-time church job, trying to write a book, run two websites, and get married–and sometimes napping was the only way I would have been able to stay as productive as I was.

    But take it from actual research: Jurgen Aschoff was a German physician, biologist, and behavioral physiologist, and he ran a remarkable experiment in the first half of last century. Aschoff placed men and women, individually, into converted World-War II bunkers that blocked out all daylight. The subjects were placed in these isolation rooms for days at a time, without access to any time-keeping devices.

    After a 48-hour adjustment period, Aschoff found that all of the subjects had one strange, miraculous thing in common: they each became biphasic, meaning they slept for about six or seven hours at a time, then had a period of wakefulness, then went back to sleep for another “nap,” this time shorter than the first.

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    They were falling back into the natural state of biphasic sleep cycles, adhered to by much of the animal kingdom.

    For those of us with “real lives,” however, we don’t have the luxury of experimentation. Rest assured, though, I’ve done the work for you! Here’s a brief outline of the best things I’ve found about adopting a napping schedule:

    Give it a shot. Before you do, though, know that napping takes practice — it won’t just come to you immediately, but once you figure it out, you’ll be able to almost “nap on command,” allowing yourself the luxury of grabbing a quick (5 to 10 minutes) snooze while at work, at home, or in traffic (just kidding!).

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    So, how do you do it? How do you get to a state of zen in your daily life by using the power of the nap?

    First, you’ll need to figure out when to nap. Dr. Sara Mednick, who wrote the great book Take a Nap: Change Your Life, has this to say about the different sleep cycles we partake in during our sleep hours:

    1. Stage 1 – This stage is least understood, and we spend the least amount of time in it. Stage 1 sleep is the first few minutes of “pseudo sleep,” where our minds aren’t really awake and our eyelids are pressuring us to give in.
    2. Stage 2 – Stage 2 is the foundation of sleep—it’s the stage we spend more than half of our sleep time in, and it’s the stage that helps to “reset” our brain to be more alert when we wake up.
    3. Stage 3 & 4 – We can lump these stages together because they represent what’s known as “slow-wave sleep,” which is the process during which our body and brain “rebuilds” and rejuvenates.
    4. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) – Perhaps the most popular and well-known sleep phase, REM sleep is the time of sleep that most resembles our waking state. As such, we are most likely to dream those wildly fantastical dreams during REM sleep, and it’s the stage that helps us improve our creativity as well.

    The different stages of sleep are also available at different times throughout the day and night — and in differing amounts:

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    • REM sleep is mostly available to us very early in the day, starting at 4 am and reaching its peak around 8-10 am.
    • Slow-Wave sleep depends on when we go to bed and wake up, but generally it can be reached mostly right after we go to bed, and then again a few hours before bed.
    • Stage 2 sleep we can enter at any time—it’s most accessible, so it’s there for taking, whenever we fall asleep.

    How to use naps to your benefit

    You simply need to then piece together your preferred nap: Do you need more energy? Try a late-morning nap or early-evening. Do you want to be more focused for that big project you’ve been working on? Fit in a nap built mostly on Stage 2 sleep, pretty much anytime you want (since you’re automatically in Stage 2 sleep most of the time, anyway). And finally, do you want to boost your creativity? Then try to grab a quick nap shortly after breakfast, when you’re most likely to be able to benefit from REM sleep.

    That’s it! Give it a shot, and leave a comment below with your thoughts. Once you try it you’ll realize that it’s not hard to do and you don’t need pills to do it. But it does, of course, take practice.

    (Photo credit: Businessman Relaxing via Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    Nick Thacker

    Nick is a novelist and founder of Sonata & Scribe. He shares productivity hacks on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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