Power Naps: My Secret Weapon for Being More Productive

As someone who works long hours and at home, nothing gives a boost to my productivity like a power nap. I’m also a bit of a night owl, so I rely on my power naps during the day to get work done during the day. 

Napping isn’t just for preschoolers; adults can also greatly benefit from a good power nap. In fact, napping on the job is a part of Japanese working culture! Napping has not only been linked to greater productivity, but also other health benefits such as reduced stress and lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Napping Routines

Biologically, different napping duration can have a huge impact on how you feel afterwards. This is because human sleep cycles have specific durations at each stage. You may have noticed that while some naps leave you bright-eyed and rejuvenated, others can leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. This is because you have woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle.

The goal with naps is to have them long enough for you to feel re-energized, but not too long that you fall into deep REM sleep. REM sleep is the long, continuous sleep cycle you have at night, where your body is busy repairing itself and rejuvenating.

In REM, your brain waves slow down and is characterized by rapid eye movements (REM stands for rapid eye movement). If you fall into this deep sleep stage, it becomes harder for you to wake up, which is why you feel drowsy after napping for too long. 

The 20-minute nap

According to Sleep.org, the optimum nap duration should be no more than 20 minutes. Here, the 20 minutes is the lighter stages of non-REM sleep where you reap the benefits of higher alertness and better productivity, but it is still easy for you to wake up.

For me personally, this works well but the issue I had was falling asleep in time. Most of us have experienced that inconvenient feeling where when we’re finally ready to sleep, our brain starts wandering off and thinking about random things.  So, you may want to give some extra time for you to actually fall asleep. 

Frequent meditation sessions also helped me fall asleep faster during my naps and declutter my brain. If you have trouble falling asleep, try focusing on your breathing for the first few minutes and you’ll see yourself dozing off before you know it.

The 90-minute nap

90-minute naps are also recommended by researchers because this is long enough to complete one sleep cycle. There are also huge cognitive benefits of this type of nap. A team of researchers from the University of California, Mednick et al found that people who took 60-90 minute naps performed just as well on a visual task as having a full night’s sleep.

Other research studies also show that 90-minute naps contribute to better memory. A study by Matthew Walker, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkley, and his colleagues found that a 90-minute nap significantly improved learning and memory retention.

The coffee nap

This was by far my favorite nap routine because it allowed me to combine my love of coffee with a refreshing nap. In a coffee nap, you drink coffee a short while (15-20 minutes) before you take a 20-minute nap. 

Researchers believe that coffee naps are more effective than regular naps because caffeine competes with a chemical called adenosine for receptors in the brain. Adenosine is responsible for making you feel sleepy. It is slowly eliminated during sleep. So, effectively caffeine has better access to receptors during a nap because it has to compete with less adenosine.

How to Use the Power of Accountability to Get Things Done

A reason why people often fail to achieve their goals is a lack of accountability. Unless you’re someone with endless willpower, most people don’t have enough discipline to keep working towards a goal. 

What is accountability? It’s a feeling of obligation to finish a task because you don’t want to let down a colleague or friend. If your friend plans to go to the gym with you on Saturday, they’re holding you accountable for turning up. So, this motivates you to hit the gym on that day, because you’ve become accountable for someone else as well in this case.

Ever notice that you’re more likely to get work done at a busy coffee shop or office where you see other people working too? This is a form of indirect accountability, where we work because of the fear of being judged as lazy or unproductive by others. 

Even the most dedicated sports people will have their coaches to answer to, and this is what keeps them going. For regular people, we don’t have the luxury of coaches showing us the way, so we need different strategies.

Using Technology to Help Keep You Accountable

Apps are one of my favorite solutions for accountability. Friends are family are great, but sometimes it’s hard to sync your schedules and interests together. Apps give you this flexibility. 

The basic logic behind accountability apps is that you will be ‘punished’ or ‘rewarded’ by something you value if you don’t get something done. This could be money, annoying alarms, or even an electric shock!

My 3 go to accountability apps are:

Beeminder

Beeminder helps you stick to your goals by taking away money if you don’t stick to them. It determines your success or failure by syncing with other apps like Fitbit. With Beeminder, you set your targets and deadlines. Then you have to set aside a certain amount of money that you could lose if you don’t stick to your goal.

Download: Android / App Store

Pavlok

Pavlok is a wristband that gives you small electrical shocks if you relapse into a bad habit. So, if you eat that whole can of Pringles, you’re going to get a little shock on your wrist. Pavlok works great for me because I hate electric shocks, but if you’re indifferent to them, it may not work!

You can set the wristband to shock by manually setting yourself or let someone else control it.

Download: Android / App Store

StickK

StickK is a very comprehensive accountability app, and is one of the more popular ones. Like Beeminder, it also works by setting monetary incentives. You define exactly what you want to achieve (e.g. how many hours of exercise?) and you select the stakes. 

You don’t HAVE to set money aside, but most users do. StickK apparently has over $30 million circulating in the app!

Download: Android / App Store

Why We Procrastinate- Understanding the Psychology Behind It

We’ve all been there. You have an assignment due in a couple of hours but you have the urge to take one last Buzzfeed quiz to find out who your celebrity twin is, or watch one last viral YouTube video. Or you might even be procrastinating by reading articles on procrastination, like this one! 

Though procrastination may seem like harmless fun, chronic procrastination has negative effects on our psychology and even our brain chemistry.

In this article I’ll walk you through just what procrastination is, the main causes of it and how it affects our psychology.

Procrastination statistics

Broadly defined, procrastination is the avoidance or delay of a task you are required to do within a specified deadline. Procrastination doesn’t discriminate among age groups, but it seems to affect younger people the most. According to one 2007 study, 80-90% of college students procrastinate on their academic work. 

However, older people aren’t immune to procrastination either. Based on the research of Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, around 20% of adults procrastinate chronically. We all procrastinate, but not all of us are procrastinators. 

When procrastination becomes a part of your lifestyle, it has terrible consequences for adults on their productivity, health, finances and personal and family responsibilities. It can lead to a host of health issues such as chronic stress, insomnia and poor immune function. 

According to a research study done by Sirois et al, titled ‘’I’ll look after my health, later”: An investigation of procrastination and health’’, procrastination was linked to poor health behaviors and health issues. Some of the health issues were directly due to the stress from procrastination, while others were due to neglecting health priorities. For example, procrastinators were less likely to go for medical and dental checkups. 

Causes of procrastination

There are many different causes of procrastination, depending on the personality type of the procrastinator:

1. Perfectionists tend to be procrastinators

It is well known that perfectionists tend to procrastinate more. The fear of failure tends to put them off starting a task. For these people, it tends to be both the fear of failure and success that leads to procrastination. 

They are concerned about how people will perceive their abilities. For them, it is better to not do something at all than to have people judge you for doing a poor job. These people also wait for the ‘perfect’ time to do something, after eliminating every distraction possible. 

2. Indecisive people procrastinate more

People who have problems with decision making procrastinate more, because they spend time trying to make decisions than doing the task. Indecisive people also have trouble setting clear goals, which adds to the procrastinating behavior.

3. Thrill seekers are procrastinators too

Another common reason for procrastinating is because some people get a rush out of doing things last minute. They believe that they have better performance under mounting pressure. ‘Diamonds are made under pressure’ as they say.

4. Perceived difficulty of a task

A major hindrance to getting things done is a lack of motivation. People lose willpower when they perceive a task to be more difficult and less fun than it is. So, you’re more likely to get a task done when you’re told it is fun. This is reflected in the research of Tice and Ferrari with their experiments on students. 

In one scenario, they gave students a task of completing a math puzzle. One group was told that the puzzle was a test of their skills while the other was told it was a fun game. In the group that was told that the math puzzle was a sort of test, the procrastinators delayed the task. In the other group who was told it was ‘fun’, the ‘procrastinators’ behaved the same as the other students.

Overcoming Procastination

In a future post I’ll discuss how to overcome procrastination. Stay tuned for that.

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