The Power of the Nap to Increase Your Focus and Productivity
Have you ever had one of those days (or a series of days) where you’ve felt completely off?
That was me, this week. I hit a wall. My son was preparing for a four-day conference (translation: I was preparing); we had parent-teacher conferences one night this week; and the previous night, I had an evening meeting that ended at 9:30 PM. As I sat down to move the ball on my one thing for the day, I could barely think straight. Let alone focus!
I tried everything to snap out of it.
Drank a gallon of water. Put on music. Got outside and exercised. Journaled.
Finally, I gave up. I sat still and looked out my office window. I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep belly breaths, held, and slowly released them. (Trying to get some oxygen flowing in my brain.) In the new quietness that settled over me, I noticed the heavy breathing at my feet.
Apollo, our amazing Labradoodle, was taking his usual all-day snooze. Complete with deep snores, from time to time.
I realized that THAT was what I needed. A nap! 😴
Immediately, my mind was flooded with thoughts to counter the idea…Napping is for lazy folk. And you have too much to do to waste time on napping. Why don’t you break out some Bon Bons, too? I pushed away those voices and began to recall the research I had done in the past on productivity and the power of napping.
NAPPING IS PRODUCTIVE?
It seems counterproductive but it is quite true that napping is good for productivity. In fact, pushing through moments of low energy and moodiness to log more work hours drives down productivity. One global study revealed that Germans who worked 600 less hours per year than their Greek counterparts were 70 percent more productive. SEVENTY PERCENT?! That blows my mind. It’s safe to deduce that less work equals more productivity.
And when you add napping to the equation, productivity continues to rise. For another research team, groups studied were instructed to take a nap daily. It was found that the nappers engaged in less impulsive behavior, like unhealthy snacking; had a higher tolerance for frustration; also improved in focus and alertness. Let’s hear it for siestas!
So, I set my watch alarm for 30 minutes and got “to work” on a nap.
When I approached the nap, I chose that time frame in part because it takes me about half of the time to quiet my mind. The battle to appropriately value the act of napping continued in my mind. I found myself rattling off the things that needed to get done or that I “should’ve” been doing. When sleep finally triumphed, it was a wonderful thing! I awakened as a new woman!
NASA researchers have determined that a short, 26-minute nap enhances performance by 34 percent and overall alertness by 54 percent. Other findings suggest anything from 30 to 90 minutes has even more benefits. But who has an hour and a half to nap???
I'm aware that every work environment is not conducive to napping. If you have an office, try to steal away ten minutes with your door closed and your back to the door. Or instead of checking emails, you may try getting a nap in during your commute (as long as you’re not driving😄). As the weather warms, take your lunch outdoors. Find a place to sit and just be still. Incorporate deep breathing exercises. It’s not a nap. However, this small investment yields good returns in relaxation and resetting your mind for the rest of your day.
CONFRONT V. CONFORM
It is easy to get swept up in the culture of today. Work demands continue to increase. Getting to the bottom of the work pile is a rarity. Yet, no one has divined a way to bend time and provide us with an extra hour or two each day. Imagine that…
Now, more than ever, it is critical to protect oneself from the stress of overworking. Stress kills, y’all. If we want to be at our best to design and build a life and business that expresses our special set of gifts and skills then we have to confront it.
Don’t just accept stress as the new normal that everyone is acclaiming. Sometimes it feels as if the more stress you have, the more “street cred” you’ll receive. People seem to love to list their stressors with one another as if to compete for the “Who’s the Most Stressed Out” award. (I know, because I've been there!)
Hello…? There is no such thing!
It’s all a fallacy. There is no golden pot at the end of the rainbow waiting for the one who hustles the hardest and leaves it all on the court, so to speak. (Well, not outside of basketball or tennis courts.) You can earn a prize when you make choices with intention and realign your thinking and behavior. The reward: a long, purposeful life. Choose proven best practices to minimize the guesswork and maximize the benefits.
So, maybe napping is not your thing…that's ok, too. I challenge you to commit to finding 2 to 3 practices that will boost your focus and energy so that you can do the real work of living your best self. Then, incorporate them in your daily living.
Do you accept the challenge?
Until next time…
P.S. Your turn. Take a moment to consider my challenge. Share one self-care practice that you will try or restart to improve your productivity in the comment section below.