Should We Be Sleeping in Shifts, Rather than 7-Hour Blocks?

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Science shows that sleep is essential to memory and creativity. As the NY Times reported, “Sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.” But what if we’re going about sleep all wrong?

Most humans in the industrial world sleep in one long stretch. We go to bed, sleep for 7 or 8 hours if we’re lucky, and then get up and go to work. But, as a recent New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert explains, this isn’t the way we always slept. And it may be why nearly two thirds of Americans claim that they’re not getting enough rest during the week.

Wolf-Meyer refers to the practice of going to bed at around eleven o’clock at night and staying there until about seven in the morning as sleeping “in a consolidated fashion.” Nowadays, adults are expected to sleep in this manner; anything else–sleeping during the day, sleeping in bursts, waking up in the middle of the night–is taken to be unsound, even deviant. This didn’t use to be the case.

Until a century and a half or so ago, Wolf-Meyer observes, “Americans, like other people around the world, used to sleep in an unconsolidated fashion, that is, in two or more periods throughout the day.” They went to bed not long after the sun went down. Four or five hours later, they work from their “first sleep” and rattled around–praying, chatting, smoking, or making love.(Benjamin Franklin reportedly like to spend this time reading naked in a chair.) Eventually, they went back to bed for their “second sleep.”

Flickr founder Caterina Fake recently discussed her experiments with sleeping with shifts. And creative luminaries from Winston Churchill to Thomas Edison to Salvador Dali have been known to appreciate the art of intermittent sleep.

What’s your take? Are you looking for a better solution than “consolidated sleep”?

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The Importance of the Daily Check-In

Question Designed by Rémy Médard for the Noun Project

Question Designed by Rémy Médard for the Noun Project

On LinkedIn, entrepreneur Joris Toonders shares why taking 15 minutes a day to ask yourself these four questions — two first thing in the morning and two just before bed at night — is exactly what we need to improve ourselves. Here are the first two:

1. What are my goals today?

Most people have goals in the long term, but don’t translate them to the short term. If you want to grow your business by 20 percent in the coming year, what are you doing today to reach that long term goal? Are you really doing the right things today to reach those goals?

2. What are my challenges today?

Successful people set themselves challenges every day. It’s a way of living. You have to challenge yourself every day, to get the most out of you and become better, faster and smarter…

Try it yourself by setting an alert on your phone or computer to remember to answer the two questions in the morning and the two at night. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself thinking a lot more diligently about how you spend your time (and feeling better about the work you do) as a result.

Read all of the thinking behind Toonders insight (and get all four daily questions you need to ask) right here.

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How to Set Goals Like Google

What’s the best way to set goals? Google Ventures Partner Rick Klau says the best goals center aroundh Objectives and Key Results (or OKRs). Over on the Google Ventures blog, Klau explains the pillars for exactly how to set worthwhile goals using OKRs:

• Objectives are ambitious, and should feel somewhat uncomfortable
• Key Results are measurable; they should be easy to grade with a number (at Google we use a 0 – 1.0 scale to grade each key result at the end of a quarter)
• OKRs are public; everyone in the company should be able to see what everyone else is working on (and how they did in the past)
• The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 – .7; if someone consistently gets 1.0, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough.

Watch Klau’s presentation in the video below to see how Google came to use OKRs and why they’ve proven to be more powerful than simply setting an average, to-get-done goal. Or read Klau’s story of how he first learned about OKRs on Google Ventures.

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Daunting Task? Take a Walk First.

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Chair designed by Loralee Barratt from the Noun Project

When faced with a daunting problem or large task, our instinct is to burry our heads until the job is done. On LinkedIn, Dr. Marla Gottschalk explains why that’s not always the best way of tackling problems. In-fact, she explains that we should occasionally walk away from the work:

You may not perceive fatigue, yet your mind may actually be exhausted. Rest of some form is required. In these moments, the brain may find the energy required to engage… Even at rest, our brains continue the quest to connect the dots.

Integrating periods of rest while you work on key problems is critical. You may find that a walk or meditation works for you….You might listen to your favorite pieces of music, read your favorite cartoons, game — but offer your brain the “down time” it needs. Whatever the activity you ultimately choose, the process is of no less importance. If you find yourself stressed and tired while working on a problem, take a moment to relax.

The brain is a fickle machine, but it’s fortunately one that continues to work on problems even while our consciousness is elsewhere. Stepping back to take a break might feel like moving backwards, but it’s often what your brain needs to actually move forward.

Dr. Gottschalk ends with a powerful reminder: “Above all, remember that the brain cannot be bullied into becoming effective.”

Read the full article on LinkedIn here.

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End Your Focus Drought

Crosshair designed by Phil Goodwin from the Noun Project

Crosshair designed by Phil Goodwin from the Noun Project

Between everything that nags at us during the day, it’s hard to stay focused on what matters most. Our lack of focus costs us time and lowers the quality of our work. Fortunately, Andrea Ayres-Deets of Ooomf has found a few ways to beat focus drought. She writes:

Do focus intensive tasks around your brain’s schedule

Your peak distraction times occur between 12 p.m.- 4 p.m. and you will find that you become sleepy at 2 p.m. Your brain’s energy reserves and alertness begin to slip during these times. You can work around this though.

Your brain handles tough cognitive loads best in the late morning hours (after 10 a.m.). At this point in the day your brain is fully awake, it’s (hopefully) fed, and humming along quite nicely.

In the afternoon try switching up tasks and going for a walk to snap your brain back into an alert and active state.

Chew gum

Yes, this sounds weird, but research shows that chewing gum increases the oxygen flow to the parts of your brain responsible for attention. It also improves your long term memory and injects a bit of insulin into your blood which may help give your brain that added energy boost.

Being able to find your ideal focus will allow you to not only get more done in a shorter amount of time, it can help you to produce better work too. Less distractions means your able to put all of your cognitive power into what you’re working on now.

Do yourself a favor and grab a pack of chewing gum then head over to Medium to read Ayres-Deets’ tips for getting your focus back.

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Top Weekend Reads: 35 or Younger? Traditonal Career Advice No Longer Applies

Designed by Ruben Sheep for The Noun Project

Designed by Ruben Sheep for The Noun Project

As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our most-shared Twitter links for your weekend reading pleasure.

From around the web:

From 99U:

For more, make sure to follow us on Twitter.

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How to Raise Your Hourly Rate (Politely)

Creatives often struggle with how to raise their hourly rates assertively and politely. How do you go from $50/hour to $60/hour? Ramit Sethi explains his three-step formula for gradually increasing his hourly rate on his blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich:

  1. Let the client know what you’ve already done for them.
  2. Let the client know you are going to be adding more value.
  3. Explain why the rate is going up.

But how exactly might we communicate this to the client? Using the example of a tutor negotiating with their student’s mother, Sethi gives us the specific vocabulary to ask for more: 

Hello Nancy,

Just wanted to give you a quick update on how things are going.

This year I’m going to be making a few changes. First, I’m going to be adding a complimentary review session, once a month, where Betty can come in along with a few other students and we can focus on specific tactical questions that they have about their math homework and the upcoming preparatory test that they need to work on. 

Second, I also want to let you know that I’m going to be increasing my rates from $50 – $60/hour. If this is an issue, let me know – I’m happy to recommend other people at a lower price. But I believe that with the progress Betty and I have already made – plus the work that we’ve put in and the complimentary review sessions – that this continues to be a great value.

So I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and I hope things are going really well.

Sethi stresses that it’s the consultant’s job to make their client successful. Therefore serving your client should be the focus of your negotiation, not the extraction of as much money as possible.

Watch a quick video reiterating these points below.

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