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

sleep_workbook

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”?

load comments (3)

Comments

Want a New Idea? Be (a Little) Narcissistic.

"Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." — Stuart Smalley, SNL

“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” — Stuart Smalley, SNL

In a new study by Cornell University assistant psychology professor Emily Zitek and Vanderbilt University post-doctoral researcher Lynne C. Vincent proposes that entitlement can stimulate your creativity:

Our results suggest that people who feel more entitled value being different from others, and the greater their need for uniqueness, the more they break convention, think divergently and give creative responses.

The key is to stir feelings of entitlement right before doing something creative. In the study, subjects did this by writing a few sentences about why they deserved positive outcomes. Sort of like a pep talk before you take on a task. However, don’t get too carried away; the study  found that it only worked for those who had temporary boosts of entitlement, not those in a perpetual state of self importance.

[via]

 

load comments (0)

Use “Energy Buckets” to Avoid Burnout

Photo by Steve Greer

Photo by Steve Greer

Burnout. You know the stages, you know the signs and you know how to avoid it. But despite our best efforts, it still happens.

Entrepreneur, weightlifter, and travel photographer James Clear shares his simple visualization to help us lead a balanced life: a bucket.

Imagine that your health and energy are a bucket of water. In your day-to-day life, there are things that fill your bucket up. These are inputs like sleep, nutrition, meditation, stretching, laughter, and other forms of recovery.There are also forces that drain the water from your bucket. These are outputs like lifting weights or running, stress from work or school, relationship problems, or other forms of stress and anxiety.

Clear says that if we want to keep your bucket full, we have two options:

  1. Refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching up on sleep, making time for laughter and fun, eating enough to maintain solid energy levels, and otherwise making time for recovery.
  2. Let the stressors in your life accumulate and drain your bucket. Once you hit empty, your body will force you to rest through injury and illness.

Recovery is non-negotiable: you can recover on your own terms or on the terms burnout sets when it inevitably catches up to you. The choice is yours.

[via] 

load comments (0)

Why “Giving” Is the Best Metric for Success

devil-details

Image by www.be.net/stuartwhitton

“It’s easy to miss the real point of our lives even
 as we’re living them,” writes Arianna Huffington in her book Thrive. “And it is very telling what we don’t hear in eulogies.” Those things include making senior vice president, sacrificing kids’ Little League games to go over those numbers one more time, or my personal favorite: “she dealt with every email in her inbox every night.”

“You never hear, ‘George increased market share by 30 percent,’” Huffington said at a recent event at Soho House in New York City. What you do hear in eulogies, she says, are stories of “small kindnesses.”

It’s well known that details make good art great. Subtle word choices separate great poets from amateurs. Small flourishes define superlative architecture. Tiny considerations make products world-class (“Jobs spent days agonizing over just how rounded the corners should be,” writes Walter Isaacson about the Apple II in Steve Jobs).

I think the same can be said about building a great business. Tiny considerations in the interactions companies have with their customers are all about focusing on people before profits—and, paradoxically, this can yield huge returns. This is the mentality that Wharton professor Adam Grant talks about in his research on corporate “givers” versus “takers.” In various now-famous studies in his book Give and Take, Grant has shown that the most successful people in the workplace tend to be the ones who give selflessly to others without expectation of returned favors. Research by Jim Stengel, former global marketing head at Procter & Gamble, shows that this also works at a corporate level. Businesses “center[ed] on improving people’s lives outperform their competitors,” he writes, after studying a decade of market performance of fifty thousand brands.

In Thrive, Huffington argues that power and money have too long been life’s main yardsticks of success, and that we should measure our achievements instead by four new metrics: Wisdom, Wonder, Well-Being, and Giving. If the eulogy test is an indication, Giving is likely the most memorable of the four.

“It’s tempting to reserve the giver label for larger-than-life heroes such as Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi, but being a giver doesn’t require extraordinary acts of sacrifice,” Grant writes in Give and Take. “It just involves a focus on acting in the interests of others.”

This is an excerpt from 99U’s new book, Make Your Mark. It features 21 essays and interviews on building a creative business with impact, including the full text of this essay by Contently co-founder and journalist Shane Snow.

Get  “Make Your Mark” now –>

mym-display-400

load comments (0)

How to Get 90% of Your Work Done Before Lunch

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 12.36.37 PM
Over on Inc., Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, shares 16 tips for getting 90 percent of your work done in the morning, after which you can push back from your desk to enjoy a leisurely lunch.

His approach is built on the Pareto principle, which holds that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Arrange the layout of your work day by front-loading, so that you’re executing the meat of your workload when you’re freshest and firing on all cylinders.

A few favorites from his suggestions:

Schedule your day the night before. Every day, you should list all your tasks and when you’re going to do them the following day. You will not be productive unless you plan out everything you’re going to do the next morning. Quick tip: Don’t schedule too much. Keep your to-do schedule light to actually accomplish real work.

Make 60-second decisions. Decision making is a time-draining vortex. When you’re faced with a decision in the course of your work, give yourself a one-minute limit. Your decision will be just as good, but it will take less time.

Do your writing early on. Writing is one of the most mentally demanding tasks. However, writing also has the power of focusing your brain and improving your productivity. Do you writing early in the day, and you’ll improve both the quality of your writing and the rest of your day.

Reward yourself at a certain time. Set the clock–a countdown timer if you have to. At a certain point, you’re going to stop. So, stop. Break out the kazoos, throw some confetti, and do your happy dance. It’s time to reward yourself.

What better motivation than a refreshing mid-day break and the knowledge that you’ve drilled through the bulk of your workload? You’ll be primed to zero in on the remaining 10 percent.

[via]

load comments (2)

Why Quitting Is OK

By Bettina Tan

By Bettina Tan

Conventional wisdom holds that the higher echelons of any industry are populated by people who never quit. But writer and designer Sarah Kathleen Peck suggests that quitting is not only OK, it can be richly constructive.

In a post on Medium, Peck describes what she learned from observing her enduring pattern of enthusiastically starting projects, pausing partway through, and beating herself up for failing to ship:

What was happening? Why was I quitting? Life happened. Things got hard, they got rough: deadlines built up. Real work pulled me in. The need to take a run and take care of my body surfaced. The competing pulls of attention and focus and deadlines wrapped me in their compelling arms. But something else was happening, too. Ten days of paper-crafting…led me to building an entirely new online program of my own.

Skimming the lessons in a business-building mastermind opened up a new way of creating sales pages. Reading half of a book propelled me into my next project. And then it hit me: what if I was getting exactly what I needed?

The idea is that quitting can beneficially lead to embarking on a different project that’s informed and nourished by the abandoned one. Peck suggests that it’s possible the ego is the only part of ourselves that actually cares about finishing, at least when it comes to exploratory creative work:

You don’t have to do everything to get something out of it…. No one said you have to get 100% done and be perfect to enjoy the fruits of your progress.

If you’re working on something that’s not beholden to someone else’s deadline or parameters, don’t finish for the sake of finishing. Quit to see what space you’ve opened up for something even greater.

[via]

load comments (3)

WALL-E & Why You Should Embrace Creative Wandering

On the commentary track (around 5:11) for Pixar’s animated film, WALL-E, director and writer Andrew Stanton discusses how the creative process can sometimes lead you to unexpected places and hard decisions:   

I always sort of always equate story development to an archaeological dig, in that you kind of know the dinosaur you want to dig up and where it is. You pick a piece on the ground and you start digging and you bring up bones and you start trying to piece together this dinosaur or the story you’re trying to find, but you just don’t have much say about which bones you’re going to get and what bones they are…

Stanton understands that sometimes everything about your dig will point to a tyrannosaurus rex. Then at the last minute you’ll dig up something and realize all your bones were backwards and you actually have a stegosaurus. He asks the hard question: do you shift everything around at the last minute to show a stegosaurus or do you just force it to be a tyrannosaurus rex?

Even if it extends the deadline, it’s better to realign your project then to force it to be something it’s not. When the creative process takes your concept for a spin, go with it. Stanton concludes, “I am very, very lucky that I work for a place that encourages last minutes ideas.”

[via]

load comments (1)