#labrat: Do Power Naps Improve Creativity?

Rat Race designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Rat Race designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Conclusion: Power naps work best for brain-reboots. I found that the main key is listening to your own internal clock on when the best “time” is for you that day. Lots of articles advise a set time (and to be fair, I’ve only done this for a week so far), but I found that some days I was in the middle of cruising along in my work and would have to abruptly stop it, because it was my “nap time,” though I wasn’t particularly tired yet. Often, it was hard to pick back up where I left off — but entirely refreshing if it was a project I was struggling with or a problem I needed to solve. Overall, power naps are definitely something I will continue to use in my work process.

Monday, 01/13/14: The best nap-conditions may be tricky at times to find at work, but they’re not impossible.

1.) Stay warm. Your body temperature drops as you snooze, so pull your coat over yourself, put on a hoodie, or find a blanket.
2.) Make it dark. Eye masks are key for those who can’t shut out the lights, and they come in a wide-variety of styles (even ones that don’t press down on your eyes).
3.) Keep it short. If you’re worried about it taking a little longer for you to fall asleep, set your alarm for 30 minutes instead of the 20, so that you have some extra time to doze off before you start eating into your napping time.
4.) Control the noise. Some people are soothed by some background noise, but for the rest of us there are ear plugs. 

Tuesday, 01/14/14: It was hard to shake the guilt and anxiety that hit when I first laid down in our corner-couch nook. It’s still a cultural taboos in most American workplaces. In countries like Japan, it’s not uncommon for the highest (and lowest) ranking workers to fall asleep in their chairs at their desk (it’s called “inemuri,” which translates to “to be asleep while present”) and is a sign of dedication. It’s becoming more common for workplaces to allow, and even encourage, napping, but it’s still something I had never done before this #labrat.

Wednesday, 01/15/14: The more I take naps, the more I shake the sleeping-at-work guilt. Today (after a few minutes of being dazed wore off) I felt refreshed.

Thursday, 01/16/14: I put 27 minutes on my alarm instead of the usual 20, to give myself more room to fall asleep first. It’s surprising the difference a few extra minutes makes.

Friday, 01/17/14: A caffeine nap is when you quickly drink coffee, fall asleep before the caffeine can affect you, and (the idea goes) you wake up extra-awake and ready to go. However, the caffeine nap theory often leaves out how important it is that you drink your coffee black. I chugged my cream-and-sugar-with-coffee coffee in six minutes. At first I felt like I was vibrating. I have no idea how long I was asleep out of the 27 minutes I allotted, but I do know that when my alarm went off, I was up. Usually after a naps it would take me  5 – 10 minutes for the fog to clear. Today I felt like I was launched out of a cannon.

According to your natural circadian rhythm, you’re at your sleepiest between 2 to 4:00 a.m. and 1 to 3:00 p.m. Sounds like a cruel trick with the way the workday was set up, doesn’t it?

For years I’ve combated the “afternoon slump” with coffee, but studies show that you’re better off giving into the call of sleep for a few minutes than fighting it. In fact, napping has much bigger rewards than caffeine; just 20 minutes is said to provide an alertness boost, with 30 to 60 minutes good for cognitive memory and creativity, and 60 to 90 minutes enough for problem solving.

So we’ve decided to test out 20-minute power naps in the real world of open office plans and 9 to 5’s. For this week, I’ll be power napping (or trying to, anyways) every day and reporting back on what it’s really like to declare it nap time in the middle of your work day.

Join us with your own week of afternoon power naps! Follow this post for daily updates and to add yours in the comments, or on Twitter and Instagram using #labrat.

 

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The Right Way to Ask for What You Want

Designed by Till Teenck for the Noun Project

Designed by Till Teenck for the Noun Project

According to Creativity For Sale author Jason Surfrapp, “90% of people are afraid to ask for things.” True or not, he’s dead on about the fact that we don’t get what we don’t ask for — including the raise, the sale, or even the date. But simply asking for what we want isn’t enough. In a piece on Inc., Surfrapp suggests that asks be made with creativity, confidence, and effort:

Creativity: When it comes to selling something online, your product or service most likely has competition. Someone else is already asking people to buy, so that alone should give you the validation and confidence to ask. But, you should also think about a unique or creative way you can package your ask so it stands out from the crowd.

Confidence: When it comes to relationships, confidence is key. No one wants to talk to, let alone go on a date with, someone who has zero confidence. But just like asking for things, the more you work to build your confidence and the more practice you put in, the more results you’ll see.

Effort: No one has ever put in an insane amount of effort for something and not gotten some value out of it. The more you ask for things, in the right ways, the better you’ll get at it. And the better you get at asking, the amount of times you hear “yes” will increase.

Here’s your challenge: decide to make an ask (one that you’ve been avoiding or too afraid to bring up) and do it in a creative, confident way that shows effort. Then repeat.

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Kill The Dreaded Status Meeting

Designed by Julien Deveaux from The Noun Project

Designed by Julien Deveaux from The Noun Project

We’ve all been to the notorious status meeting, where in a round-robin fashion everyone says what they’re working on. According to research by Atlassian, you’re highly likely to daydream during this meeting, do other work during this meeting or just miss it entirely.

Author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli, suggests that in an effort to skip the status meeting and get right to work, that we kill the status meeting altogether, and only have meetings that support a decision that has already been made:

If a decision maker needs advisement pre-decision, he should get it from others via one-on-one conversations. Only after a preliminary decision is made can a meeting be convened. A meeting might be necessary for either of two reasons:

Conflict: The relevant stakeholders can debate the decision, propose alternatives, suggest modifications, or have concerns addressed.  The decision is ultimately resolved.

Coordination: If a decision demands complex collaboration from different people, teams or departments, stakeholders can convene to coordinate an action plan.

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Not Every Side Project Needs to Make Money

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Rolling Pin designed by Julien Deveaux from the Noun Project

In an interview with Explore Create Repeat, graphic designer Adam J. Kurtz talks about the importance of having a side project:

I do think it’s important for everyone to do “things” on the side. Regardless of your chosen profession, career, or job, I hope that everyone enjoys other hobbies and activities and hopefully you have the resources to take them as far as you’d like to. If you love baking, bake a whole lot of cakes sometime and Instagram that sh*t. If you’re super knowledgeable about pizza and love bringing friends to your favorite spots (like Scott Wiener, who I met recently) then maybe you start a pizza tour.

For makers, side projects are not about generating extra money or developing new skills, they simply cannot stop creating. For Kurtz, making stuff is his life, his therapy and his hobby. It’s a way to experiment and combine multiple interests without an end in mind. When you work full-time in a creative field, sometimes you need to be reminded about the joys of simply creating. Kurtz reminds us that “everyone can do anything, we just forget.”

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Why Innovation Starts With Enthusiasts

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What’s the secret to good business? “Create more value than you capture,” says Tim O’Reilly, the entrepreneur and deep thinker behind O’Reilly Media.

A key figure in the rise of the open-source and maker movements, O’Reilly knows a thing or two about launching world-changing ideas. That’s why we interviewed him for our new book, Make Your Mark.

Here’s a glimpse of O’Reilly’s take on how creatives can build businesses that really make an impact:

Where do you think great business ideas come from?

Innovation starts with enthusiasts. The reason why it starts with enthusiasts is that they are focused on the right priority, which is the change they want to make in the world, versus say, a business idea that will get funded. Their perspective is: How cool would it be if we could all have our own computers? How cool would it be if I could put up information for free on the Internet and anybody could access it? How cool would it be if I could build an assistive robot for my grandmother?

What should entrepreneurs be thinking about if they really want to make an impact?

Aaron Levie of Box tweeted something great about Uber recently. He said, “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.”

Being able to see the world in a fresh way is the essence of being an entrepreneur. You have an idea about the way the world ought to be. You have a theory about why and how you are going to connect the dots.

Read the full interview with O’Reilly—and 20 more insights from creative visionaries—in our new book on building a creative business: Make Your Mark.

Bonus: Use promo code “MAKEURMARK” to get 20% off pre-orders through Nov 17th, 2015.

Get  “Make Your Mark” now –>

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Authentic Ways to Network

Network by XOXO from The Noun Project

Network by XOXO from The Noun Project

So you want to build make some connections in your creative community? Fantastic. But if your first instinct is to attend a networking event and distribute business cards, think again – traditional networking aka “dirty networking” actually makes people feel physically dirty and is an ineffective way of making a name for yourself.

Building social currency is about being honest and authentic, and showing that you value others. In their Social Capital Building Toolkit, Harvard University researchers Thomas H. Sander and Kathleen Lowney, share some high impact and more natural ways to build social capital, including:

Food/Celebrations. ie. host a start-up open house or celebrate your agency’s anniversary.

Joint activity around common interest or hobby. ie. organize a team of friends or colleagues and play agency ball.

Doing a favor for another. ie. help another company move into their new office or volunteer space for a meetup.

Discussion of community issues. ie. talk about poor trash pickup or organize a town-hall about bike lanes.

Undertaking joint goal. ie. create a meetup or collaborate on bringing an event to your city.

Intentional relationship building (“one on ones”). ie. set up coffee dates with people you want to know.

To enjoy all the benefits of social currency, you first have to build it. Then be patient and let your relationships mature organically.

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Collaborate on Information, Not Ideas

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Information designed by Mister Pixel from the Noun Project

In an essay recently published on MIT Technology Review, Isaac Asimov states that meeting with other creatives is important, not for the creation of new ideas, but to share information that leads to new ideas:

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon. Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant… It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

New ideas are often the result of making connections between two or more unrelated items. For this to be possible, you need to have a good background knowledge in a particular field and a wide variety of items available to connect. Asimov suggests meeting colleagues in a relaxed environment to discuss a particular subject and throw around all types of odd connections. To get the best ideas, make sure your participates are “willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.”

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