We know REM sleep is important for productivity because it’s the deepest part of sleep, where the brain makes connections and regulates emotions. Missing out on REM sleep means you’re bound to be short tempered and less likely to produce effective work. Over on Inc, neuroscience writer Christine Comaford shares a few ways to boost your stamina if you’re not getting the recommended eight hours of average sleep each night:
Get 20 more minutes of sleep….20 minutes more sleep per night can boost performance at work two to three times. Wow! How can you get 20 more minutes? Go to bed earlier, sleep later, take a 20-minute power nap, or perhaps even use what she calls a “sleep proxy” (meditation, reflective walking). A 10- to 20-minute nap is tremendously effective, too; just be sure to stop at 20 minutes…as you’ll wake up feeling groggy.
Moderate stress. Chronic stress results in your body cranking out cortisol, which is toxic to brain cells. Excessive stress may also shrink your hippocampus and make your amygdala hyperactive. In escalated stress, we focus on negative memories, too. One solution is to activate your parasympathetic system with a five-minute visualization or relaxation exercise, short walk, burst of exercise, or breathing exercises. All are likely to build neural tissue.
Comaford explains that spotting the signs you’re REM sleep-depraved are simple enough: excessive negative attitude, irritability, general crabbiness, and seeing things as general hopeless.
If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, the solution could be as simple as getting 20 more minutes of rest, moderating your stress that day, and finding ways to boost positive emotions (like spending a few minutes watching funny videos).
Read Comaford’s full insights on tips for combating the negative affects of REM sleep deprivation over on Inc.
As creatives, we want everything designed to precision. However, when your time is limited, you need to decide where to focus your energy. When Bulbstorm visual director Dwight Knowlton decided to self publish his children’s book The Little Red Racing Car, he learned that you need to focus your perfection on the products that are going to last:
One of the most important lessons that I’ve had to learn is to “choose my perfect.” I have to be willing to let imperfect work out the door if it’s disposable or can be updated.
For Knowlton, things like a book cover mock up and email newsletter serve their purpose, but will ultimately be discarded. By letting imperfect work that is a little bit more utilitarian out the door, Knowlton can save his “best attempts at ‘perfect’ for the products themselves.”
As we free up more time and increase our per-hour output, we can easily exhaust our physical, mental and emotional energy by working longer and harder. To help manage our energy, blogger Penelope Trunk suggests re-imagining our time by splicing it into engaged time vs. unengaged time:
People actually don’t mind working long hours when they are engaged. Burnout is not a result of how much work you’re doing but what type of work you’re doing. So instead of organizing time into work time and personal time, you could organize it into time when you like what you’re doing and time when you don’t like what you’re doing. This is actually my big gripe with Tim Ferriss. He says he only works a 4 -hour week, but he really means he only does four hours a week of work that is not engaging to him.
And as the gray area between work and life becomes ever murkier, this can be a great mindset to help find your balance. If you have high-pressure life events that can’t be avoided, it might be a good idea to reschedule that big presentation or huge project deadline for another day (or vice versa).
Being an entrepreneur can mean a demanding, unpredictable schedule; spreading oneself way too thin; and trying to pull off tremendous, seemingly impossible feats. This sometimes leads to burnout, and even if we don’t want to admit it, unhappiness. Matthew Toren penned a piece for Entrepreneur about habits of healthy, happy, and wise entrepreneurs. One of the best practices that leads to happiness? Setting and enforcing boundaries. Sounds obvious, but definitely easier said than done when you’re trying to please everyone from employees to spouses. Toren recommends:
For example, if you commit to your partner that Friday night is date night, you have to enforce the boundaries of your business creeping into your Friday nights. If you set the boundary that every morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. you’re at the gym, you can’t let your staff infringe on that boundary with early morning meetings.
Boundaries are really about discipline. Exercising our power to stick to our word and values helps to minimize conflict, guilt, and that doing-too-much mentality.
For many creatives, finding new clients can be challenging, and well, a real drag when all we want to do is work on our next masterpiece. Alex Mathers of Red Lemon Club developed a list of 50 ways for creative people to land clients. A creator himself, the list is both practical and creative-centric. Here are a few of his suggestions:
10. Shoot a behind the scenes film of your workspace and share it online.
15. Give a free talk on something that would truly benefit your target prospects and encourage people to connect with you at the end.
32. Create a free web-zine using collaborative writers on a topic of interest to prospects that generates leads for all of you.
34. Create a written tutorial on something you’re uniquely good at and share it online.
We have to face the facts: creatives, we’re also business people. Luckily, we have a unique advantage: creative energy that we can harness to land clients in innovative ways that align with our strengths. What better time than now to pick a new tactic from Mathers’ list and implement it with creative gusto?
Research over the last decade has shown that there are proven methods for sparking creative insights. If you want to be more creative, author and researcher Jonah Lehrer explains at The Wall Street Journal, you’ll simply need to coax your brain into it. Lehrer gives us 10 tips on how to do just that, here are some of our favorites:
Get Groggy: According to a study published last month, people at their least alert time of day—think of a night person early in the morning—performed far better on various creative puzzles, sometimes improving their success rate by 50%.
Daydream Away: Research led by Jonathan Schooler at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found that people who daydream more score higher on various tests of creativity.
Think Like A Child: When subjects are told to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds, they score significantly higher on tests of divergent thinking, such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire.
Laugh It Up: When people are exposed to a short video of stand-up comedy, they solve about 20% more insight puzzles.
While creativity has been viewed as magical concept for centuries, research like that Lehrer points to shows that it’s little more than a series of cognitive tools our brains use to solve problems. Learning how to hone those skills (as Lehrer explains) means we can spark it in ourselves and our work whenever we need it most.
In filmmaker Werner Herzog’s book A Guide for the Perplexed, he describes his ideation process and how he selects which concept to develop first:
The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion. My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge. I don’t sit and ponder which one I should deal with first. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence.
When Herzog is overwhelmed with ideas, he selects the concept most avid in his mind. From there he works it until completion before moving on. He describes finishing a project like having a weight lifted from his shoulders. It’s not necessarily happiness, but an ease of ending one thing before starting the next. However your ideas find you, make sure you finish through to completion – whether that means writing it down in a notebook or following it through to realization.