Take a Power Nap

If the Offbeat Breathing exercise I went over in my last post doesn’t work for you, try simply taking a quick cat nap. It may not seem easy to take a nap in the middle of the day, but if you time it just right, a quick nap can boost your productivity more than you’d think. I’ve told you about the mid-day slump between 1:00 and 3:00 PM in the afternoon. Well this also happens to be the best time for a power nap.Power Nap Power!

You should keep it to about 15 to 25 minutes for maximum benefit. Any longer than 30 minutes, and your brain will start to fall into the deeper REM cycle that will make you feel groggier when you wake back up.

Try this snazzy trick to get in a quick, concise power nap. Drink a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea (whichever you prefer), then immediately lie down in a dark quiet room and take your nap. The caffeine you drank will kick in about 20-30 minutes later, waking you up with a nice boost of energy. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to jump back into productive mode.

As many people have found, a well-timed nap has all types of benefits, including boosting your memory, your cognitive ability, and enhancing your overall performance. In short, a power nap gives you more power. That’s why they call it that (I assume, I really don’t know much about how “they” think).Power Nap Wheel

Now finding the right time of day for your power nap is a bit more complicated than just when you feel tired. The particular timing of your perfect power nap depends on the time you woke up in the morning. So try using this interactive nap wheel to help you identify the right time for you.

The power nap may perhaps be one of the laziest way to boost your productivity, but it’s certainly effective. And when done right, you’ll wake feeling rejuvenated and more powerful.

Happy Power Napping!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please comment below and tell me how you take your power naps, and if you find them an effective way to rejuvenate.

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Take an Offbeat Breather

In my last post, I gave you some tips on how to trigger those happy feelings that keep you going. But if your work day is just too often interrupted with negative triggers and unavoidable frantic or spazzy feelings, it may be time to take a beat, get out of your skin and off your beaten path, and take a breather break.Feeling stressed out?

I used to get panic attacks on a regular basis. Years ago when I was still working in a corporate office, chugging away at that old familiar 9-5 job, I developed anxiety disorder and found myself taking frequent trips to the bathroom to panic, hyperventilate, and often throw up.

Now you may not have quite the same intensity of symptoms, but I know we all face a little frantic overwhelm from time to time. So if you’ve ever felt this on some level, and wondered what to do, let me try to share some of my favorite practices and advice to help get you back on the Productive bandwagon with minimal energy and time wasted.

You’ve probably tried deep, slow breathing to calm yourself down. But there’s actually a more useful technique I’ve found — one that can reduce stress, decrease pain, increase concentration, prevent panic attacks, and even stop headaches.

Take a Moment to BreatheHere’s what you do: Breathe in while you count to 4. Exhale while you count to eight. Repeat for at least a minute. In for 4, out for 8.

Why it works: Breathing at this rhythm increases your “heart rate variability.” That means there are slight differences in the length of time between your heart beats, from one beat to the next. The more variation, the better. High heart rate variability protects against stress, anxiety, inflammation and pain. So think of this exercise as your own personal army that can help protect you from the negative feelings and stresses that threaten to slow you down.

Next time you’re feeling anxious or angry or just plain unmotivated, try this slightly more structured breathing exercise, and see if you can feel the difference in your heart’s rhythm. It just might be the key to helping you get your mind off those negative triggers and anxious feelings, and realigned with your heart’s true rhythm and inspiration.

Happy Heart!Happy Breathing!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please comment below and tell me how this breathing exercise worked for you, or any other calming or centering practices you find useful.

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Reset the Clock

“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.” -Annie Dillard

I’ve always been jealous of those people who can get 4-5 hours of sleep every night and still seem to function perfectly every day. Alas, I’m not one of them. I’ve come realize I rather need at least 8 solid hours of sleep every night or else feel my sanity rapidly decline. I end up thinking slower, reacting slower, even moving slower, and I definitely notice a swifter tendency to grumpiness.

What’s more, as long as I can remember I’ve had trouble falling asleep. It can take me anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours (yes it happens) to get that rapid eye movement going. So not only do I need a lot of sleep, but it also takes me an extra long time to get started.

So naturally this has been an area of concern that I’ve been meaning to address for some time now, which made it a perfect goal to work on this year as The Productive Artist.

This year, I intend to reset my internal clock to hopefully address my insomnia and start getting a consistently solid night’s sleep. After reading much on the subject, and consulting doctor’s advice, I decided the key ingredients I need to conquer are my sleep pattern and my routine before bed.

My Sleep Pattern

Studies have shown it is essential to commit yourself to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day. Doing so would not only help your body realize it is sleep time sooner, but will also increase the quality of sleep you get once asleep, and help ease you into the following morning more smoothly as well.

So my first step was to decide on a set bed and wake time to stick to. Given that a lot of my creative moments come later in the day, and that I’m really not a happy morning person, I decided to aim for a 1am bedtime every night, and then set my wake-up alarm for 9am every morning.

Now the difficulty is sticking to that schedule, especially when there are always anomalies such as parties or special events that keep you out later, or an earlier-than-normal morning meeting. But as long as I try my best to stick to it, and manage to do so the majority of the time, I know it will still be a vast improvement for me. And that’s part of the benefit of setting goals isn’t it? Because even if you don’t reach your full goal, you’ll still have accomplished something more than if you hadn’t set the goal in the first place. Shoot for the moon and you’ll at least reach the stars.

My Pre-Bed Routine

That decided, the other difficulty is how to be able to fall asleep faster. This will partly be addressed as my body adjusts to the more consistent bedtime, but that won’t happen immediately. So I’m going to need some help in the beginning to conquer this.

Upon further study, I uncovered a few key daytime practices that can affect how well you fall asleep that night:

1. For one, you should avoid eating less than 2 hours before bedtime, particularly spicy or fatty foods, to give your digestive system time to relax and settle down. Drinking lots of liquid too close to bedtime can also disrupt your sleep cycle, when you get up to use the bathroom. If you must drink something however, researchers have found that tart cherry juice may contain a high content of melatonin, the sleep chemical in your brain. And if you get the late night munchies, an empty stomach can actually keep you awake. So try to eat a light snack that’s high in tryptophan – which can also boost your brain’s melatonin levels – such as pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, eggs, meat (why do you think you get sleepy after eating turkey at Thanksgiving?), cheese or chocolate (that’s right, chocolate).

2. Along the same lines, you should avoid any other consumable stimulants, such as caffeine or nicotine, at least 2 hours before bed, since they can linger in your system for that long. I have a pretty strong relationship with caffeine, so that’s what I need to focus on here.

3. You should also avoid strenuous physical activity or exercise too soon before bedtime. Like the other stimulants above, this will elevate your heart rate, making it harder for your brain to slip into the calm of slumber.

4. Lastly, and possibly most importantly for me, you should avoid computer and phone screens at least 2 hours before you hit the hay. These types of electronic screens are lit with a blue tinted light, which falls into the daylight side of the light spectrum and will thus trigger your brain to stop producing melatonin, the chemical that signals your body to fall asleep. So it’s important to avoid the blue light at nighttime.

Now if you’re like me, and find it very hard to put down the laptop and avoid the phone for that long before bed, there is a solution for us! It’s called the F.lux app, which you can download for Mac, PC, or even your iPad or iPhone. What it does is removes the blue hue from the light in your screen at sunset, leaving a more yellowish glow that may look a little odd but certainly does the trick.

Your screen will then return to its usual blue brightness at sunrise, which is also a very useful thing for your sleep schedule for similar reasons. Since blue light halts the production of melatonin, it has also been recommended as a good way to help your brain wake up faster in the morning. Exposing yourself to either a blue light machine or the blue light in your computer screen will have the same affect as if you stepped out into the sunlight first thing in the morning, since all fall into the same daylight spectrum.

You can now also have that big glass of water you resisted drinking before bed. Since most people are dehydrated first thing in the morning, coffee would only worsen the problem. So water is the best bet to boost your hydration, and in turn, your energy.

So now that I have my newly set bedtime schedule, and new ways to better prepare myself for sleep the few hours before bed, I feel confident I will see improvement in my sleep quality and quantity. And hopefully, I’ll see an improvement in my insomnia as well, though that may be a bit longer of a battle.

I hope you found these suggestions and ideas useful for your own sleep schedule as well, and can find ways to reset your own clock for better results.

Sweet dreams!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please comment below and tell us about your sleep routine and how you can make sure to get a consistently good night’s sleep.

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Work It Out

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Now that you’ve worked out your workspace, and whipped your routine into shape with the help of strong new boundaries, it’s time to do the same with another part of your life. Your health and fitness.

We all want to look better than we do, feel better, be in better shape. And while part of that is working out a way to accept ourselves and feel beautiful in our own skin, it also can’t hurt to have some goals around exercise and being healthier.

Perhaps one of your resolutions this year is to whip yourself into stronger, fitter shape. To achieve this, you’ll need to regiment your workout schedule and step up your routine to build the strength and skills necessary to take on whatever physical challenges and activities you want.

The important thing to remember is to make sure your routine has flexibility built into it. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with respect to resolutions around health & fitness is that they box themselves into too tight of a regimen, which then gives them an excuse to throw in the towel and give up when they inevitably falter on their far-too-specific parameters.

Create a routine that allows for the natural fluctuations in weekly schedule, and gives you room to make it work and still feel like you’re always accomplishing something. Perhaps set a goal to work out for a reasonable amount of time per week, and then even if you miss a day, you have the rest of the week to make it up. Or try giving yourself every other day off from exercise, so you have a chance to rest, or to pick up the slack if you fall short on one of your regular exercise days. With such a schedule, you’ll have the freedom to work your evolving goals into your weekly schedule as it shifts each week, and still come out on top. So no matter what life throws at you, you can still feel good about your success, and won’t lose momentum or motivation.

The other key element is having a buddy to keep you on track. We are all more likely to do something if we have someone we trust there to remind and push us. But it’s also about having someone you love be there to celebrate your success with when you do meet your goals. Because if you do stick to your health and fitness goals, you are going to feel great already. But having someone to share it with, who was there with you through the journey, will make it that much sweeter.

So I encourage you to find your ideal workout buddy, along with a weekly routine that works for you. Remember to leave room for flexibility, so you can adjust week to week and still fit it all in! What matters more is not when you do all your exercises, but rather if you do them at all each week – and of course, that you enjoy yourself and stay pumped to keep going.

So work it into your schedule, and then go have fun working it out!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please comment below and tell us about your workout goals and how you can make it work with your busy weekly schedule.

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