Getting things done: The power of an afternoon nap

It’s 2pm on a Friday, and I’ve just had a little nap – which will keep me going all afternoon.

I discovered the power of an afternoon nap when reading Make Time, where one of the key concepts is making sure you have enough energy to do all the things that need to be done in any given day.

That means the obvious things – a good night’s sleep, eating nutritious food, going for walk, taking breaks. For me though, it’s meant something less obvious – a gradual shift in the way I approach my working life.

When I was in full-time employment, my philosophy was to power through the day, getting as much done as I could, as fast and efficiently as I could. I never bought into the idea that 12 hours at my desk would prove my loyalty to the company – 8 hours of actual work did the trick, I thought.

When I was retrenched, and my hours became my own, I pretty much carried on with that way of doing things. Get things done fast! remained the motto.

But as the years of self-employment have racked up, I have discovered there are some flaws in that system. The powerful anxiety about bringing in enough money to pay the bills means that I take on a lot of work (and am glad to have it). But long stretches of time at my desk began to make me crabby. Yes I was finishing at 4pm – but I was just too irritable to settle to anything else.

And the concept of looking at my energy levels made sense as I worked on designing my working day (I do that all the time).

How I do things now

I have divided my day up into zones of work and rest that go something like this:

    • 6am to 11am – work, work, work, with breakfast at my desk
    • 11am to noon – walk the dog
    • Noon to quarter to 1 – work (small tasks)
    • 12.45pm to 1.30 pm – lunch (not at my desk!) and a 20 minute nap
    • 1.30 to 3.30 or 4 – work
    • Half an hour for another walk, or work in the garden
    • 4.30ish to 6 – work
    • And done for the day.

That is a long day – but the rhythm of it means that I can get a lot done, and still have time and energy for other things.

How to take that 20-minute nap

Twenty minutes is all I can do without messing with my night-time sleep patterns. And the discipline is really simple. Turn off my phone’s sound, set a time for 20 minutes and lie on a bed with my eyes shut. Most days I am actually dreaming by the time the alarm goes off – and that ability has improved over time. But the simple act of being quiet with my eyes closed is a really powerful pick me up.

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Main picture: Wes Hicks on Unsplash


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