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