Do you wake up at the crack of dawn tired but knowing you have to get to work? Do you check your messages from your smart phone before you even pull back the covers in bed? How about skipping breakfast or lunch because you feel like you just have to much to do?
What about your email? Do you find that the sheer volume of email you get every day is growing at an alarming rate? Do you leave work later than you’d like to or take work home with you? The more we work, the more it becomes a job in itself to get things done. Face it, sometimes you just want to hit delete and start all over again.
More and more of us are finding ourselves in this situation, and it really shouldn’t have ever reached this point when something a simple as a nap might alleviate the issue. Time is the resource on which we’ve relied to get more accomplished. So when there’s more to do, we invest more hours or more time.
But time is finite – you can never get more. There is no app that creates a 26 hour day. That means many of us feel we’re running out of time, that we’re investing as many hours as we can while trying to retain some semblance of a life outside work. The truth is, it’s exhausting.
Take a Nap, Be More Productive
So how can we fix this? That’s simple. Just relax. Take a nap. You’ll be more productive.
- Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance. In a study of nearly 400 employees, researchers found that sleeping too little, which is defined as less than six hours each night, was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out.
- A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.
- Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap and slept an average of 19 minutes fully asleep they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.
- Taking more vacations is similarly beneficial. In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent.
- Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm. They have more job satisfaction and less stress.
The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology as human beings. We aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. That means we cannot work hour after hour and day after day without periods of rest. We’re meant to bounce between spending and then recovering energy.
Why We Need to Work in Bursts
Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximum productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and even chess players.
In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day. They work in small bursts and then rest their minds and bodies.
To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.” When you work to exhaustion, you are not working at your full potential, you are simply lying to yourself that working more means working better.
Teach your Employees to Work Smart
One way to get the best performance from employees is to instruct them to work in bursts and then rest. By managing their energy more skillfully, using their human condition as a tool to be our best, it’s possible to get more done in less time and with more sustainability. This is because when you are rested, you are ready to work and ready to be productive.
We need to teach workers to periodically relax. They need to take a real lunch break and not eat at their desks. They need to take a vacation. An employee who acquires the maximum amount of vacation time they can earn in a year is an employee who definitely needs to take a vacation.
When we are renewing ourselves through rest, we are truly renewing our ability to be productive. That way when we’re working, we can really work smarter – rather than working until utter exhaustion, sleeping a few hours that we perceive as rest, and then starting back to work. We can be more productive if we flex our time, allow for naps and breaks, work smart, and avoid burning out.