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Napping on the job
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I'm reading
Napping on the job
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I'm reading
Napping on the job
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24 September 2013

Napping on the job

Why it’s time to overhaul our approach to ‘productivity’ and put some rhythm back into our working days.

Written by Thea O'Connor

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.

I discovered napping ten years ago, and it has changed my life.

After years of working with numerous organisations in different capacities, I’ve learnt that working harder no longer offers a competitive edge.

Why? Well, everyone’s doing it.

What’s more, when we keep putting in the extra hours but fail to notice when fatigue sets-in and push on regardless, the quality of our output goes down in a big way.

National statistics indicate that this approach to productivity is also leaving too many people, energetically speaking, in the red: tired and stressed, with personal health and relationships taking the brunt, in addition to workplace performance.

The stats are pretty alarming:

  • One in three fulltime Australian workers and almost one in two fulltime working mothers say they are extremely tired or completely exhausted all of the time, according to the Australian Work-Life Index 2010.

At the same time our world is in the midst of a make-or-break search for more sustainable ways of living. I’m sure the irony of burning out while trying to solve the earth’s energy crisis is lost on no one.

It’s time to try a new approach. We’ve all heard that creativity and energy and being prized more than ever before – inner resources that are not cultivated by working long and hard like machines. Rather we need flexible ways to quickly refresh our focus and spark fresh thinking.

This got me thinking – what can we learn from the experience of human burnout as well as our attempts to conserve and wisely use our planet’s limited energy? Well there appear to be some common pathways to energy depletion, both of the earth and the human body.  These include:

  • Disregard for the real limitations on our energy reserves,
  • Over-reliance on non-renewable energy sources,
  • A drive to sustain intense output over a prolonged period without pause, and
  • A tendency to ignore the early signs of depletion.

Here are some of my thoughts about how we might avoid falling into these traps. I’d love to hear yours.

Respect our physical limitations.  Respecting our limits isn’t something modern Western culture encourages us to do – it tells us we are meant to break down barriers, reach for the stars and never say “never”. Well, personally I have found respecting my own limitations through choosing to do less incredibly liberating and restorative. As long as we are grounded in our human bodies, there are basic needs and limits that warrant respect. Eat when hungry, rest when tired, say no when too busy.

Increase our reliance on ‘renewable’ sources of energy. Most of us rely on a tea or coffee to get us going in the morning, a sugar hit to get us through the afternoon and good dose of stress that keeps us wired.  These ‘non-renewable’ sources of energy are sure ways to over-ride tiredness short-term, but longer term they lead to depletion. In contrast good food, enjoyable movement, mindfulness, powernaps and a good night’s sleep are proven ways to renew our energy. Getting off the addictive adrenaline train can be really challenging but refreshing for our adrenal glands and our capacity to think well.

Tune-in to the rhythms of our living system.  All of our ‘operating systems’, such as our cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive or hormonal systems, are cyclical not linear, with ebbs and flows over a 24 hour cycle.  Imagine enjoying a work ethic that’s actually designed around such biological rhythms, rather than over-riding them.  I do and that’s why I’m such an advocate of normalising the mini-siesta in our work culture. When our alertness dips mid afternoon, as it’s genetically programmed to do, even when you are well-slept, responding with a powernap is a proven way to boost mood, concentration, alertness and memory.

Next week I will bring you a summary of what the science tells us about the proven benefits of napping. Meanwhile, if you like the idea of honouring your body’s rhythms, and at the same time disrupting our prevailing work ethic which is way past its use-by date, then NapNow and Dumbo Feather invites you to take The Nap Challenge over the next three weeks of this blog series.

The Nap Challenge: 6 little sleeps to a fresh new you!

How: Lie down and cover your eyes for up to 25 minutes only (any more and you can feel groggy), twice a week for the next three weeks. It doesn’t matter if you don’t actually sleep, the focus is on stopping and renewing. If you think you don’t have time just start with five minutes.

Reward: Two-three hours of extra afternoon energy!

Why Take the Nap Challenge? No matter what your profession, personal sustainability is essential to your livelihood. Why not try the powernap as a potent source of ‘renewable energy’ and a proven performance enhancing practice?

Participating in the challenge is an opportunity to:

  • Train yourself in the habit of taking a brief energy-boosting break during your day, rather than simply pushing on despite fatigue, or relying on artificial stimulation to get you through the afternoon
  • Help re-shape our Western work culture into one that recognises the mini-siesta as a smart and socially acceptable practice.

N.B. if napping is not approved in your workplace, do it on the weekend, or during your lunch break (try your car).

Thea O'Connor

Thea O’Connor is a health journalist, speaker, coach and naptivist. She takes a horizontal stand for making the mini-siesta a valued part of our working day! Read more at thea.com.au.

Feature image provided by Thea O'Connor

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