7 Ways to Take an Effective Nap (and How It Can Boost Productivity)
I know what you're thinking. I usually write about how you can success by simply working harder.
Or how you can take a normal day and turn it into an exceptionally productive day.
Or how you can push through barriers to do your best even on your worst day. I'm a nose applied firmly to the grindstone kinda guy.
Then one day, sitting at my desk, I leaned my head back... and took a nap.
And woke up 20 minutes later feeling recharged, refreshed, and eager to dive back in. Suddenly, I realized a nap isn't always something to resist; an intentional nap can actually improve my overall performance.
The key is to nap wisely and strategically, so I turned for advice to someone much smarter than me, especially where the science of performance and personal productivity is concerned.
Daniel Coyle is the author of The Talent Code (one of the few books I actually give to friends) and The Little Book of Talent (a book I've written about before) and a blog about performance improvement that belongs on your must-read list. (Last year I shared Daniel's tip for making feedback 40 percent more effective.)
Here's Daniel's advice for making the most of a power nap:
I was brought up in a family of world-class nappers. My father was legendary for his seemingly effortless ability to attain the holy grail of napping: the three-hour Sunday snooze. My mother took the micro approach, stealing catnaps on the living room floor without a pillow. This resulted in a recurring scene: my brothers and I coming home from school to the unnerving sight of dear old Mom laid out unconscious on the carpet, arms splayed like a CSI victim. Then she'd spring up to greet us, the imprint of the weave still on her cheek. It was like living with Lazarus.
It turns out Mom and Dad were ahead of the curve. We are living in the Golden Age of the Performance-Enhancing Nap: neurologists are touting the learning benefits of midday siestas; Silicon Valley companies are competing to see who can design the hippest nap rooms. Napping is not just napping anymore; it's a skill. So with that in mind, I'd like to offer the following rules.
1. Take your shoes off. Leaving shoes on for a nap is like wearing a swimsuit in the shower: just because you can doesn't mean you should. This is not about being efficient--it's about scoring a high-quality unconsciousness, and that means getting comfy.
2. Get horizontal. Yes, truck drivers and astronauts can nap sitting up. But you are not an astronaut. Even Thomas Edison, a workaholic who liked to boast that he only slept four hours a day, obeyed this rule, clearing off his workbench and stretching out like a champ. Plus, getting horizontal lets you fall asleep 50 percent faster than sitting; it's the cue that tells your body, "This is for real, dude."
3. Get under a blanket. Napping slows your metabolism; you naturally tend to get chilled. The trick here is to have a blanket that's not too heavy, and not too light. A medium blanket--like an afghan--lets you cocoon without getting too warm or cold. A hoodie works in a pinch.
4. Aim for the sweet spot of 20 to 45 minutes. Go longer (like my dad usually did) and you are moving past the nap zone into the zombie zone--the kind where you find yourself unable to fully wake up again for hours. While this creates ample entertainment opportunities for others ("Hey, let's switch the clocks ahead, cook pancakes, and trick Dad into thinking it's morning") it's considerably less productive for the napper.
5. Aim to nap after lunch. The Spanish figured this out a long time ago: just after lunch is when your body is in a natural down cycle. Stop resisting and embrace the fact that an afternoon yawn is the equivalent of a flashing neon sign that says: TIME TO ZONK.
6. Avoid using wake-up gimmicks. Salvador Dali held a key in his hand so that he would awake when it clanged to the ground. But this is a terrible idea (unless you are a surrealist and want to paint a lot of melting clocks). These tricks only serve to end the nap before you get to the good stuff--the short, deep sleep cycle, where you awaken after 20-45 minutes. Instead, set a backup alarm on your phone for 45 minutes.
7. No bragging about what a great nap you just had. Just take it in stride. The rest of us can tell anyway.