Don’t feel guilty about taking an afternoon nap on a Tuesday

I love a nap in my working day. It’s not always possible. (for example when I’m running a training course or a strategy day!) However, now so many of us are working from home it does provide more opportunities for napping. And napping can help our focus and productivity.

When I first left a ‘proper job’ and started working for myself, I was thrown sideways by how hard I found it. I completely underestimated how much I’d miss my colleagues and having people to bounce ideas around with. I also found it really hard to focus and get the work done. That’s why I put in a lot of effort into testing different ways of working until I found the things that worked for me. My important findings were:

It doesn’t matter when you do the work as long as you deliver what has been agreed, on time and to a high standard. Humans are not designed to work from 9am to 5pm. This is a leftover from when a large number of the workforce worked on production lines when everyone had to be there at the same time in order for the thing to get made. Today, especially now so many of us are working from home there is flexibility to work the hours that better suit us. That might be working around childcare and family commitments as well as daylight hours and when we do our best work.

The time of day that you do different tasks can help your productivity. We all have cycles; times of day when we’re more alert and decisive, times when we’re more creative and times of day when stringing a sentence together feels like a struggle.

I’m definitely more productive and have better attention to detail early in the morning. That’s when I need to do the difficult stuff that I need to think about. By 2pm my brain is getting foggy and I shouldn’t be trusted to do or remember anything important. Later in the afternoon I perk up again and can often have a really productive few hours. There’s no point working late at night. I’d rather get some sleep and get up at 5am. The same piece of work that will take me 3 hours at 10pm, will take me an hour (and will be better quality) if I do it at 5am.

Naps help my productivity. I love a nap. My body clock is definitely geared to wake up early, get stuff done, have a mid afternoon nap, wake up do more stuff and then bed at a reasonable hour. I was pleased to discover that there is much research showing the health benefits of naps. They can improve cognitive performance as well as boost mental and physical health. Naps help us to stay alert, can reduce stress, and we’re more productive as a result. There’s even such a thing as a nappuccino. (Coffee before a nap. For full details download the step-by-step guide to the perfect nap here)

Often when I’m running sessions with teams about establishing habits for happy and productive flexible working, including naps and working different hours, the topic of guilt emerges.

I hear things like ‘If I’m not at my desk from 9-5 I feel guilty.’ or ‘I’d feel too guilty to nap’ or ‘I feel guilty if I don’t answer my email straight away’

Is guilt healthy or unhealthy?

Guilt can be healthy. Feelings of guilt can motivate you to live according to your values, which, in turn, can improve your relationships with others, since you’re more likely to treat them as you would wish to be treated. However, unnecessary feelings of guilt can be unhelpful or even harmful to your quality of working life.

If the thought of working different hours or taking naps in your working day sparks feelings of guilt keep reading. Below are some tips to help you tackle these feelings. It will take practice and deliberate re-thinking to change entrenched patterns of guilt. Be patient with yourself and your team. Remember flexible working is here to stay and for it to be a happy and productive experience the best time to tackle any guilt about working flexibly is now.

Be direct and get more information. Ask your colleagues and manager whether it matters when you work. If you’re part of a team it’s important to agree and communicate when your working hours are. Good use of an out of office responder or a line in your email signature to let people know when you’re there and when you’re not can help manage expectations too.

Napping has been proven to increase productivity. Rather than pushing yourself through the brain fog, a better use of your time is to take a nap and return refreshed and more alert. It will make you more productive. Have a go at reframing a nap as a productivity hack.

Challenge your expectations of yourself Consider whether you have a tendency to expect too much from yourself. Then, think about how an outside observer would view the situation. What would an outsider say?

Think how you’d see things if the roles were reversed. What would you think if your colleague said they were going to nap between 2 and 3 each day and work an hour more at the start or the end of the day? We often find it easy to be compassionate and understanding with others but are too harsh on ourselves. By deliberately taking the other person’s perspective, you’ll likely see your situation in a more objective light.

Look for the evidence. If you feel guilty not working the conventional 9-5 because you’re feeling that you’re ‘not doing enough’ or feel that others will think you’re not doing enough, list all the things that you’ve delivered on at work. Will working different hours make any impact on your ability to deliver?

Give yourself permission. Or if you manage a team, explicitly give your team permission (or you could even set it as a task) to figure out when they are most productive, when they are least productive and when a nap would be beneficial. Experiment to find the working patterns that work best for you. Agree them with your team and ensure everyone knows. This manages expectations and reduces feelings of guilt.

Working flexibly is here to stay. It’s a big shift in mind-set for everyone. It’s important that we look after ourselves and each other. Rest when we’re tired, work when we’re at our best and nap when we need to.

If you’d like help to ensure that your team is happy, productive and guilt free in their flexible working life, drop me a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

Quick tips on how to be successful at working from home

Working from home

In 2012 I left a full time permanent job to go freelance, and I started working from home. I believed (and still do) that I could make more of a difference working with lots of different individuals, teams and organisations than being on the inside of a big, slow-moving establishment.

I remember how it felt when I first decided to work at home permanently.

Great in theory. Terrible in practice.

Working from home as your main way of operating is very different from having a permanent job and working from home occasionally to get a report, application or strategy paper done without interruption. The days span out ahead of you with so much to do, so many intentions, a million movable deadlines. You’re accountable to you. Who will find out if you don’t get dressed, if you eat all the Hobnobs or catch up on Netflix? I’ve learned that to successfully work at home, be productive and remain sane there’s some things that you need to put in place.

We’re all different and the first lesson is to find your own systems, routines and tactics that work for you. You might be choosing to work from home, or it might be something that is necessity because of the coronavirus situation. Either way, you have a choice. You can choose to make the most of the opportunity and do your best. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at working from home, or if you’re new to it, here’s some tips that I hope will help.

Have a routine

Get up at the same time each day. Get washed and dressed. Wear clothes, that if you had an unplanned video conference or if a client or colleague popped in for coffee would be acceptable. I don’t mean that you have to wear a suit, but you do have to wear something.

Start work at the same time each day. Sit at a desk. Give yourself breaks. The worst thing is to potter about putting off work doing ‘important’ tasks like washing, cleaning up, and sorting out your sock drawer. It’s fine to do these ‘important’ things as long as you start work on time. For me, I always feel like I’ve achieved if I’ve put a load of washing on – and my rule is that it must go on before I go on my fake commute (see below).

Focus

I’m a list lover. I write a list at the end of the previous working day of the most important tasks to do the following day. I re-assess the list first thing in the morning and then I force myself to do the priority tasks first. Don’t write a list of everything. It works best for me when I have three clear priority tasks. I mean tasks that are manageable. For example if you have to write a marketing plan, don’t write ‘Do marketing plan’ on your list. Break it down into smaller chunks. For example, you might start by 1. Get email response rates and web analytics 2. Analyse the email response rates 3. What can you learn from the results and how might that influence your email marketing going forward? The days when I don’t do this are not as productive as the days that I do. It’s that simple. However not always that easy.

Work in chunks of time

The Pomodoro Technique suggests breaking your time into 20 minute chunks. I know my concentration span is about 45 minutes. What’s yours? Start to experiment. Start a piece of work that you need to focus on. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Then gradually set the timer for longer. How long can you focus for? Find your optimum and then set a timer and break your work into chunks of your optimum size.

Turn off distractions

When you work from home there are, at any given moment about 17,000 distractions that take you away from the tasks you need to get done. Turn off all distractions. Turn off notifications on the million apps you have on your phone. Put your phone out of arms reach. Turn off your email. Get a task done on your list.. Then, and only then check your email, WhatsApp and your dogs Instagram. (Yes, Gary has his own page – check him out here!)

Work when you’re at your best

We’re all different. I know I do my best work first thing in the morning. I often get more done between 6am and 9am than the whole of the rest of the day. Think about how you work and make sure you schedule the hard work at the time of day you’re most productive. Then in those slump times, when you’re less productive, go for a walk, have a power nap or do some of the admin that you can do on autopilot.

Do a fake commute

I’m a big fan of the fake commute. Whether that’s a walk round the block via the local coffee shop or a stroll round the park or even for some the walk from the front door to the spot where you’re working – fake a commute. I think this is helpful for two reasons. Firstly, it signals the start of serious work, which, if you’re working from home can be tricky (especially if you’re not choosing to work from home, but it’s happened because of a necessity of the current coronavirus situation). Second, if you have a walk it gives you time to get your thoughts in order for the day and it’s a transition from non-work world to work world.

I don’t do a fake commute home. I’ve only just thought of it now as I’m writing this blog. Maybe I’ll give it a go.

Sit at a desk

It’s a lovely thought, loafing about on your sofa getting work done. However, in my experience it’s better to sit at a desk. Better for your posture. And also better for concentration. There’s advice about cordoning off a part of the house for ‘work’. I have an office in the spare bedroom, but I tend to work on the dining room table. Maybe because it’s nearer the kitchen, or maybe the light is better. I honestly don’t know. My tip is to work at a desk and work in the spot in the house that you feel most like working in.

Don’t have food that you can graze on in the cupboards

This is a very tricky one right now with people stockpiling food in preparation for self isolating and panic stories about supermarkets selling out of pasta, tomatoes and toilet rolls. (I’m not suggesting you eat toilet rolls) For me, if I have any food in the cupboard that I can pick at, snack at or in the case of cake ‘neaten up’ then its so distracting that I can’t concentrate until I’ve eaten it. And I can’t just eat one biscuit in the pack. The whole pack has to go. So, if this resonates with you, simply don’t have food that you can graze, pick or neaten in the cupboards.

Connect to other people every day

This is the most important tip. If you do nothing else take note of this one. Humans are social animals. We need connection. I’m an introvert. I like my own company. I’m happy alone. I’ve travelled on my own a lot and had a marvellous time. In fact, some of the worst experiences travelling alone involved being adopted by well meaning families who didn’t want to see me having dinner on my own.

However, extrovert or introvert, we’re fundamentally all social animals and need connection. I remember when I was new to working from home having a chat with a client on the phone. They were the first person I’d spoken to all day. They needed to get on with their work. I was asking them what their plans were for the weekend because I didn’t want to get off the phone! This was a problem!

If you’re working from home ensure that you have connection. Not on email or messenger. Have a conversation with another human being. Schedule at least one phone or video conference call with a colleague, friend or client each day. Talking to the dog/cat/guinea pig doesn’t count here. You need a two-way conversation.

Connect today

I’ve got two things that will help you work from home. First join the Lucidity Community Facebook group. A place to connect, ask for help and get support on anything work related.

And then watch this free webinar on being happy and productive when working from home.  Here’s your link to sign up.

Free webinar - be happier and more productive working from home

 

And if you’d like to connect, please drop me a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk and we can book a time for a chat.

Take care x