Archive for July, 2014

Productivity is one of the words that start with P that I hear students talk ALOT about. The other is procrastination. Funny how they both start with P and are 5 syllables but take exact opposite meanings. Especially with exams and deadlines round every corner, the question as to how we can increase our productivity levels become all the more pertinent.

People have written ENTIRE BOOKS on this subject which is why the more I researched, the more I procrastinated writing about productivity because it’s not easy to condense it into one (or a few) straightforward and simple blog post. Guess all that reading hasn’t helped me become more productive seeing that the last post I wrote was way back in May! I think I have the over-thinking over-planning and under-executing disease.

Anyways! Back to my main point. I think there are about 4 or 5 possible ways in which we can all level up on our productivity and you may not like some of the things that I’m going to say but after scouring the literature on productivity, one thing that EVERYBODY talks about is the effect of sleep deprivation on productivity levels.

It’s one of those chicken and egg thing. You’re feeling you had an unproductive day so you sleep less to make up for it and then the sleep deprivation leads to you being even less productive the next day, so you sacrifice more sleep etc etc. I honestly feel bad telling students to sleep more. I do. I know you guys have so so much work to do, notes to revise, papers to go through that sleep can really be a premium that many students feel they can’t afford. But I also believe in science. And science is telling us that chronic sleep deprivation leads to deficits in short-term memory, ability to focus and be on task, processing speed etc and these are just the cognitive functions that suffer. There’s a whole bunch of other scary stuff that scientists talked about like how sleep deprivation gives you a 55% higher risk of obesity, screws with your metabolic system, increases your risk for diabetes and coronary heart diseases etc etc. But to me, it’s the cognitive deficits that I worry about because you guys need those cognitive functions to be tip top going into the exam hall. 

Some of you may be thinking, ‘but I feel great when I sleep less! it’s when I sleep more that I feel all tired and lousy’. I’m not sure I have a complete explanation for this. It could be the adrenaline or the increased levels of cortisol that is artificially propping you up when you sleep less, and then when you do allow yourself to sleep more your body literally crashes cos the exhaustion has really accumulated.

I won’t belabor the point and if you like you can look at some of the previous posts I’ve written on this subject here, here and here

One really concrete thing that you can do today though (if you’re feeling super motivated to do something about your sleep after reading this) is to reduce your exposure to artificial light before your bed time. Some people think ‘well I’ll read my ipad until I feel sleepy’. The problem though is that the blue light from our gadgets acts like caffeine on our nervous system and directly stimulates the cortex which keeps us artificially propped up and awake when we really ought to be feeling sleepy. It also interferes with the secretion of melatonin which as we all know is essential to the quality of our sleep. I experimented with this on myself the past couple of weeks (I don’t sell stuff I haven’t tried myself). So the last 2 weeks I started by putting all my gadgets away by 8.30pm and read a book instead. In the past I would only get sleepy around 10pm (I know…still very early by your standards). Now? I can barely make it past 9.15pm and my book isn’t that terribly boring either. I also slept deeper and had less vivid dreams and felt more rested the next day. 

Now that I have even more sleep, I’m feeling more productive so in the next couple of weeks I’m gonna try and put up a few more posts on other stuff that will help you to level up on your productivity.