Take that Nap! They're GOOD for you!
Contributor

I’ve been so busy lately working on a curriculum for an on-line memoir course for Stanford that I feel a little nuts!  I don’t have time for much else.  I didn’t realize that I would have to write out every single thing I’ll say and do for ten weeks for the class!  That’s on-line teaching, apparently.  I have gone from being a teacher who talks to one who types. 

I’ve done a lot of teaching, but I have never written a curriculum such as this.  For each week there’s a written lecture on whatever I’m teaching that week; reading assignments; writing assignments; discussion points; supplemental Resources; and “Final Thoughts” – which for me are usually “Why did I agree to do this!” 

Actually, I think I’ll enjoy it once I get the massive tome of the curriculum written.  But it will be strange to be communicating and relating to students via computer, rather than face to face.  Change or die, they say.  I know on-line courses are the future and per usual I’m being dragged into it kicking and complaining.    

Anyway, I’ve been working hard every day, so I was thrilled to see an article in the Sunday, February 10th New York Times with the heading “Relax: You’ll be More Productive.” 

This is the news we’ve all been waiting for!  According to Tony Schwartz, the author Be Excellent at Anything (yeah, Tony, sure . . .), a “growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal—including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations—boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

Permission given!  Permission taken! 

For writers, there are some interesting implications in the article.  According to Schwartz, working in 90 minute periods at a time, followed by a break, is the prescription for maximizing productivity.   Scientists studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players, and 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.”  Lucky them. 

I certainly have noticed that I seem to be most effective writing in about an hour and a half to two hours intervals.  I also notice, doing this curriculum, that if I push my brain too hard too long, it stops on me like a mule refusing to budge. 

One of my favorite breaks when I reach this point where I can’t write another line in “Week Six” of the curriculum is to throw the ball for our dog Murphy.  Do you think because he knows the word “ball” that maybe he’s Mensa material?  I admit that sometimes when I say “ball,” he will drag a desiccated raccoon resembling road kill out of his toy box, but his brain has probably been overtaxed and he needs a nap.  Murf has found that his maximum productivity is about 90 seconds of running at 90 mph along our backyard fence telling off any innocent dog walking by, followed by a three hour renewal nap. 

Murphy is on to something.  According to Schwartz, naps are just great for us.  Air traffic controllers who were given 40 minutes to nap performed “much better” on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.  I say let them nap all they want! 

And get this, LONGER naps are even better!  A researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60-to-90 minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.

So don’t feel guilty when you take that nap.  You’re renewing—and chances are, you’ll be more productive. 

Take it from Murf.

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