Sleep

CoolTimeLife Podcast: Daylight Saving Time and Net 60 – Both Must Go

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Daylight Saving Time and Net 60 – Both Must Go. It explores some long standing anachronisms such as why keyboards still use QWERTY, and why companies take two months to pay suppliers? These are antiquated processes that we hang on to in the same way that our calendar still pays homage to Roman gods.

Twice a year, most of the world manually changes its clocks, meaning that no matter when you read this, no matter when that happens to be, you are no more than six months away from having to do it again. And you will also be reminded by your local fire chief to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. It’s ironic, really, that the time change that happens in the Fall does so now in November, a month whose name was given to us by the Romans, like all the other months, and which was originally the ninth month of the year, hence its name. Novem is Latin for nine or ninth.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how many things we hold onto despite living in a world of change. There are not many cultures in the world that still celebrate and worship the gods of Roman times. Countries now play host to a range of religions, yet we still hang on to the Roman and Norse names for months and days. Why do we stick with that? Tradition? It can’t be out of loyalty to the Roman gods. They haven’t been in favor for centuries.

Look at the keyboard of your computer or phone. It is still laid out in the QWERTY style of keys that has been around since typewriters first made their appearance in the late 1800s. This layout of keys is far from the most efficient. It was developed to prevent jamming of the letters, which used to be mounted on rods to strike an inked ribbon. The letter combinations that are most commonly used in English are spaced far apart to slow down the typists of the day. There is also an apocryphal story that points out that the word “typewriter” can be typed out using just the top row of keys, meaning that the typewriter salesmen of the day did not have to learn how to type to show off the product to customers. This fact, if true, has a direct echo in the world of commerce today, in the area of electric cars. Stories abound of old-school car salespeople burying their new battery-powered models far back on the lot, unwashed and unloved because they themselves cannot understand them and do not know how to sell them.

In all these cases – the continued use of Roman names, the continued use of the QWERTY keyboard and the reluctance to embrace green vehicles, these all point to that reluctance that is at the heart of change management, as well as to the fact that despite all the progress we have made, there are still some things we want to keep old school.

Look at the other item I mentioned earlier – the thing you’re supposed to attend to each time you change your clocks: the smoke and CO alarm. Most people still use the old-school smoke alarms – those white plastic pucks that say DO NOT PAINT in white on white letters that are impossible to read, and whose batteries always start to fail at 2:30 in the morning, depriving people everywhere of sleep thanks to their incessant chirping.

I did some research on why they tend to fail in the dead of night rather than at a more convenient time during the day. It has to do with the drop in air temperature that often happens in houses during the night, either because of the relative cool of a summer night, or the thermostat being programmed to drop a degree or two when everyone’s tucked in their beds. Whatever the cause, a quick drop of a degree or two is enough to trigger a smoke alarm whose detector has become faulty due to the failing electric current of expired batteries.

Anyhow, the point of that explanation was to say that this need no longer be the case. Smart detectors, connected by the Internet of Things, are now much better able to alert a homeowner and family members of a problem using a clear human voice, messaging to smartphones, and the intelligence of machine learning to distinguish between the heat variations that might happen during the cooking of a meal, versus a real problem. In other words, we might soon be coming to the end of an era where we no longer need a fire chief to remind us to change the batteries twice a year when the device can do it for us.

Time marches on, and innovation marches alongside. It might be viable to play devil’s advocate and state that not everyone in the world can afford an intelligent Internet of Things enabled detector for their homes. That might be true. But the same might have been said about cellphones and smartphones once. Yet imagery from the most desperately poor parts of the world, including African deserts and refugee camps, show people carrying smartphones. They have indeed become universal.

Can We Break Away from QWERTY?

So, did I write all this just to talk about smoke detectors? Not entirely. They represent the types of changes that could and should happen in the world but for some reason do not. Look once again at that QWERTY keyboard. Why do we still have it laid out like that? You don’t even need physical keys anymore. Keyboards could be entirely based on clear glass or on laser projections on a surface. Some already are. And these could be configured to arrange the letters in any way you want. Alphabetic order, vowels on the left, consonants on the right, your favorite letters grouped closely together.

And the argument that you need consistency so that all computers operate the same and that everyone can use them will not be an issue when I can download my personal preferred keyboard layout from the cloud and drop it into any device for as long as I want.

There is another argument that it would take too long to train people to change the way they type but given how quickly humans have learned how to use Facebook without any prior computer programming or data processing education, such a theory stands on shaky ground.

There are just some things that people cannot let go of due to comfort with the past that pushes stubbornly into the future.

Flex time, for example. How can you trust your employees to do work when they’re at home? Well, I for one, look at end results and the nature of the back and forth communication and I balance that against the reality that no one ever puts in a solid eight hours of work, even when they’re in the office. It’s not possible. If an employee must put the laundry in, or go to the gym, or go and pick up the kids from school, so be it. It’s the quality of the work that counts and by and large happier employees are more motivated to make that happen.

Lifelong learning is a similar challenge. It’s difficult for the powers that be to let go of the idea that the only good education is classroom style, when in fact, more can be gained from smaller courses delivered more frequently and delivered in accordance with the individual’s own learning style. And I say that as someone who has delivered classes for years. I welcome its demise, quite frankly.

Why Can’t Clocks Change Themselves?

Back to the clocks for a second. How many clocks do you have in your home, including your car, that you had to manually adjust when the clocks changed? You’ll have to do them all again in a few months, except, for those on your smartphone, computer, or connected to your smart devices. They will have changed themselves through their connection to the Internet of Things.

Now, imagine a world where every timepiece, not just domestic, but industrial, medical, you name it. Anywhere that we keep time – imagine the day when they are all connected to the Internet of Things. You say to me, “Are you suggesting that all these clocks will change themselves?”

Yes, and no. I am not suggesting all these clocks would simultaneously leap forward or backward an hour at the appointed date. That would be simply automating an antiquated process, the digital equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. No! I want to see the day when all clocks adopt a timekeeping system that eliminates the need for the one-hour leap entirely. If it can be proven that we need to adjust the clock at all – something I am still not entirely convinced of, since its reasoning seems to be solely one of economic convenience – if we still have to do it, then why not have all clocks adjust by one second per hour, or 20 seconds per day in some sort of leap second format? I know some devices rely on microsecond timing to keep machinery and medical equipment running perfectly – it might not be as easy as I make out, and surely someone has already thought of this and disposed of the idea. But I cannot believe that a global manual resetting of clocks is in any way more practical.

Imagine if things were the other way around. Imagine if there was no clock adjustment at all, we just lived with the seasons as they are, and someone came along and suggested that every home, factory, and hospital in the world should manually re-set every clock twice a year? It would not fly.

Net-60 Invoice Payment Needs to Die

And this brings me to a final idea connected to these earlier ones by time and tradition. The concept called Net 60. Anyone in small business soon discovers that if you want to do work with large companies, you will have to come face to face with the accounting department, and they do not always move comfortably into changing times.

You will discover that work done today, and invoiced at the end of the month, will then be processed over a 60-day period from the time of receipt of the invoice – a process that in total, from the time of work performed to the time of payment could be three months – longer if your own bank holds the cheque. This places the onus on the small business owner to hold onto enough money to live for three months before payment arrives.

Terms like net-30 or net-60 or even net-90 were put in place to protect the cash flow of large companies, helping them be sure they could cover their own costs and recoup their own receivables before paying off the help.  And to be sure, according to the Golden Rule, which reads “he who has the gold makes the rules,” such a policy has been the way of business for decades and it’s unlikely that any accounting department would be willing to change that up and expose their company to shorter-term financial risk any time soon.

Except for the following, maybe.

In this age, there is now a new alternative. Point of sale and remote payment systems like Square and PayPal mean that suppliers can get paid by customers immediately, securely, and directly without relying on clearing systems like banks or AP departments.

The giants may scoff at this, but what it means in terms of supply and demand, is that the best suppliers, with the best quality and the best price, will go to the best customers, being the ones who pay promptly, as in, within minutes, not months.

This, by extension, means that companies who stick with an antiquated cash flow system may find themselves committed to hiring and using secondary or lower quality suppliers. The best and brightest will have already paired up with equally-minded entrepreneurial companies.

It is said that people always drive into the future with their eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror. We hold on to traditions and procedures because that’s how it was back in the day. But next time you shop online, pay online, call for an Uber or connect to a Skype conference, think about what you’re doing and why you’re not doing it old-school.

Sometimes it makes sense to move forward into the future, and that means more than just adjusting your clock by 60 minutes in the Spring.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Daylight Saving Time and Net 60 – Both Must Go. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at stevenprentice.com/podcast.html

If you feel you derived value from this blog or the adjoining podcast, please consider supporting our work by sending a small donation of $1.00, $2.00 or $5.00. It helps us give more time to research and prepare the episodes. The secure PayPal link is available on the podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html.

CoolTimeLife Podcast: Managing Your Metabolism

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Managing Your Metabolism. It describes how moving from reactive to proactive is a positive brain-body exercise that will help you do things right, do things better, and foster more constructive relationships.

Imagine you won that big lottery. No more worries about making money, no need to get up when the alarm clock tell you to do so, what would you do with your life? Not so much in terms of your hobbies and interests, but how would you structure your day? Would you continue to get up early in the morning to enjoy the sunrise or would find yourself rising later and later and enjoying the evening nightlife instead?

When you look at this ultimate situation where you have complete control over the coming and goings of your day, you get to see what your metabolism is really like; how you would be ideally suited for a 24-hour cycle. Some people are morning-oriented. They are naturally able to wake up in the morning, while others are night owls who find themselves doing their best work as the sun goes down and as the evening moves on.

So, who are you? How do you operate? What you do with your time reveals a lot about you and becomes the beginning of an understanding of your metabolism – how you operate as a person.

We can’t all win that lottery. Most of us have to go back to work some way or other, but when it comes to getting things done, managing time, seeking out a balance in life, it’s essential to look at your metabolism. This is your vehicle that carries you through time; your brain, your body, your “self”.  But it is so often overlooked. You can make it work far more effectively once you understand it.

The Metabolic Blood Sugar Level Chart

redline

This wavy rollercoaster line that heads in an overall downward direction throughout the day, represents, in simplified form, your metabolic blood sugar level. Your personal metabolic blood sugar level will vary based on how well you slept the night before, as well as what you ate for breakfast.

Your Golden Hour: 9:00-10:30

Most people, on a busy workday, have a breakfast that consists of coffee and some carbs, such as toast, bagels, muffins or cereal. These tend to burn off extremely quickly. So the blood sugar level moves through the day with its peak around 9:00 a.m. That is the best time of day for getting things done: 9:00 a.m.

This high blood sugar level period is a result of a confluence of three significant activities:

  1. Your breakfast
  2. The presence of morning sunlight – Sunlight is a natural stimulant that removes the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin from your bloodstream. These three stimulants, working together, make the period between 9:00 and 10:30 the most productive period of the day, at least for the 8 out of every 10 adults who are morning oriented. It’s when most of us are at our intellectual and attentive best. For learning, strategy, research focus, sales… whatever it is that you do, that’s the best time to do it.
  3. The energy and mental shift expended in getting to work

Unfortunately, it is often overlooked, and we spend that time doing more mundane things like checking and returning email.

The 10:30 Crash

For many people, the first blood sugar crash of the day happens around 10:30 p.m. This is when the coffee and the carbs have been completely used up, and you hit a blood sugar low. Traditionally people take a break mid-morning to get more coffee and more carbohydrates to get themselves through to lunchtime. So the rollercoaster continues. We buoy ourselves back up wit this energy until noon.

The Tragedy of Over-Lunching

Noon is a difficult time because if you are already hungry by lunchtime, you will fall into the trap of overeating, which is something that fast food restaurants exploit hugely. It’s a hunger urge brought on because people do not eat in a regular and controlled fashion. If you fast between 10:30 and 12:00, the hunger urge will make you want to eat more than you need to at noon.

Moving from the 10:30 crash to noontime, the ideal approach is to graze, to take food in in a more regular fashion. This means grazing on healthy foods not junk. The idea here is to keep hunger at bay by satisfying your body’s nutritional needs like stoking coal onto a fire: smaller more regular amounts work much better.

The 2:30 Crash

This mid-afternoon time is a double threat to productivity. First, we tend to echo the deep sleep period of 12 hours earlier (called the ultradian rhythm), and there is a tendency to lose focus and abilities somewhat at this time. In some countries, this was culturally accepted as time for a siesta. It’s an energy trough initiated by the ultradian echo and then compounded by the demands on the digestive system brought on by overeating at lunchtime.

These troughs can be substantially lessened in their depth and severity. One of the easiest ways to do this is to change your choice of foods to include a morning protein source. There are many types of food to choose from:

  • Yogurt
  • Protein smoothies
  • Dairy products
  • Meats
  • Nuts
  • Oatmeal

An intake of protein in the morning will allow your blood sugar to stay much more level throughout the entire day, even long after breakfast has been digested.

What about Taking a Nap?

Is it OK or even advisable to take a nap in the afternoon? For the North American and growing globalized working communities, a nap is not looked upon favorably as an ideal use of company time, even though I would venture to disagree, assuming the napper returns to a more alert state immediately afterward.

It’s ironic that being stuck in a useless meeting where 20 minutes or more are wasted, is seen as a normal part of doing business. But spending those same 20 minutes having a nap may be career-limiting.

Ultimately, if you are a natural napper, you would know this by now. It will already have inserted itself into your daily ritual. If napping does not come naturally to you, then it’s not worth pursuing, because the opposite reaction can occur. A nap can rob you of part of your natural sleep cycle later that night, which can rob you of quality sleep and make the following day less productive.

What if You are a Night Owl?

The proportion of night owls in any group of people anywhere in the world is generally 20% or two out for every ten people. For this group of people, their circadian wiring extends into the evening and the night.

If you know this about yourself, perhaps you can find or create a line of work that matches it. That’s not so farfetched. This is an age where work-life integration is a reality. It may be very possible to negotiate a job starts at 2:00 p.m. and ends at 10:00 p.m. It might also be very useful.

When I graduated and joined the workforce, I joined a temp agency who would send me to work at banks. I would start my “day” at 5:00, taking over the typing and number crunching that a 9-to-5 staffer could not finish. When they arrived at work the next morning, the work was ready and waiting for them. Although you could argue that this work could have been done by a person halfway around the world for less, the fact was, they hired me because I immediately understood the job, and was physically onsite to talk to the stakeholders face-to-face before they left for the day.

There are many types of work that require people to be available on a different schedule. It might be up to you to find them and make your pitch.

However, this might not be possible, at least for the moment. So if you are a night owl stuck in a day job, what can you do to compensate? Negotiate with your “morning person” colleagues and managers to schedule morning meetings a little bit later in the morning or perhaps opt out of the meeting and read the summary instead. Or schedule the meetings in the afternoon, after making sure the meeting room can contribute to productivity, as we described in the previous podcast.

Why is This Nutrition Lecture Important?

The reason for talking about nutrition here is because this is the fuel for your metabolism – your body and your brain. You cannot expect this device to work at a constant level of standard energy throughout the day. Blood sugar ups-and-downs are a fact of life. Knowing how to work with them is an amazingly powerful way to ensure you get the right things done at the right time.

If the morning is the best time for you, then that should be the time for you to assign yourself your most important tasks of the day. If the afternoon doldrums are particularly hard for you, then assign the less challenging work, such as returning emails, or if you have meetings at that time, make sure you can compensate for the doldrums with:

  • Natural light
  • Good ventilation
  • Exercises
  • Breaks

This is something we covered in a previous podcast, The 55 Minute Meeting. You can listen to it here or read it here.

So What About Exercise?

For people working a traditional workday or wok week, it can be very hard to find time to put exercise into your day. Many people think that exercise must be formalized in terms of going to the gym and working out. This again is a personal thing. If you are someone who can exercise at 5:00 a.m., or 5:00 p.m., if that feels natural and good for you then go for it. But if it doesn’t, then don’t, because that‘s not the right form of exercise for you.

Instead, figure out what things do work for you. Do you like to cycle? Or walk briskly? When you connect your wireless headphones or earbuds to Spotify where you can download cardio-friendly music, it becomes very easy and very motivating to take five or ten minutes to squeeze some exercise into your day.

There’s always a way that will fit you. Take that lottery-winning vacation dream, observe how your body would prefer to work if there were no rules, look upon the way you like to do things and identify what really works for you, your metabolism and the context of your life.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Managing Your Metabolism. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html

If you feel you derived value from this blog or the adjoining podcast, please consider supporting our work by sending a small donation of $1.00, $2.00 or $5.00. It helps us give more time to research and prepare the episodes. The secure PayPal link is available on the podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html.

Do You Need More Sleep?

2nd-Edition-Cover-FrontHow much sleep do you actually need? The answer is, it varies. Some studies suggest that the average North American adult needs between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. But it really depends on the individual. Some need a lot, some just need less.

An easier test is this: if you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, that means you are not waking up naturally, which means your sleep cycle isn’t in tune with your day. If you wake up Monday morning having had one hour of sleep less than you need, then you are in sleep deficit. If the same thing happens Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, by the time you get to Friday, you’re short five hours of sleep. Then, by trying to compensate by sleeping in on Saturday morning, you throw your rhythm even further off. (The best solution is to get up at the same time every day, and go to bed at the same time every night.)

Sleep deficit is another example of the gulf between how we perceive our actions and abilities within time, and what is actually going on. We are fighting battles with ourselves, physically, chemically, emotionally and intellectually, every second of the day.

By the way, there is a better solution to sleep deficit than merely going to bed earlier, and that’s to introduce higher quality sleep more quickly, through the proper use of downtime, including less usage of laptops, tablets and phones in late evening hours, since these give off too much stimulating light. There are some low light settings on more recent operating systems, but in general, staring at a light source cannot help but reverse the sleep-inducing effects of melatonin.

Bottom line, sleep is a matter of quality over quantity. The important thing to remember is  that the stage is set long before your head hits the pillow. The evening hours are crucial for establishing the right chemical balance for great sleep to work its magic.

This is an excerpt from my book, Cool Time: A Hands-On Plan for Managing Work and Balancing Time. If you would like a copy, hop on over to my Books page. If you would like me to come and speak to your group, contact details are available on my Speaker page. Either way, you will win back time and money. It’s just practical common sense.

If you are interested, we have a newsletter –  a real brief monthly one – that discusses issues around productivity and explains how my keynotes can help. Sign up through Constant Contact here.

The Chemistry of Sleep: A Recipe for Effective Time Management

Time Management MagazineThis post originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Time Management for iPad Magazine.

Here are three things everyone needs to know about sleep: first it’s pure chemistry; second it’s a twenty-four-hour a day thing; third, it’s about quality over quantity.

Sleep is the single greatest investment in productivity and time management there is, followed in short succession by nutrition. When a person arrives at work, ready for a new day, he/she should be able to do so feeling mentally refreshed, alert and headache-free. But because sleep is associated with “not working,” it is discounted as a tedious necessity by many overly busy people, who opt to sacrifice it in the name of doing more work. The bitter irony here is that they would not actually have to do all that extra work, if adequate sleep had been allowed in the first place.

The chemistry of sleep is a hormonal process. Primarily, a hormone called melatonin, produced by the pineal gland located in the centre of the brain, triggers the nervous system to shut down for the night. Melatonin can only be manufactured in low-light conditions. What this means for busy working people is that the production of melatonin starts as soon as the light receptors of the body (the eye and the skin) perceive a decrease in ambient light. So as the sun starts to move toward the horizon, the body anticipates nightfall and starts to produce the hormone in anticipation of sleep.

In a nutshell, this means that the sleep sequence doesn’t start the moment people put their head on their pillow, but rather it begins as the workday draws towards its traditional end of 5:00-ish. The amount of melatonin in the bloodstream then builds up over the following six hours or so until a sufficient amount exists to help a person drift into a sleeping state.

The problems start when people fight this process, either intentionally or otherwise. For example, succumbing to the temptation to take work home in the evenings, to catch up on emails after dinner, or to simply keep on working, forces the body back into “alert” mode where it must fight against the introduction of melatonin by effectively diluting it. Furthermore numerous recent studies have shown that the blue light emitted from electronic devices such as TVs, computers and smartphones is precisely the type of light that is instrumental in decreasing melatonin production.

It is not necessary to remain totally inert between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and midnight; it’s more a matter of identifying activities that are enjoyable, and which continue the production of melatonin, and those that are more stressful and which naturally inhibit it. For example, playing a late evening game of hockey might be highly aerobic and stimulating, but since it represents a form of mental relaxation – it’s a hobby, not an obligation – the chemical process of melatonin production is not substantially inhibited. Contrast this to staying up late to do homework, or bookkeeping or taxes. The stress that comes from doing work that we would really rather not do erases the gains of melatonin production and severely jeopardizes the chance of getting a good night’s sleep.

The role of sleep is to provide rest for the body and mind, allowing both to repair the wear-and-tear from the day before. Healing happens overnight; kids do their growing overnight; dreams process thoughts, memories and experiences and sort them all out on the short-term memory platform of the brain where they are discarded the next morning. Most importantly the immune system is the primary beneficiary of good sleep, helping bolster against short-term illnesses such as colds and flu, as well as more long-term and dangerous conditions such as cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

When a person comes to work after having had a good amount of sleep – even just a few hours will do, not necessarily 8 or 9 – the mind is better able to prioritize, negotiate, delegate, communicate and focus. That’s where it becomes a time management issue. The time invested in allowing an evening to unfold as it should (rather than catching up on extra work) is paid back in terms of higher-quality productivity being attained in shorter periods the following day.

 

Problems getting to sleep?

sleepRecently a past workshop participant asked me for advice on how best to fall asleep. Her mind gets too busy with thoughts, which leads to one of the classic problems of working people – sleep deficit.

To wind down towards healthy sleep, one must first remember that the build-up towards sleep is a gradual chemical process, in which the body introduces the hormone melatonin into the bloodstream bit by bit. As such, rule number one for getting great sleep is to see the entire evening as part of this build-up process, so focus should be placed on relaxation, not work issues.

Relaxation is a very personal thing, and refers mainly to an emotional-chemical state rather than just being physically passive. mainly it comes down to fun. Vigorous sports, such as skiing, basketball or working out can be relaxing, because even though they are vigorous, they are mentally relaxing, which allows the release of Melatonin on-schedule.

By contrast, evenings filled with extra work left over from the office, or even doing life-related work such as bookkeeping, paying bills or things like that, are really not enjoyable and as such stimulate the body to work against itself, the sleep build-up process and stimulating it into action.

Rule number two for great sleep: If your mind tends to race and to seek out things to worry about during the evening, give it something else to do. Hobbies, reading, watching a movie, FaceBook, whatever interests you. A racing mind has be calmed, either through distraction, or by writing your ideas and thoughts down. By writing your ideas or plans on paper, you give your mind permission to let go of them by transferring them to a tangible surface.

The goal is to avoid having to lie there tossing and turning, by bringing sleep on in a slow, gradual fashion over the 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. period.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep, it helps to understand why. The act of sleep is not a single continuum. It consists of five discreet phases, inside each of which different activities happen, from light dozing at the beginning throught to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Each of these phases is identified by different electrical outputs from the brain, and we pass through this collection of five phases three, four or five times a night.

Sometimes if you awaken, either naturally, or due to a noise, at the conclusion of the five phases your mind and body might consider the act of sleeping concluded, at least for the time being.

Many people get stressed at this point, afraid they will not get back to sleep and that tomorrow will be ruined.

Here then is a list of techniques and ideas to help.
Don’t fret the loss of sleep. People have been able to function on three or four hours of sleep. More is better of course, but most people will be ble to get through a day on just a couple of hours sleep.
Cover your clock. Lying there, watching the minutes tick away just increases stress and delays relaxation. Cover it up and don’t worry about it.
Move to another room. If sleep still won’t come, move to the living room and read a book – an enjoyable one, not related to work – under low light.
Eat some natural sleep inducing foods. The best is quite simple and quite tasty: simple cornk-based cereal such as Corn Flakes with some milk and honey added is a good sleep assistant, since this combination of natural ingredients allows the passage of tryptophan into the bloodstream to assist in sleeping.

If sleep deprivation lasts for many days, it is advisable to see a physician, of course, but the best rule of thumbis to remember that the sleep process actually stats in the late afternoon and builds up to the actual act of sleep over many hours. Anything you can do to end your workday and allow the evening to be used for relaxation only will be to your advantage.

The best ingredient in a productive workday is the quality of the sleep you had the night before, so any guilt you might feel about wanting to do extra work in the evening must be balanced against the truth that rest tonight equals top-level performance tomorrow, whereas work tonight is just borrowing tomorrow’s energy.

Time Management for Emergency workers

Living on call is tough...

Living on call is tough…

Recently I received a letter from a Cool Time reader who works in the area of emergency services, i.e. police, firefighting, paramedics etc. He is one of many I have met who live constantly “on call” and as such have an even greater challenge in managing time due to the unpredictability of their work. This has inspired me to pull together a collection of insights I have received over the years from people in this line of work, and I will post their suggestions here on this blog.

In general, Cool Time concepts such as the I-Beam Agenda are geared towards people with a more structured environment such as an office, rather than the more unpredictable pressures faced by people who work in police, firefighting, paramedic and medical fields. To be “on call” is to always be primed for instant reaction, which for some is part of the appeal of emergency work, but unfortunately also works in direct opposition to the type of clear planning-style thought processes that the Cool-Time book refers to. So, given that emergency work is largely unpredictable, my first suggestion is to look at the time that is spent on activities other than active emergency work. Are there times when you are at an office/desk, or waiting around at a courthouse or hospital? Can you review a typical week and identify occasions where time could be applied to other tasks? Although emergencies can happen at any time, even a space of 10 minutes allows people to get a start on their work.

Influence is a powerful tool. Informing co-workers that your focus-time has an end point, such as “I’ll be working on this from 9:45-10:00” is more powerful than saying “I’m busy” since you give people what they want to know, which is when you will be available for them.

Downtime is often lost due to the stress or need to de-stress from the most recent emergency. Using checklists to wrap up the procedures of the most recent call allow the brain to change channels and transition back into focused work more easily. Working in small amounts, such as 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there is better than waiting for a “perfect two-hour block of uninterrupted time. A lot can be achieved in small amounts, if things are kept organized. So… …this means organization is essential to an emergency worker – do you have the files/papers/materials available and close to hand to work on wherever and whenever possible? Is there technology (laptop, smartphones or force specific) that can help you both in terms of processing your work and calendaring? What form do your planning meetings take with superior officers and your team? Can you inform them as to certain time when you would like to spend time on paperwork?

In addition, shift work is tough, especially if you follow a typical 2-weeks days/2-weeks nights program. Most people are not designed for night shift work, and the only thing worse than consistently doing night-shift work is having to switch over all the time. Access to natural light and sunlight whenever possible is essential for revitalizing the body and reorienting the internal clock. Also diet plays a major factor, since high-fat convenience foods depress the body’s chemical functioning. There’s not a lot of good food available at 3:00 in the morning. In response to this, I have always suggested to night shift workers the importance of preparing and carrying good food from home, if possible.

Protein sources such as boiled eggs, nuts and low-fat yogurt are reasonably portable and deliver a protein boost to help get through the long night. High-fibre fruits such as apples help satisfy the sugar craving and are really good at keeping hunger at bay for a couple of hours. Remember, as an emergency worker, your blood sugar takes major hits from two sides: not just the shift-work factor, but also the adrenaline moments that may help you at times of emergency, but also result in a “crash” or metabolic reversal once the emergency is over. Diet will actually assist you in getting the non-emergency work done, since a stable blood sugar level allows the body and mind to focus more readily.

Since I myself am not an emergency worker, I would be grateful for comments from those who are.