Do you remember napping in your afternoon high school classes? That drowsy feeling doesn’t go away as we “grow up,” and when we’re working from home, there’s nobody there to poke us in the back and say, “Pssst! You’re drooling on your desk!”

If you feel you’re aging a decade in the time between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., these five tips might inject a little life into your remote work routine.

  1. Ask yourself, “Am I fatigued? Or am I just sleepy?”

In simple terms, fatigue occurs when you’ve been doing the same task for too long. Sleepiness comes from sleep deprivation and disrupted circadian rhythms. Both affect your ability to get through your daily workload without making mistakes or inefficiently managing your time, and each is somewhat interchangeable[1] with the other.

How much sleep do you get each night? How often do you sit at your desk without getting up for breaks? Keep a sleep journal in which you tally the number of hours you’ve slept each night, and on a scale of 1 to 10, how rested you feel the next day. If you’re not getting 7 to 8 hours a day, the results are cumulative, inhibiting your mind and body’s ability to rejuvenate.

  1. Get off your butt

Don’t take your mid-afternoon slump sitting down! Exercise combats excess sleepiness and lets you clear your head if you’re “stuck” on a work-related problem. When you come back to your desk refreshed, you might have a “Eureka!” moment. Stretches and exercise help with physical fatigue, too, especially if you perform repetitive physical tasks over several hours.

If yoga isn’t your thing, learn seven easy, beginner-friendly stretches[2], or look into an auxiliary standing desk system from which to work for a few hours each day. There’s no concrete data[3] to prove standing desks are significantly superior to sitting desks, but they’re popular with workers who claim to feel more alert and comfortable when they can change up their work posture during the day.

Set a timer to break up your day with short walks[4]. Do something creative for 10 minutes, or simply go somewhere quiet and separate from your work area to meditate or practice deep breathing. You may feel like you’re wasting time, but your quality of work, and the shortened amount of time required to complete it, will make your breaks pay off.

  1. Create bite-sized work tasks

You may have heard this one: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” Well, what do you have on your plate today? As you review your workload, find a way to divide your tasks into chunks. If it helps, list each section as line items in a checklist. Set goals to complete each item, and then reward yourself with a few minutes away from your desk.

You’ll feel a lot more productive and motivated, and less overwhelmed, when you can check off each mini-project as done, done, and done! 

  1. Make power naps a part of your work routine

“Five Ways to Get Eight Hours of Uninterrupted Sleep!” barks the cover of your favorite healthy living magazine. Sure. That feature writer has seen her share of deadlines, and probably wrote that article at 2 a.m. Her tips probably involve pharmaceutical-grade sleeping pills, sending the kids to summer camp, and investing in sensory deprivation tanks.

Sometimes, we have to get our sleep whenever we can, and short, 10 to 20 minute power naps somewhere between noon and three are the way to go, according to the Mayo Clinic[5]. As with exercises and stretches, you’ll get back to business in a better frame of mind, and maintain better physical health to boot.

  1. Check with your doctor

Fatigue and excessive sleepiness may indicate an underlying health issue. Likewise, prolonged fatigue and sleep deprivation can cause serious health problems. The Centers for Disease Control[6]  recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep per 24-hour period. But don’t freak out! If you’ve done everything you can to remain refreshed and alert, it’s possible you have a minor chemical or hormonal balance that your doctor can diagnose and help modify. She may also help you with a realistic nutrition plan to boost your alertness and energy.

Change your outlook

As remote workers, we’re determined to stay focused and be productive at all costs. We’re legitimate employees, but there’s always the pressure to one-up our office-bound colleagues who probably think all we do is hang out at cafes and sip lattes; not that there’s anything wrong with that if we’re refreshed by a new environment. We can’t thrive if we don’t look after our mental and physical health. Employers are catching on to the benefits of workday breaks at the office, so claim those benefits for yourself.

Reference Links:

[1] ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525425/
[2] youtube.com/watch?v=YXXkmqUcuQo
[3] cancer.org/latest-news/standing-desks-are-they-worth-it.html
[4] sleepfoundation.org/articles/ask-expert-can-exercise-help-excessive-sleepiness
[5] mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319
[6] cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html


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