On average, a person sleeps 7–9 hours every night. This is healthy sleep, and by no means, I’m saying you shouldn’t do that. The healthier your sleep is, the better!
Did you know that while you sleep, your brain still keeps on working?
For example, in both REM and slow-wave sleep modes, the brain is still firing electrical signals in a large population of neurons with a steady rhythm. If anything, it is much more similar to your normal waking state. Essentially, the brain is not “resting” at all, it’s working. And it’s working quite actively on something.
What is it working on then?
It stabilizes the memories you gained throughout the day and makes them easier to recall and harder to forget or misremember. Moreover, the brain does a lot of work to structure these memories, ideas, and thoughts, to filter what needs to stay there for long-term storage, and what can be let go.
These are quite important, because being able to recall what you’ve learned, or what happened, and without too much distortion is essential. Especially if you are working on your most important projects and want to be productive. Additionally, holding onto the vital information and discarding the junk is super useful too!
And finally, the most important thing that our mind is doing during sleep is to form new ideas out of the ones that kept us busy the previous day(s).
This last point is why sometimes you can struggle for the whole day and evening with a problem, unsuccessfully, only to wake up the next morning with a burning idea on how to solve it. You can say it’s your sleeping superpower and why you shouldn’t sacrifice your sleep to do more of “productive” work. Your precious sleep hours just may be much more productive than the gain you intended to get.
Before I tell you how you can leverage most of the productivity of your sleep, I think I should tell you how you might be wasting it!
The best way to make your brain work on the wrong things is to do or consume wrong things the evening and the night before bed.
For example, if you spend your before-bed time watching a TV show, your brain will focus most of these eight productive hours crunching ideas and information in that show. If you are this show’s producer, maybe that is useful to you, but not for the majority of other ambitious folks.
So, I really, really encourage you to stop mindlessly consuming content in the evening and at the pre-bedtime, like watching TV shows, browsing funny YouTube videos, reading social media, or binge-watching the new series season on Netflix.
Even though it may feel like these things can help you relax, destress, or decompress, this is not actually true. These forms of entertainment are designed to capture 100% of your attention without any effort on your side. That means that the level of focus, concentration, and alertness that your brain is “forced” to exercise may even be higher than when you are working on your side project in a productive focus session!
What should you do instead then?
If you know that you need a particular skill right now or very soon, it’s a good idea to replace entertainment in the evening with learning and skill practice.
The good night’s sleep is actually perfect for cementing what you learn and giving you insights you would otherwise not have (like how you can apply this new skill creatively in your day job, or in your side project). This is because of how memories and ideas are being re-organized for maximum efficiency during good sleep.
If you are struggling with how much energy you have for learning (for example, if you are exhausted after a full day of work), check out if this optimized schedule can help you.
If you work on your challenges, even for a little bit, and especially if you leave specific problems unresolved before your bedtime, your brain will focus on these. You just might have a fantastic surge of inspiration and new ideas in the next morning!
Because you don’t have to actually complete anything, as little as putting 20–30 minutes of deep, uninterrupted work is enough to trigger this effect.
If you are experiencing trouble staying focused in the evening, learn here how you can become laser-focused when working on your goals.
As already mentioned, your brain keeps processing what happened during the day. And it gives much more attention to things that kept your mind busy in the evening and just before going to sleep. Therefore you can prime your brain to work towards your goals during your sleep.
The pre-bedtime routine described in the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, allows you to give your brain orders what information it should be crunching during your sleep.
The routine consists of 5 simple steps:
Ask yourself the following questions and write your answers down:
— What did I accomplish today?
— How many hours did I work productively today?
— What did I learn today?
— What one thing do I need to improve on tomorrow?
These should be the most critical tasks. If you can’t accomplish anything else tomorrow, these are the ones that you’ll prioritize above all. If you are still struggling with after-work productivity, start with smaller goals here. This is important because it takes a lot of willpower to plan what needs to be done, and you want this plan to be already prepared, so the next time you have a free minute, you can just start executing on it.
Make sure to include one task that is hard for you to do, so that you can grow, preferably, every day. Also, include when and where you will do it to maximize your chances of following through.
It’s vital to declutter your mind before going to sleep. Journalling can help you with that. You want to include the following points:
— Your dreams and goals. Reminding your brain of why you’re trying to be productive in the first place will help it focus more on these goals and aspirations during sleep. Make sure to describe your dreams and goals as vividly as possible.
— Open writing. Just open your journal and start writing whatever is on your mind. This ultimately clears your mind, and may even provide some insights right now, or in the future.
— Gratitude. Write down everything you are grateful for and thankful for. It could be people, or something you’ve done today, or an event that happened. Among other things, this will keep stress at bay, help you develop better bonds and relationships, make you feel more secure and happier, and, most importantly, inspire you and increase your creativity.
Writing your goals before going to bed will make your brain work hard on thinking how these goals can be achieved. It’ll get you inspired to put in the work tomorrow. Repetition is also necessary: if you write the same goals every night, that will make a shift in how you approach your life, your time, and how do you think. I particularly like it to structure in the following format (you may not have answers to all of these questions yet. And that’s okay, you’ll figure it out down the way):
— What do you want to accomplish in the next month?
— In the next 2 months?
— In a quarter?
— In a year?
— In 5 years?
— In 10 years?
— In life?
Doing this just before sleep will make your brain desire it even more, and will invigorate your passion. This will create a burning desire to accomplish your goals and will cause you to take real actions towards it. Next morning, you’ll wake up fully charged to achieve your dreams!
If you have a particular challenge, you can write it down in detail here, as well. Of course, do this only if you want your brain to be focused mostly on this problem that night, and not others.
Depending on what happened during the day, and how many things you have on your mind, the routine can take from 15 to 45 minutes to complete.
I personally use it every evening, just before going to bed. I have made a template for myself that I copy-paste every time, and just fill in the blanks on my computer. This makes it much easier to get started and get through the routine, even if I am tired.
This routine is so powerful that it can turn you from an uninspired chronic entertainment consumer into a super-productive beast. It changed my life, and I hope it will change yours!
I want to help ambitious people like yourself.
The focus is to support you to have the time and energy to work on ambitious goals, become more autonomous and independent in your decisions, work, and life, get recognized by a wider community and attain the freedom that you deserve as a human being.
That’s why I’ve started this publication, “Uncaged You”. I’m writing 2–4 times a week about these topics.
Thank you for reading!
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Best of luck with your aspirations! Nathan.
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