How to Achieve More in the New Year

Get into an early-morning rhythm and beat out the snoozers!

The New Year is about to roll in, which means it's probably time to become a new you. And what better way to shake into that new and uber-productive self then changing up your schedule to be the maximally effective person you always dreamed of being?

According to the well-studied folks at Psychology Today, you're probably waking up too late, staying up too late, and your body is, correspondingly, all kinds of messed up. "Our near-constant exposure to artificial light has... [left] our bodies and brains struggling," Holly Pevzner writes for the popular magazine. Of course, if you're already pulling the 6am rise-and-shine, you might be among the high-achievers of which Laura Vanderkam, bestselling scribe of such texts as What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, told the popular news magazine, The Week, that "They rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual."

Since so many people tend to wake up later, the early riser is also placed at an advantage next to their still-snoozing compatriots. "You need to wake up before the insanity starts," Eric Barker writes for The Week. Waking up early also sets you straight on setting some goals for yourself, another common habit among the high achievers or generally happy people, as reports a popular study that appeared in Journal of Happiness Studies all the way back in 2007. But the early rise promises something even more primordial than the late years of the Bush administration. Michael Grandner, who helps direct the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, dropped some serious knowledge on Psychology Today when he warned that "[Our] natural rhythms have been gravely disrupted."

All of us live in some constantly-lit times and all that illumination has left our bodies scrambling--per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most people spin over five hours a day on things like Netflix and interacting with other people but don't, according to Psychology Today, correlate that with any particular feeling of happiness or satisfaction. All of our so-called leisure time happens in such small and measured chunks that we can barely feel anything at all, anymore. But how do you plan on reorienting your entire way of being in this hectic rat-race of on-line living? Here's some tips!

  • Wake up once, not a hundred times. "When you hit the snooze button, you coax your brain to rewind to the beginning of the sleep cycle," writes Psychology Today, this time citing research by another academic, Edward Stepanski of Rush University. Of course, anyone who knows a snooze button already has some idea of this.
  • And on that note, do more things earlier. Jennifer Ackerman's classic work of pop-psychology, Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, informs us that "most of us are sharpest some two and a half to four hours after waking." Do things then.
  • "The average person spends 28 percent of the work week managing email," Psychology Today reminds us. Check twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Remind the working world that you're the one that knocks.
  • Take naps, if you can. Sara Mednick, back in 2013, gave a TED talk titled "Give it Up for the Down State" to promote her celebrated work of advice titled Take a Nap! Change Your Life, recommended taking naps, urging everyone "to take a break." And even NASA recommends taking naps, per Richard Wiseman's Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep: "[NASA] pilots who take a twenty-five-minute nap in the cockpit...are subsequently 35 per cent more alert, and twice as focused, than their non-napping colleagues." If your workplace is not as conducive to naps as, say, NASA, Psychology Today, recommends nap-like activity such as "paperwork, photocopying, or collating."
  • Socialize after dusk. Back in the day, Jacqueline Olds of Harvard Medical School reports, hunters and gatherers would choose the sunset hour to gather themselves into a socially cohesive whole. "Dusk is when people had to be especially aware to stave off dangers they couldn't see…[so] it was the time of day we'd group together for safety," Olds remembers. Psychology Today recommends posting on Facebook.
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