Want to make better use of your time? You might want to consider taking a nap.
A new study from Pew Research shows that one-third of all people who earn $100,000 or more take naps. These folks spend more time napping than those earning between $30,000 and $100,000. (Too much napping is not good for your income: those who napped the most earned less than $30,000 annually.)
While I cannot attest to the earning power of napping, I can vouch for its leadership effectiveness. Winston Churchill and John D. Rockefeller took regular naps, as did my grandfather. For nearly thirty years, Grandpa John worked full-time and ran a weekly newspaper on the side. Naps were essential to his ability to keep working productively.
Napping is something I’ve been preoccupied with lately as I recuperate from foot surgery. Since I have been instructed to stay off my feet as much as possible, the tendency to snooze has caught me more regularly — typically it’s a quick doze on a hard floor. When I awake, I am refreshed and recharged, and possess an extra stipend of energy.
The chief purpose of a quick nap is less about the time spent resting and more about the energy it produces. Some refer to this as power napping. Here are some suggestions for making your naps more productive.
1. Find a comfortable spot and stretch out. This can be hard to do in an office setting but it’s not impossible. If appropriate, keep your eye out for a clean stretch of carpet, perhaps in a conference room or unoccupied office. [You can also snooze in your chair but make certain you are not cramped and that you are positioned for safety so you won’t fall out when you fall asleep.]
2. Close your eyes and focus on a project. Do not get wrapped up in details like budgets and deadlines. That will only provoke anxiety; focus on possibility, that is, on how you will accomplish the project and with whom.
3. Relax as you mull over concepts. As your mind wanders, let your body relax, too.
4. Doze. For me, fifteen to thirty minutes works. Any longer makes me a bit groggy, but do what works for you. (Note: naptime is not heavy REM sleep; often I do not actually fall asleep but I do feel rested upon waking.)
5. Wake up. Rise slowly, and as you regain your balance, stretch your arms and legs. Time to get back to work. Enjoy the sense of renewal that comes from a quick nap.
Chances are if you follow these simple tips, you will be more than ready to get back to work. You may find yourself with a bit more pep in your step and zip in your thought processes. You may not make more money but you will likely be more refreshed and able to tackle the challenges the rest of the day presents.
From my point of view, naptime is not slack time. It is self-time. Use a nap as you would exercise or reflection; it is a time to connect your thoughts to your eventual actions. And for leaders that can be a very good thing.
First posted on HBR.org on 8/06/2009