Being productive in a heatwave

The words “British Summer” conjure up images of rain-soaked streets; old people sat in thermals on a windy, overcast beach and indoor barbecues. However, once every few years we’re graced with a few weeks of blue skies and 30C (86F) temperatures, which may sound pretty cool to an American, but remember that we live in a land where air conditioning is confined to corporate office buildings and Waitrose.

During these weeks I tend to find myself experiencing ‘sun guilt’, i.e. the perpetual feeling that I’d better get outside and enjoy the sunshine while I can because it’s probably going to go away tomorrow and never come back. Unfortunately that means I’m achieving far less than usual: most of the time I feel like if I’m not learning or building something I’m going to shrivel and die, but recently I’ve been lucky to get an hour a day after work to be productive.

However, thankfully I’ve found a way to keep my learning going and still enjoy the sunshine while it lasts: become a morning person.

Since starting to push myself and grow, I noticed that I have been able to get up a little earlier at weekends. A year or so ago I would be lucky to get up before 12pm on a Saturday or Sunday, but the last few months it’s been 9 or 10am, the reason being that I was looking forward to getting up and working on my latest project. With the lack of evening productivity during this “heatwave” I decided to see if I was finally able to get up early enough on a weekday to do ‘my’ work before ‘work’ work.

Usually on a weekday I snooze until the latest possible time (about 0820), leaving myself just enough time to splash myself with water and put on un-ironed clothes before rushing to work. However, last week I tried an experiment where I would set my alarm for 0600 and make myself get up, get breakfast, get showered, and get in a good two hours of productivity before work. I can safely say the experiment was a success: I didn’t hit snooze once last week, haven’t been any more tired than usual, and somehow magically added ten hours to my week.

I’m sure many people would read this and think “I’m sure it was easy for you, but it won’t work for me: I’m a real night owl”. While I’m not as bad as I used to be, to give you some perspective: in univeristy my bedtime was usually 4-7am and wake-up time varied between 8am and 3pm (the former was very rare). I’ve always considered myself a total night owl and love sleep more than Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, but these early mornings are starting to grow on me.

Summary

  • Set your alarm for several hours earlier than your usual waking time
  • Chill out for 30-60 minutes before you go to bed: wind down the work, use F.Lux, watch a bit of TV
  • Really chill out for 15 minutes when you get to bed if you usually have trouble getting to sleep: read, don’t use bright screens in bed!
  • Set your alarm on the other side of the room
  • Plan to work on something that really interests you when you get up (even better if you limit yourself to only be allowed to work on it in the mornings)
  • Have a regular wake up routine. For me this is: get up, turn alarm off, go straight to the kitchen and make breakfast+cuppa tea, watch a short episode with breakfast, go for a shower, get dressed, get to work.
  • Try to stay away from leech sites in the morning (social networking, reddit, news, etc)
  • You may be tired for the first few days, but you’ll adjust quickly and find yourself sleeping earlier and better
  • Above all: make sure you use the time wisely, otherwise you may as well just be getting up later

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