This is a blog* about sleep.
It’s become obvious that I really, really don’t get enough. I mean, nobody gets enough, obviously. But I’m a bit shocked at how much of a difference it seems to make to me. A few weeks ago I thought I’d try getting up at seven every day – as opposed to eight or, quite often, nine. I was supposed to go to bed at eleven every night. This, predictably, didn’t happen. As usual I was up till 1am every day smoking and watching terrible US sitcoms (these are things I only do after 11pm). I was getting six hours’ sleep a night. Plenty of people I know live on this – most I know can make do quite happily on it.
I was a fucking wreck. I swear. I couldn’t focus at all at work, on anything. I seemed to spend the whole day either getting a drink, having a piss, or popping onto the internet to just quickly look at something for four hours. In the evening, I just sort of stared gormlessly at the TV. I couldn’t even make conversation, my mind just kept drifting. And I just wanted to eat shit all the time. This is particularly problematic, given that I’m supposed to be losing nearly five stone at some point in my ever-passing life.
Then after a week, having got some nasty run-down-cold-thing, I slept for about ten hours. And the next day at work I was shocked – literally stunned – how much better I felt. I could work. I could think. I could talk. I could concentrate on one thing for more than, I don’t know, 30 seconds. And I actually quite fancied eating real food. Salad, even. Not because it’s good for me or anything like that. But because i just fancied real food. Just like that. amazing. especially amazing given that I never want real food.
So this is when I realised: I actually have basically been tired for the last ten years, at least. And if I want to sort out my eating, my productivity, and all the other crap I complain about all the time, I need to fix this first. I need to get eight hours’ sleep a night, barring increasingly rare parties.
But how? Obviously, go to bed earlier. But the problem is: when the time to come to bed comes, I nevr, ever, feel tired. Maybe I am tired, but I don’t bloody feel it. I have literally found myself lying in bed, fiddling with my mobile, thinking, “I’m not tired. Why aren’t I tired?” then just fallen asleep seconds later.
Obviously the answer to this is, well, obvious: just be in bed at midnight (I’ve reverted, chastened, to 8am) every day, without fail, including weekends unless I’m actually out socialising (I’ve always believed that if it’s the weekend, you’re legally obliged to stay up to at least 2am watching shit on the TV, just because you can). But at 11pm, when I start thinking about going to bed, I’m gripped by this panic. The day can’t be over already, I think. What about all the made-up tasks I’m worrting about not having done? In the morning I’ll have to go to work! I’d quite like to put that off as long as possible, please.
This is basically where I’m up to. I’ll just have to try to keep forcing myself to go to bed early. Why don’t you, my largely imaginary readers, leave me lovely encouraging comments?
* Now, I say “blog”. Obviously, this isn’t a blog about sleep. It’s a blog post about sleep. The blog itself is, of course, about more than that. A blog just about sleep sounds fairly boring, although, glory be to the internet, such a thing exists. I’m using the word “blog” to refer to a blog post. You know, like when myspace tell you to “post a new blog”. This is, obviously, retarded and wrong. So why the hell am I doing it? Good question. “This is a blog post about sleep” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
The concentration situation didn’t improve. It was a fight all afternoon to get anything done. Then I did my absolute classic – at about five pm I just drifted off onto the internet, reading about the financial crisis. I didn’t leave work till 8pm, having not achieved about an hour of serious work since lunchtime.
How can it be this hard to concentrate? And why is it so hard to concentrate on something that you’re not supposed to be working on, even if it’s quite hard going, rather than something you’re supposed to be looking at? It’s like the most boring task in the world immediately becomes attractive just because it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.
Like, AT ALL. In the morning, I am basically quite productive. In the afternoon, it’s like I’m drunk. It’s a constant battle to get focussed and to stay focussed. My job isn’t fascinating, but it’s not boring enough to justify it being a complete struggle to stay awake from 2-6pm every day.
I’ve tried having lunch later, and that reduces the damage. But I can’t stop for lunch at the end of the day or I’d collapse. Maybe it’s what I’m doing at lunchtime – usually running around doing errands. Maybe I should do what other people do, and do that stuff on Saturday. Spend my lunchtime just sitting somewhere eating lunch (I know – radical) and resting my brain.
I’ll try that for the next few days and see if it improves things.
Doesn’t that title just make you want to cry into your soup.
It’s not as boring as it sounds, really. I just wanted to update you, the internet, about my ongoing battle to get more stuff done at work and not have to work all evening to catch up.
The problem, natch, is the internet. A knee-jerk reaction often sees me opening up a blog or news site almost without realising; then it’s comments and blog posts and before I know it an hour has gone past. The hours I spent in 2008 I spent re-desiging my main blog, even though no-one reads it!
I’ve spent some time and effort (see the “productivity” category) working to improve this. I’ve used PC timers to plan my breaks, I’ve set myself goals and offered myself expensive prizes.
Last week, I opened up a new front in the war against procrastination. I bought a mobile broadband thingy and took an old laptop into work. Now if I want to do some personal-internet stuff at work, I have to do it on the laptop. So I write it down, and I do it all in one go when I take a break.
That’s the theory. And it kind of works. Or rather, it worked for the first few says of the week. I’m conscious when I’m using the laptop that everyone can see I’m not working, so that helps keep those breaks down to a sensible length. But it also disincentivizes me from using the laptop, and not just doing things on my work computer, where it’s harder to control.
So when, as I have been the last couple of days, I’m tired and finding it hard to concentrate, it’s still tempting to disappear off to internetland when I’m supposed to be working. So tonight, for example, I’m supposed to be visiting my mother, but I didn’t finish catching up all the work I didn’t do this afternoon, until 8pm, so now I’m not going until tomorrow morning.
I keep mentioning being tired. I’ve had a full time job for ove four years, and I still find it incredibly hard to go out even some weekday evenings and not be an exhausted wreck at work by Thursday. This usally means I get up later and later, and get into work later and later, as the week wears on. If I don’t arrive till 10.45, over an hour later, I’m not exactly going to be out by six, am I?
I did think the answer might be to deliberately, in a planned way, work later. So today I didn’t get in till 10.45, and I resolved from the start to work till 7. I took my breaks, my lunch, and everything an hour later. If I could pull this off, I figured, I could not get to bed till 1am weeknights, and still be OK.
But in truth, it doesn’t work. Why? I know it sounds silly, but it’s antisocial. If I have to be anywhere in the evening before about 7.45, it doesn’t work. If I want to have lunch with someone at 1, it doesn’t work. If someone I need to interview wants to speak to me at 10, it doesn’t work.
This stuff matters. I think I’m realising that in some of the things where I prize myself on thinking independently, the concensus is actually right. I used to think working 9-5.30, as opposed to about 10.30-7, was crazy and old-fashioned. And I suppose, if your social life means meeting people for a drink and being out till 11.30, it is. But there’s a reason for it: kids. Society is structured by people with kids, and for them you want to be up early and out early. Coming to terms with this is part of taking my place in a society, not of isolated individuals, not even of funky twentysomethings, but of families. And that’s something I’m learning to do.
So. I need to get into work by 10. I need to work till a break at 11.45, get back to work at 12, stop for lunch at 1.30, start again at 3, stop for a break at 4.30, start again at 4.45, and stop at six. That still leaves plenty of break time, you notice. But when I’m working, I need to work.
The truth is, I don’t have to be tired. To do this only requires me to wake up at 7.30. If I ‘m in bed with the lights out at midnight, I’ll be fine. And most nights out still see me back home by a quarter to midnight. The trouble is, I’m not happy with a night out with friends. I always seem to need some time alone in front of the TV too. So I stay up till one watching TV – and smoking, which I also need to stop doing.
So that’s the battle so far. I’ll kep you updated on how I do.
After a bit of a truce, I’m taking up the war against timewasting once again. I’ve found that it’s at the start of my magazine’s ludicrous three-month production cycle (ie, now) that I get furthest behind.
One change I’ve made is to set up a second screen with a large-font task list constantly visible. This makes it a little easier to stay focused. But I’m having trouble keeping it up to date as tasks morph and priorities change.
In the last few days I’ve noticed something else. It’s getting settled down to work that’s most problematic – in the morning, and again after lunch. Often I don’t get a think done before 11, after an hour in the office; then the first hour or so is a battle to concentrate. Then after lunch, again I can find myself surfing the internet again till three or even four. By contrast, in the hour before lunch and late in the day I’ve usually hit my groove, only to have it interrupted by lunchtime and/or hometime (or worse, I stay late).
Not sure what the solution is yet.
Yep. Did so. FAIL. But overall,
woo hoo! I cannot fail! tomorrow I’m just going to sack off i suspect.