Archive for October, 2011


the sleep debt

In the past three years a huge body of research has amassed around sleep and what happens when human beings don’t get enough of it.  Even if you haven’t been clued into these developments, you probably already know that doctors recommend getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night.  But, who has time for that, right?

The more research that is done on this subject, the more psychologists find that we really just cannot afford to cut back on sleep (though, those of us who are busy usually do).  When we don’t get those recommended 8 hours, our body and our mind suffer.  They do not have enough time to recuperate and regenerate.  Even if we wake up feeling fine, scientists say, damage is being done.

For those of us who are busy this is a particularly serious issue.  We are prone to sleeping less, particularly when we work well into the evening hours because we fail to get things done during the day.  What’s even worse is that sleeping less often becomes habitual.  Psychologists call this collection of lost hours of sleep building up over time the sleep debt and consider it quite hazardous to our health.  Think about it.  When you miss two or three hours of sleep, you can easily make them up over a long weekend.  When you continually miss 2 to 3 hours weekly and aren’t able to make them up, you end up with some 15 hours a month of sleep debt.  That is 180 hours a year!  It would take you over a week of straight sleeping to make up those hours.

My point tonight is that we cannot always get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.  It’s just not feasible.  However, it is important to be mindful of the amount of time we sleep and the amount of time we should be sleeping.  I’m not one to promote procrastination, as you all know, but sometimes you just have to sleep an extra hour.  Trying to get everything on your to-do list done is important, but your health should always be your first priority.

This week get some rest.  Getting those 8 hours of sleep might just help you do better on your midterms!  Click here for a relaxing two minutes of procrastination.


riding the waves

Every week is different.  While this statement is probably true any way you slice it, it is particularly true in the realm of scheduling.  It’s just the nature of life that important deadlines and events cluster together.  One week you will be so busy that your work cuts into your sleep time, and other weeks you’ll be so bored you resort to trolling Facebook to fill your free time.  That’s just the way it is.

I blogged last week about how this week was going to be particularly busy for me, and it is.  I have so many deadlines to meet and projects to tackle, my planner cannot accommodate all of them.  I literally had to stick post-its into it to be able to fit all of my tasks (ridiculous, I know).  With all of those deadlines comes stress and sleep-deprivation, as well.  Free time is non-existent and crunch time is an understatement.  But, I am smiling through it.

Yes, I am a believer that thinking positively leads to better outcomes, but that is not why I am smiling.  My optimism comes from the fact that after this week, my schedule is practically empty for nearly a month.  I have only one deadline from next week through December!  I’ll have all the time in the world (okay, maybe not all the time) to study, read (leisurely, that excites me so much!), work on the applications I have been putting off, hang with friends I haven’t seen in months, and sleep.  It’s going to be so wonderful.

Busyness and busy schedules are like body surfing in the ocean.  Sometimes there is a cluster of really rough waves, but they are typically followed by a lull where you can rest.  That lull is a great time to relax and regroup, but you should (and in saying this, I remind myself that I, too, should) use this time to recuperate and prepare for the next rush of waves – I mean deadlines and projects.

This week push through your midterms and mid-semester papers/assignments with optimism, because the busyness will not last forever.  Plan a mental health day for after your busy week, take the time to meditate or reflect, and make yourself a nice to do list so that you can have a productive lull. 

Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.  And, click here for more information on your rights when it comes to the stop and frisk policy.



I usually plan for the next week on the Tuesday of the week prior.  This morning I opened up my day planner, and gasp!  An incredibly hectic week is coming my way.  Next week I have three class presentations, three substantial papers due, and a very important seminar for my Fellowship.  Perhaps I should feel stressed, but I’m feeling just fine.

I learned a long time ago that important things – projects, tests, and events – seem to stack up close to each other in clusters.  I’ll have weeks with no real deadlines, then bam – three deadlines in one day.  In the past this would mean stress and cramming, all-nighters and sleep deprivation.  Now, an incredibly busy week means smooth sailing for the most part.  How, you ask?

The first thing to note is that deadlines do not pop up out of nowhere.  They approach at a normal and trackable speed.  Staying aware of these deadlines is half the trick to avoiding a meltdown week.  For example, I have known for awhile now that I had three presentations, three papers, and a seminar coming up next week.  I have been working diligently on all of these projects for some time, chipping away at them slowly so that I will be prepared for Monday the 17th when it rolls around.  And that, my friends, is the second thing to keep in mind when you are facing numerous deadlines simultaneously.  You cannot and will not be able to get to everything all at once last-minute.  The trick is to diffuse such a compact schedule.  Put off until next week anything you can afford to, and plan ahead to tackle the remaining projects the weeks before they are all due.  Again for instance, I started working on one of my papers that is due next week in the second week of September.  By Friday all of the prep work for these projects will (if everything goes as planned) be complete, and I will be ready for a stress-less weekend.

Diffusion as a scheduling technique has two major challenges.  First, you must be aware of your upcoming deadlines.  Put these on your calendars, bulletin boards, dry-erase boards, etc.  If you don’t see them, you won’t realize they are coming until it is too late.  Secondly, you must become a backwards scheduling pro.  It seems like I blog about backwards scheduling all the time, but I assure you it is only because it works so well.  (Click here for a refresher.)  Mastering this technique is truly invaluable.

This week keep in mind that midterms are not far away and with them always comes a bunch of other deadlines all at once.  Get a head start on that studying and those projects now, so that you won’t have to cram later.  Diffuse the busy situation.  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination, and click here to engage in some micro-volunteering!



literally running from one thing to the next

It’s a well-known fact:  physical activity improves mood.  Moving around causes your body to give off endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.  I am sure you have all heard this spiel before, because I had too.  And, every time I heard it I would think, “Yeah yeah, I know exercise makes you peppy.  Whatever, I am not the athletic type.”

And that was my stance on exercise for the first 20 years of my life.  Then one day this spring when I was feeling really down, overworked, and exhausted, I told a friend that my busy life-style was catching up to me.  When she recommended going for a run, I repeated, “No, I’m already tired.  I need some sleep.”  My friend conceded that it was important to get enough sleep, but said that she never feels more energized than after a long run.  I laughed about her statement for a few days until I became exhausted enough to try anything.  Skeptical, I went for a run after work.  When I got home – instead of crashing into my bed – I wrote a paper and cleaned my room. 

Since that night I had been running nearly everyday.  This summer I dedicated myself to running between 4 and 9 miles Sunday through Friday.  Physically, I had never felt better.  And even though I had a rough summer at my internship with the Bronx Defenders, exercising helped energize me emotionally, as well.  My friend was right; while I may feel physically tired after a run, it helps me to feel more awake and focused.

Since starting back at John Jay this fall, I have had much less time to run.  Between taking four classes, working three jobs, chairing two committees, maintaining my fellowship, and planning for what I will do when I graduate in May, I would stumble home at night and head straight for my bed.  For nearly a month running was put on hold because I had more important things to do.  And, I will be entirely honest:  I started to feel sluggish, tired, and even depressed.  I felt withdrawn and cloudy and sleepy.  Initially, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  This weekend I went for a run, and magically my mood got better and my head clearer.  That was enough proof for me that physical activity improves mood.

Being busy and running from one thing to the next can leave little time for actual running.  The truth is, however, that when I am exhausted and my head hurts from school and work, the best thing for me to do is go for a run.  I begrudgingly gave exercise a shot, and I hope you all will too, because – like my friend said – I have never felt better than after a long run.  And, I have never felt more energized and ready to tackle a busy schedule than the day after one.  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.

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