How to get things done: Nap
People often ask me how I manage to get so much done with my many obligations to career, community, art, philanthropy and family.
My pat answer over the years has been: “I neglect the family.”
Ha-ha, so true. But that is only out of necessity, since they have multiplied like rabbits, and, besides, giving them attention only encourages them to ask for more.
My real secret to getting things done is this: I take a nap.
And, not just one nap. Lots of naps. Sometimes I nap just to gear myself up for the next nap.
“But if you nap all the time, how do you get anything done?” you ask, and well may you ask.
The answer is, in-between naps I am a dynamo, a tornado of activity, energized and rested and mentally at the top of my game, knocking tasks off my to-do list like a sharpshooter plinking cans off a fence, pop, pop, pop!
Provided I have my coffee after I wake up, of course.
AS A BUSY RETIREE, I do not linger abed in the mornings. Up by 6, or possibly 7, and 7:30 at the latest, I have my coffee and toast, read the newspaper, and listen to the local and national news on TV, so I will be properly informed as I move through my day. I’m out the door no later than 9, perhaps 9:30 if the news is particularly distressing, as it has been lately.
Then, I’m at it, going hammer and tongs at work projects on the farm: picking bushels of vegetables from the garden, plowing a field, or felling a 60-foot pine for timber, for instance.
By 11:30 I could wring a quart of sweat out of my shirt, and am beginning to feel the slightest touch of fatigue, so it’s back home, where my dear wife has prepared a hearty farm lunch. I dig in, and by 12:30, or possibly 1, I am in danger of falling asleep at the table and pitching face-first into Honey’s raspberry cobbler, so it’s off to the recliner for my first nap of the day.
Here’s where my second secret of napping comes into play: I turn a deaf ear to the world.
THAT IS NOT a metaphor. I am stone-deaf in my left ear, and have been for 20 years. My right ear works quite well, thank you very much, so don’t think you can whisper around me and get away with passing secrets.
(Did I not need both ears to hold up my eyeglasses, I think I would not really miss having a left ear. I don’t hear anything with it, and it stings like the devil when hit by a hard racquetball shot, something which happens with suspicious frequency. Having Old Dad minus one ear might be embarrassing for the family, but it would give me a rakish air, like a pirate, don’t you think? “Aargh, bitten off in a bar fight,” I would tell people.)
Anyway, when I go to bed at night, I put my good ear to the pillow, and no sound short of nuclear holocaust will roust me.
“I woke up last night when that big thunderstorm came through,” Honey will say. “Did you hear it?”
“Of course not, dear. I slept right through,” I answer, wondering why she even asked.
FOR MY AFTER-LUNCH nap, my good ear is to the recliner, my deaf ear is to the world, and 3-2-1, I lift off to La-La Land in a matter of seconds.
After an hour or hour and a half of deep, restful sleep, it feels like morning again, and in fact I call it my second morning of the day. I have my coffee (no toast this time), briefly check out the news and weather, and in an hour or so am straining at the traces once again, mentally and physically refreshed, ready to do great things in a brand-new day.
Following an afternoon of knocking off one task after another, it’s supper at 6 sharp. (We retirees like to keep a regular timetable.) My appetite is sharp for whatever gourmet treat Honey has whipped up for supper. She usually keeps the evening fare light, so that my second nap of the day will perforce be a brief one, perhaps a mere 30 or 45 minutes.
I awake to the third morning of the same day, again have my coffee and then dive into a full range of tasks until nightfall and evening chores before bedtime.
That is how I get so much done, leveraging two and sometimes three days into one by sandwiching work with naps.
HONEY IS A GOOD noontime napper, so long as nothing wakes her up, but something always does. A buzzing fly, a telemarketer, the ding of a text on her cellphone – she hears everything. She can’t turn off the “Alert! Attention!” function in her brain. It may be some pesky problem buzzing around inside her head, demanding that she remain conscious to resolve it.
She tries to nap, but too often goes through her day napless and exhausted.
Which brings me to my final secret to napping: clearing my mind. I can clear my mind with ease, since generally there’s nothing much going on in there anyway. I simply tell myself to think about “nothing.”
Our son Seed, according to his wife, also has this ability to nap on demand by opening the “nothing box” in his brain. The term comes from a relationship speaker named Paul Gungor, who explains differences in the way male and female brains . . .Zzzzzzzzzzzzz – Oh! Sorry, I put myself to sleep just now. I’d better take a little nap, and finish this column later.