The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Waking Hours | Dedicated

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This is part two of Uncubed Daily’s Human Optimization Guide, presented by Casper, the obsessively engineered mattress that’s not going to bankrupt you. They’re offering readers $50 off the price of a mattress with the promo code UNCUBED – check them out here.

In part one of our series, we tackled the hacks, myths, and tips in how sleeping well could turn you into a super human. Today, we’re going to tackle the other two-thirds of your life – optimizing your waking hours.

Unfortunately, it’s a field plagued by wildly differing opinions. Is the mindfulness craze panacea or hokum? Telecommuting – an efficient, humane way to do business, or ticking timebomb?

So we’ve decided to embrace it all – picking the best items from seemingly contradictory advice – to help turn you into the next Superman or Wonder Woman.

Speed Up
2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created every day, and 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. So how do you keep up? Get faster.

The Washington Post’s Jeff Guo recently confessed his survival strategy for the era of “peak TV” – watch it at twice the intended speed. From Modern Family to Ancient Aliens, Guo uses a Chrome extension called Video Speed Controller to fast-forward through it all.

New tech-enabled speed-reading platforms like Spritz use Rapid Serial Visual Presentation – flashing single words that are specially aligned on the screen – to promise reading speeds of up to 1,200 words-per-minute. (The average is around 300 words-per-minute.)

And sometimes just trying to beat the clock is an effective prod. The Pomodoro Technique uses a simple tomato timer (though the tomato is not strictly necessary) to encourage 20-minute work sprints.

Slow Down
Despite recent controversy, the great bulk of research shows that meditation is an effective tool for dealing with anxiety and depression. But don’t worry about going all-in on the practice – just 20 minutes of quiet, guided thought can prove effective in increasing your productivity, focus, and memory.

While 5-Hour Energy commercials are happy to suggest chugging a heady brew of caffeine and Taurine will counter that mid-afternoon slump, it’s actually better to follow your bliss. Take a nap. 20 minutes of shuteye somewhere between two and four p.m. actually fits within your body’s natural rhythms, and studies have shown that power naps can improve brain function.

Of course, you could always combine the caffeine and catnap. Known as the coffee nap, this technique simply involves drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a 20-minute nap.

At the very least, take a break. The New York Times reports, “Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being.”

Get Out More
There’s nothing like a change of scenery to change your thinking. But don’t worry about booking a flight to Thailand – a 2010 study indicates that “simply alternating the room where a person studies improves [learning] retention.”

The occasional day spent working from home has also been shown to significantly raise productivity levels. In one Stanford University case study, people working from home accomplished 13.5% more than their in-office counterparts.

Stop the emails, conference calls, and Skype sessions and start taking in-person meetings. A survey from email marketer Constant Contact reports that 48% of its respondents believe a personal meeting is the most effective driver of business.

Get Out Less
Maybe the monks had it right – keeping life, work, and sleep within a few yards of each other (along with a lot of silence) is the best way to maintain dedication and focus.

You can prevent the inescapable pile-up of meetings from stealing your day with one simple technique – schedule non-meeting days.

Companies are beginning to catch on as well. Facebook enforces a no-meetings Wednesdays policy; eBay does it once a month. And the always innovative 37 Signals has gone so far as to declare “Meetings Are Toxic” – they’ve got a 30-minute limit on all confabs.

When you are chained to your desk, it’s all-too-easy to lose focus fast. But a few simple tweaks can make the day just hum along.

Open the blinds – not only does natural light in the office boost health, but simply staring out the window every now and then helps prevent eye strain caused by staring at that computer.

Mix It Up
As in all endeavors, it’s best not to go overboard with any one technique. Find what works for you, experiment with new techniques, and try to avoid the constant barrage of expert opinion.

This is part two of our two-part Human Optimization Guide, presented by Casper – you can check out part 1 right here. If you’re looking for the perfect night’s sleep, then look no further than Casper’s remarkable line of mattresses, pillows, and sheets. You can get $50 off the purchase of your next mattress using the promo code UNCUBED right here.