june reads

Full disclosure: none of these books were actually read in June, but just between the time I last wrote a book review post and now.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

category: self-help

This has been on my list of books to read for a while, just because I’ve heard so many references to it. Since I’ve been super into the self-help mumbo jumbo lately, I completely ate it up. I love that Carnegie inserts both historical stories and stories from his students into the book – it definitely helps in applying concepts to a real-life setting.

Friends-Influence-People

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson

category: historical non-fiction

Eh… this book was OK. There are some truly beautiful descriptions in it, but I’m of the opinion that it follows too many different characters around and has a sense of lack of cohesiveness. For example, even though they all do come together in the shipwreck, most of the characters never even see each other. Since this was the case, I would much rather have read a collection of independent stories that were bound together rather than jumping from person to person.

Interview with Erik Larson (he does a really great job of selling this book):

favourite podcasts

I started listening to podcasts when traveling to and from work last term, and I’ve found them to be a great way to relax even when I’m on the go. Google Play Music can automatically download the latest three episodes of the podcasts you’ve subscribed to when you’re connected to the internet so that that you can listen to them offline later. Below are the ones I’ve set to be automatically downloaded to my phone:

Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn

bad-with-money-with-gaby-dunn

I’ve been a fan of JBU for a minute, and you already know I’m all about self-improvement, so when I heard that Gaby (“America’s deadbeat sweetheart”) was starting her own podcast about managing money I knew I had to listen. The episodes come out weekly, and the podcast is already on their second season. Even though I’m in a business program, I’ve realized I know amazingly little about personal finance. So even though I’m not exactly Gaby’s “target audience” (broke L.A. actors), I still find the episodes both hilarious and educational.

Dear Hank and John

dear-hank-john

If you don’t know who Hank and John Green are… do you even Internet. (TLDR: They’re brothers that run a ton of channels on Youtube relating to education like CrashCourse and SciShow. John Green is an author who wrote books like The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, while Hank Green is a business owner who runs a lot of conferences like Vidcon, Nerdcon, and most recently Podcon). In this podcast, they answer the Nation’s (their fans’) questions, talk about their lives, and give their weekly updates on Mars (Hank’s passion) and AFC Wimbledon (John’s passion…?) This is probably one of the least informative podcasts I listen to but one of my favourites anyway.

Call Your Girlfriend

call-your-girlfriend

I stumbled upon this podcast completely on accident. It’s two long-distance friends who do a podcast every week. They mostly talk about the news but give their own liberal takes on it. Sometimes they talk celebrity gossip, but lately, there’s been a lot of Trump-bashing.

Snap Judgment

snap-judgment

Oh, My God, This Is My Favourite Podcast Of All Time. It’s a lot more heavily produced than the other ones because it’s a storytelling podcast, but that’s what makes it so good. Every episode has a new theme and includes a series of stories from different people. These stories are usually crazy; and with Snap’s sound effects and editing, it really does transport you to a different place. The goal of this podcast is to break down cultural, political, and religious barriers by telling everyone’s stories, and it really does such a good job of fulfilling this goal.

Family Ghosts

family-ghosts

I don’t have too much to say about this podcast since I recently subscribed to it and they only have one episode out so far, but I’m expecting good things. It’s another storytelling podcast, but tells stories about – you guessed it – family ghosts. Check out the pilot if you’re interested!

march reads

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice. Curtis Sittenfeld (who is a woman by the way!) was actually approached to write this as part of the Austen Project, where a group of writers take on the task of doing a modern retelling of each of Jane Austen’s books. In this world, Jane is a yoga instructor, Elizabeth (Liz) is a magazine writer, and Darcy and Chip are neurosurgeons. I absolutely adored this book, but a friend didn’t quite like it so much – I think it mostly depends on your own perception of how the P&P characters would have behaved in the real world.

Interview with Curtis Sittenfeld:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

There has been so much hype around this book that I just had to give it a try. I definitely found following her advice step by step to be really helpful in decluttering my things!

The-Life-Changing-Magic-of-Tidying-Up-Marie-Kondo1.jpg

update on virtual assistants: AskSunday vs Upwork

You may remember I made a post on virtual assistants some time ago. I ended that post unsure of whether the AskSunday service would actually better my life. Now, three months later, I’m back to announce the results.

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I mentioned in the last blog post that I had sent AskSunday my first request: to research volunteer opportunities relating to women I could take part in.

They responded with the necessary information within the timeline I gave them (48 hrs). The data collected was OK overall. The one thing that freaked me out a little was that they told me they needed more time to call the centres to find more information! (I had only given them 1 hour on the task). I felt like the volunteer centres wouldn’t take too kindly to my assistant calling to ask for volunteer details – it kind of defeated the purpose of the whole “give your time to the community” thing.

I gave them some more small tasks to do after that, but I couldn’t give them anything big because I would be paying $15/hr after the first three hours… ouch. Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with the quality of the products they returned either, although this could be a result of my instructions not being specific enough. Most importantly, even after I instructed them not to call after that first almost-fiasco, they continued to try to contact the leads they got from their research! At one point, they attempted to contact a potential employer; I freaked out.

Another thing that really bothered me was the fact that you don’t get a dedicated VA in the true sense of the word. You are assigned a contact in the company you can email and relay all your instructions to, but they don’t necessarily do the work themselves. They will have an entire team behind them, so your task will most likely be outsourced to someone else on the team. This means that a lot of information could be lost in the communication chain, and also that your VA never truly learns about your needs.

Even though I was slowly getting turned off from AskSunday, I still loved the idea of a virtual assistant. Upon some more research, I decided to quit AskSunday and try Upwork.

upwork-logo

Upwork is a website that matches freelancers with freelance jobs. Said freelancers are from all around the world; there are North American ones as well as Middle East ones. Some freelancers work for around minimum wage, but there are lots that are willing to work for as little as $1/hour!

I’ve since quit AskSunday and started using Upwork. I find that I get way better results for what I’m looking for, which is mostly web research and data compilation.

From my experience, here are how the two services compare:

AskSunday Upwork
Pros:

·        You don’t have to bother finding a new VA every time you need a task done as you just message your VA over Skype (or whatever other method of communication you’ve deemed best)

·        More secure

·        Good for small daily/weekly tasks

Con: This actually is pretty expensive ($15/hr)

Pros:

·        No minimum hours per week – when you need someone, you can hire them!

·        The freelancers I’ve worked with tend to ask more questions which leads to results that are better suited to what I was looking for

·        Can hire specifically for the skills you need (e.g. I usually specify high proficiency in Excel)

·        Less expensive – up to $1/hr!

·        Especially good for projects because you can pay them a fixed price for the entire project rather than going hourly

Con: This is considered less secure because you are hiring a stranger and have no vetting process but your own. I would not trust anyone on Upwork with my personal information.

 

Now that this experiment has officially concluded, I think I have added a very important tool to my arsenal. I would definitely recommend Upwork for tasks that are time-consuming, mindless, and can be easily outsourced. Maybe AskSunday would work better for someone in a higher income bracket.

niko

This post was originally going to be about January’s reads, but because of the insane hours of the audit busy season, I’ve only managed to finish one book…

Dmitri Nasrallah is an author from Montreal Quebec, Canada. I met him at, of all things, an academic event. I was taking a Legal Studies elective at university which was cross-listed with an English course, and my professor ran a reading series, where the school brought in established authors to talk about their books and give writing advice to students. We got extra credit in her course for attending the events, so you can bet that I was at every single one of them.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog now, but growing up I had always dreamed about becoming a professional writer. As I grew up though, I left that dream by the wayside in favour of less creative subjects (ahem accounting). That’s why it was so interesting to hear Nasrallah’s story. He wrote his first short story when he was 20 while taking a creative writing class. The creative writing class was his elective while he pursued a business degree. The similarity between his past and my present intrigued me, so much so that at the end of his reading I bought a copy of the only one of his books that was still in stock –

Niko, by Dmitri Nasrallah

Here’s a book trailer in French (the book has been published in both English and French):

Nasrallah signed the book for me, and with his blessing I started Niko’s journey.

dmitri-sig

Niko is a young boy who, with his father, leaves war-torn Lebanon in search for a brighter future. Niko has not yet started school at the beginning of the book, and by the end he is an adult. The story of immigration resonated with me and because I moved to Canada around the same time he did and was the same age as what he ended off at when I finished the book, I kept drawing parallels between my life and his. On the other hand, Niko’s history was a lot more coloured with violence and hardship than my own, so it was a little shocking to read about a man getting decapitated in Lebanon, then flip the page and be at a grocery store in Canada.

Favourite quote (this contains minor spoilers so you may want to stop here):

“They say you live in Canada. Tell me, how is your life now?”

“To be honest, it’s not so good.”

“You know,” Baba says, “when I sent you there, I thought you’d forget all about me and become a doctor. I thought you’d have everything waiting for you there, opportunities at your feet. You were supposed to go on and do great things.”

“Life is different there,” Niko shrugs. “There are too many rules, and no one is happy, but we all have a lot of money to live well and we all complain. I don’t know how to explain it, but even though there was no danger to our lives, we still found ways to make mistakes.”

“I’m disappointed to hear that.”

lazy university study routine

As the winter term starts, I wanted to share my study routine to hopefully inspire some procrastinators into changing their habits in the new year. I’m in my third year of university now, and my study routine has evolved as much as I have. I’m what you would call an amalgamation of a keen student and an extremely lazy one; I’m always starting to study just a tad too late but I’m always aiming for a high mark. The result of this is I tend to get very stressed before examinations. I found this method to be extremely effective in easing my stress levels, and it works for all subjects, from English to Science to Math. I hope it helps you too!

How to approach examinations

I never consider final exams different from midterms, from tests, or from quizzes. Even though some may impact your mark more than others, in the end, you should be putting your 110% into all of them.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

As with most people, I find it extremely difficult to remain focused on one task for an extended period of time. This is why I love the Pomodoro Technique. It consists of six steps (from Wikipedia):

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings. If a distraction pops into your head, write it down, but immediately get back on task.
  4. After the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 1.
  6. After four Pomodoro’s, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

Instead of a Pomodoro timer, you can just use your cell phone timer to keep track, or if you’re working on the computer you can use http://e.ggtimer.com/25min (change the “25min” to whatever length of time you want).

Completing readings before class

When you read, don’t bother to try and understand every sentence or paragraph. If you’ve read to the end of the paragraph but don’t understand, just keep going. Your brain will have already tried to process this information so that when the professor brings it up in a lecture, you’ll be learning it for a second time, which is often a lot easier.

During class

If your professor has notes or a Powerpoint presentation he or she refers to during the lecture, download it beforehand. This way, you can follow along from the beginning of class instead of rushing to find the right file. Also, it is important to actually download the file: you want to have it in a format that is easy to write/type notes on.

After class

I’ll be honest, I do nothing here. Nobody has time to prep before and after class.

Before an exam

(As I’ve said before, I treat all exams equally, so these tips also apply for quizzes and tests.)

There are two pieces to my preparation for an exam. The first piece is to learn the theory of the course, and the second is to learn how to apply the theory. For every day that I am preparing, I will try to hit both pieces.

Learning the theory

  1. Use the notes you made from reading your textbook chapters before class and your notes from class to create summary notes for every chapter you are being tested on.
  2. Once you have created summary notes, use the margin of the column to write up questions which your actual notes would answer. This is an example from one of my courses: IMG_20170121_212719.jpg
  3. Try to answer your questions in the margin without looking at the answers in the actual note. If you can’t answer without looking, write that question down.
  4. Go through the list of questions you couldn’t answer and try them again. If you get them this time, delete them from your list; otherwise, leave it there.
  5. Once you’ve successfully answered all the questions, highlight the actual note based on what you think is most important. This is an example from one of my courses: IMG_20170121_213156.jpg
  6. Using your highlighted “v1 notes”, create a second version of your summary notes. This is an example from one of my courses: IMG_20170121_213237.jpg
  7. Read your “v2 notes” out loud. This is supposed to help enhance memory.

If the exam covers a variety of chapters, I like to make the following chart to help keep myself organized:

341-toc.PNG

This chart comes in especially handy for when you’re studying for a final that includes material you’ve already studied for the midterm. Instead of starting back at square one, you can focus your efforts on whatever the material that came after the midterm first, until you reach whichever step you stopped at for material before the midterm.

Finally, remember to do all seven steps on seven different days. If you manage to get all the way to the last step before the exam, you’re probably already a master of the material.

Applying the theory

One of the most helpful ways to study for an exam is to complete practice problems. Sometimes the professor will give these problems free to you, but sometimes you have to dig for them. Upper years who have taken the course will often have old midterms, and your school may have an exam bank that contains questions for practice. You can also go through homework or assignment problems the professor gave to you throughout the year. I always like to do all the new problems I can find and only do problems sets twice as a last resort. I wouldn’t do problems sets more than twice because by then your brain has likely already remembered the exact way to solve the problem and you’re no longer exercising your critical thinking skills.

If the problems come with a recommended time to complete them, time yourself and try to finish within that time frame. This will help you learn to complete problems in the expected amount of time as well as mimic the testing environment.

Also, the professor will often tell you how many questions you can expect on the exam.Try to do the same number of problems per day leading up to the exam. The day before the exam, aim to complete twice the amount of problems, and the day of the exam three times a number of problems.

And that’s it! I hope these tips were helpful. If you have any questions about my method, feel free to comment below. Also, let me know if you have any helpful study tips to share!

br’s: december

The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan

This book details the life of two sisters growing up in the slums of Paris and their journeys in taking on various jobs (ballet dancer, laundress, prostitute, etc.) The male characters are mostly used as symbolic props here, and the critical thoughts of the girls are the focal point. Nevertheless, the historical context of 19th century Paris forces the girls to at least partly rely on the various men in their lives. It was a beautiful if heartbreaking novel to read.

Favourite quote:

“I want to put my face in my hands, to howl, for me, for Antoinette, for all the women of Paris, for the burden of having what men desire, for the heaviness of knowing it is ours to give, that with our flesh we make our way in the world.”

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

4hrworkweek

I talked about this in my previous post about getting a virtual assistant (experiment is still going strong, by the way). This book is a “how to cut yourself away from the corporate world and achieve true happiness by running your own business and traveling” kind of book. After I finished it, I went through a bit of a Ferriss craze by listening to a bunch of his interviews (he also wrote “The 4-Hour Chef” and “The 4-Hour Body” but I didn’t get a chance to read those yet). I found a lot of his advice a little too extreme for me – some of it came off as pushing responsibility onto others rather than being accountable – but his confidence in his teachings reinforced a lot of the lessons that I already knew. High recommended read.

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

I feel like this book is rich enough to be studied as part of a high school curriculum. Think Great Gatsby but with more in-depth characters and likeable storyline. It’s a very classy and clean read, which reflects the main character, Katey’s temperament. Katey slowly winds herself up Manhattan’s social ladder in an entirely hard-working and honest way – but not without temptations. The ending of the book’s various characters leads to a lot of discussion, so this would be a great book club read.

Favourite quote:

“You see that thirty-year-old blonde next to Jake? That’s his fiancée, Carrie Clapboard. Carrie moved all manner of heaven and earth to get into that chair. And soon she will happily oversee scullery maids and table settings and the reupholstering of antique chairs at three different houses; which is all well and good. But if I were your age, I wouldn’t be trying to figure out how to get into Carrie’s shoes – I’d be trying to figure out how to get into Jake’s.”

i got a personal assistant

 

No, this isn’t a joke.

I should probably start at the beginning. A book I’ve picked up recently was The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It was recommended by a consultant I met who said he swore by this book. I’m not done reading yet, but already it has caused me to rethink my life and work habits.

There is an entire chapter of his book devoted to the art of automating. Automating essentially means designing your work in such a way that it will run itself and no longer need decision-making input from you. One of the ways to do this is to outsource more mundane tasks that still need to be done at a rate lower than what you earn. Here’s a diagram from the book which details the thought process Ferriss wants you to follow (this is also currently taped to the front of my desk as a reminder):

Automate-Flowchart.PNG

But how does one outsource tasks? One of the techniques used by Ferriss and his clients is actually to send the tasks over to assistants in third-world countries, where labour is cheaper! I was intrigued and wanted to experiment – as a student I may not have as much to do as, say, a working mom, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to improve on the skill of delegating so that when life does ramp up I can become more efficient. As I went throughout my day, many things started to crop up where I’d think, “wow, I could definitely automate this.”

Ferriss had provided a bunch of assistant services in his book. I decided to choose among them mostly because of security reasons. My criteria were: 1) they had to be cheap (student budget yo), 2) flexible hours (I did not want to commit myself to outsourcing 10 hours of work when I wasn’t sure about the quality of the work or if I’d even have that much to assign), and 3) the ability to assign non-business tasks (some services only performed administrative duties related to work, but I work with confidential information so that would have been a no-go, and I didn’t think it would be effective or ethical for me to outsource my assignments to India). I ended up choosing AskSunday.

Some news outlets actually covered AskSunday a number of years ago. Some things have changed (for example, they now charge by the hour instead of by task), but for the most part the service is the same:

I signed up on AskSunday’s website over the weekend. Monday morning I got the following message from a Customer Service representative and then from my Personal Assistant. He actually tried to call me but I was in class and didn’t answer. Instead, we chatted over Skype to set some expectations. I sent him my first request – to research volunteer opportunities relating to women I could take part in.

I’m excited to see if this experiment will actually significantly improve my life in any way. Updates to come!

br’s: august

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Before I started reading, I had already heard lots of murmurs about how it reads like fanfiction… and I’d have to agree. The logic behind timeflow isn’t consistent with Rowling’s original series at all, and all the characters were surprisingly flat (but maybe that’s because it was meant to be performed instead of just read).

I do have to say that Scorpius is just the gosh-darn cutest thing and reading any of the passages with him in it just made my day.

l-r_Harry_Potter_(Jamie_Parker),_Albus_Potter_(Sam_Clemmett),_Ginny_Potter_(Poppy_Miller)-large_trans++P642x9a4zXQRkyaVdo3I2TWirqIBi3L-jQ5m0Ctq1mo

My Fight/ Your Fight, by Ronda Rousey and Maria Burns Ortiz

I’ve written about Rousey before… since that post (and the publishing of this novel) she’s been defeated and sat out of the competition for awhile. Everyone’s been anxiously waiting for her return, and we recently just found out that she won’t be back for UFC 205 in November.

You can tell that Rousey treats life like a long extended fight. There is always adversity to overcome, an enemy to defeat, an authority figure to prove wrong. Whenever she’s not crying, she’s pissed. Like the promo videos before her Octagon fights, it was entertaining, but unlike those videos, it wasn’t especially inspiring.

MyFightYourFight-UFC-DailyMotion-1680x800.jpg

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

I’ve instagrammed more than one quote from this book, so I’m clearly in love with it. I’m just a sucker for those “no regrets” and “stop and smell the roses” types of stories. It also appeals to the YA book monster living inside me.

I found out after finishing it that this is getting made into a movie (coming out 2017)! The book reminded me of Anna Akana and RWJ’s Riley Rewind, so I wonder if the movie will be like it as well (except extended, of course). Riley Rewind was awesome, so I hope it is.

 

 

In other news, I created a Wattpad account! Hopefully some short stories will be up soon.

my foray into polyphasic sleeping

I was initially hoping to post a much longer entry much later, but unfortunately my self-experiment was very short-lived and so this is all there is to say.

How I discovered it

I heard about polyphasic sleeping the same way that I hear about most things – a Buzzfeed video. I then went down a dark tunnel of internet research.

What it is

For those of you who don’t know what polyphasic sleeping is, here is a quick run-down:

Most Western people are fixated on the adage that it is optimal to get 8 hours of sleep a day in one block of time. Polyphasic sleeping is spreading out your sleep into several smaller chunks of time, and ultimately decreasing your total sleep time by making yourself sleep more efficiently. Here are a few of the most common types of polyphasic sleeping:

chaseSleep
Source

The cons of polyphasic sleeping overwhelmed the pros. I’ve heard stories of a classmate’s brother who tried the Uberman schedule. He ended up getting constant nosebleeds and eventually had to go to the hospital. I wasn’t willing to mess myself up this much to satisfy a little curiosity. In addition, through my masterful internet research process, I wasn’t able to unearth many people who were able to 1) sustain polyphasic sleeping for more than a few months and 2) do so without side effects, such as abnormal weight gain. All the hype about polyphasic sleeping was mostly from people who were just starting it. There seemed to be no scientific evidence supporting it at all. Most website claimed that there were famous people who slept polyphasically like Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Nikolas Tesla, but the thing was that none of these famous people were still alive for me to judge whether they were living a happy and healthy lifestyle or not.

In the end, I decided I didn’t want to risk messing my body up just to satisfy a little curiosity.

Biphasic sleeping

In the Buzzfeed video, the doctor mentioned how many cultures do biphasic sleeping and how our bodies are actually wired to do so. Their definition of biphasic sleeping was going for 6 hours and then taking a 20 minute nap sometime throughout the day. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to make this habit conducive to my lifestyle, as I would most likely be having a 9-5 day and then be doing something afterwards. It would be too difficult to set aside a time every day to have that 20-minute nap.

Our natural sleep cycle

While doing research on biphasic sleeping, I noticed another sleep cycle that was less talked about but had more scientific backing. It was another form of biphasic sleeping, but involved sleeping for four hours at a time, waking up for one to two hours, and then sleeping again for another four hours. So you were essentially still getting that required 8 hours of sleep, just in two blocks instead of one. There were two main reasons behind this way of sleeping:

  • This is our natural sleep cycle. According to many articles, this specific type of biphasic sleeping was what all humans did before the invention of the lightbulb. When there wasn’t any artificial light, the days were shorter, and so people went to sleep earlier. There were historical references to “two sleeps” in old literature, which is how we discovered this historical phenomenon. In addition, when psychiatrist Thomas Wehr did an experiment where he shut people in darkness for 14 hours a day (how long natural darkness is). After people had paid off their sleep debt (the combined hours of missed sleep we have wracked up over the years), they started to go back to this historical sleep pattern.
  • Better sleep quality. Throughout the night, we’ll go through several cycles of sleep. At around four hours, this is when we enter into one of the lightest sleeps, which makes it very easy to wake up. I have actually noticed that I will wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, something which through my internet research I’ve realized is quite common. Instead of sitting in the darkness waiting to fall back asleep, it seems more sensible to get up and do something with this twilight time.
  • Boosts creativity. People who do sleep in four-hour blocks like this have commented that they are able to be the most creative in the middle of the night during those few hours. Whether this is because there are no distractions from the outside world (duh, everyone else is sleeping) or just because of the mental state our brain is in after having a few full cycles of sleep is unknown, but who doesn’t want to be more creative?

My experience with biphasic sleeping

After reading so much about it, I was really excited to try biphasic sleeping myself. I always want to be more creative and efficient when doing my work, and I really dug the whole “our natural rhythm” aspect. Also, I had found myself waking up in the middle of the night a lot lately, so I figured it would not be too much of a stretch to actually get up and do something with my time.

Before biphasic sleeping, my bedtime ritual was this. I always tried to get 8 hours of sleep, and I liked to give myself half an hour to fall asleep, so I would budget 8.5 hours in bed. I liked to turn off all electronics about an hour before I got into bed in order to prepare myself for sleep, and take the hour to wash my face, brush my teeth, settle into PJs, and read a book. Sometimes if there were menial tasks around the house that didn’t require electronics like ironing clothes, I would fit that into the hour too. So my schedule looked something like this:

10:00 pm all electronics off, prep for bed

11:00 pm sleep

7:30 am wake up

For my experiment, I decided that I would do four hours (or 4.5 including getting-to-sleep time) with a one-hour gap and then another four hours. The reason I decided against anything more than an hour was because I had to wake up at the same time the next day, and adding more hours meant that I would have to sleep even earlier. I figured that I could start out with one hour, and if necessary slowly increase it.

My modified schedule looked like this:

9:30 pm all electronics off, prep for bed

10:00 pm sleep

2:30 am wake up

3:30 am back to sleep

7:30 am wake up for real

For the hour gap I was awake I also steered away from electronics in order to make sure that I would be able to fall asleep immediately afterwards.

In conjunction with this biphasic sleeping experiment, I also decided to employ the help of an app I had discovered and thought was helpful: Sleep Cycle. It tracks your sleeping throughout the night in order to wake you up at the optimal time (when you are in a light sleep stage) so you can wake up feeling restful instead of cranky.

The effects

It was surprisingly easy to get up in the middle of the night – I wasn’t fighting to open my eyes. In fact, it was easier waking up the first time than the second time, which might have been an issue since the second time waking up was when I had to actually pull myself out of bed for work.

The first night, I wasn’t sure how my brain would be feeling, so I just scheduled reading. The next night I tried some light physical activity like folding laundry, and the night after I tried to do some creative writing. My brain felt really clear during that hour, but it was almost like that clearness you get when you’ve had to get up at 3am to go to the airport. I can’t say that I feel any enhanced creativity. I was a lot more calm than I usually am, but I also felt as if I was working more slowly. There was definitely no bursts of divine inspiration that I’d read about, which is a little disappointing.

During the day, I was fine. I never experienced that “jetlag” feeling that polyphasic sleepers they say they have to go through. I’d attribute that to the fact that what I was doing was the natural rhythm of my body, instead of artificially introducing a new circadian clock into my system.

What I really loved about having that hour in the middle of the night was that I never felt pressured to get anything done. Before this experiment, I’d had the “restful hour” before my sleep time in order to get ready for bed, but too often I would have to interrupt this time because there was some task that was just urgent enough for me to spent an extra ten minutes doing it. That ten minutes would sometimes stretch into the full hour, and I’d just have time to do a quick wipe of my face before heading off to bed. When that restful hour is in the middle of your two sleep blocks, there is no longer that lazy “getting-ready-for-bed” attitude that can seep into your alone time. I was free to do whatever I wanted that was just for me. Hell, I was so calm that I could meditate for an hour if I wanted to – something I would never be able to do an hour before bed.

Why I stopped

While my new sleep schedule was a pretty interesting experience, a week in I was already noticing the one glaring problem:

I couldn’t get myself out of bed.

And it wasn’t because I was tired – it was because I was just too lazy. My mind was awake, but my body just felt so warm in its cozy cocoon. I didn’t want to fall asleep, but I also didn’t want to flip open the covers and start being productive either. The last night before I gave up the experiment, I just lay in bed for the full hour, staring at the ceiling and trying to will myself to sit upright. I realized that while I might be able to do work, the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to get up would suck that hour right from my schedule. I might as well have been sleeping for 9.5 hours instead of 8.5 then.

Me now

Even though I’ve stopped sleeping in two blocks of time, I’ve kept up my use of the Sleep Cycle alarm to wake me up in the mornings. It’s super nice to wake up in a good mood, and also be able to flip through all the stats from your last night’s sleep to see what went on. I find it super satisfying to see how many times I hit the deep sleep stage, almost as if it’s an achievement.

What I learned from this experience?

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” -Homer