How to Reboot Your Burnt-Out Brain

By WIRED Staff

LG: Alan, before we go onto your next tips, tell us what your book is about.

AH: The book is a productivity book.

LG: There you go.

AH: It is a book about productivity. It's a book of productivity advice for people, for whom traditional productivity advice doesn't always work. So yeah, the story I like to tell is there are a lot of people for whom, I used to work with a guy who would block off every Tuesday as no meeting Tuesdays. And if somebody, including his boss or our boss's boss would try to schedule him for a meeting on Tuesdays, he'd reply and say, "No, no. Tuesdays is my no meeting day. I'm focusing on work." He could get away with that. I don't think I could've gotten away with that, and I think there are a lot of people, they would hear that tip and be like, "I can't do that. My boss would have my head if I did that." If that's you, then hopefully this book will help you. I'm not going to tell you how to get away with a no meeting day, I'm just going to tell you how to work around it so you can still get stuff done.

LG: Right, right. That's a great point. A lot of the tips we hear make the assumption that you have ultimate control over your schedule. When in reality, in a lot of workplaces, you don't have as much control over things. You have to sort of go with the flow and respond to your boss's needs. OK. So what are some of your other, I was going to say breaks, what are some of your other tips, Alan?

AH: Breaks. Take breaks. It seems counterintuitive, right? I gave a seminar about this at The Times where I used to work and people were like, "What do you mean taking breaks makes you more productive?" And I'm like, listen, if you have ever struggled to work for hours upon hours upon hours straight, you'll understand that at the start, when you really find your flow and you're really into it, you're really productive. But by the end of that work session, you are tired, you're dragging, you're barely progressing. If you had taken a break to recharge earlier, before you feel like you would rather do anything but what you're doing now, you could come back recharged and ready to go back to that high point. So by all means, take breaks, it actually does help you be more productive in the long run.

And also, I just tell people take naps. I'm a huge advocate of the work day nap. If I vanished on Slack, you guys probably should assume I'm napping.

MC: Nice.

AH: But then the thing is I'll go take a nap, I'll just doze off for like an hour or something and then I'll come back and I'll power through and people will be like, "Oh wow, Alan, you're working really late." And that's exactly what I want you to think. But really I just took a nap for two hours and now I'm working late. And that's going to also be in my book by the way.

MC: I wish I had that super power and the ability to just fall asleep in the middle of the day. I can't do it.

AH: Yeah. It's tough. It is tough. It is tough.

MC: So Lauren, I know that you have a pretty good tip that relates to a calendaring and sleep hours. Why don't you tell us about it?