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Aim for as much as nine hours. Take naps.

Top performers sleep more. In studying sleep patterns among conservatory students, Anders Ericsson discovered that, “The weekly amount of sleep during the diary week did not differ for the two best groups and averaged 60.0 hr. This average was reliably longer than that for the music teachers, which was 54.6 hr… Hence the two best groups, who practice more, also sleep reliably longer.

And napping has well-documented restorative effects. “NASA’s Fatigue Counter Measures Program has found that a short nap of just forty minutes improved performance by an average of 34 percent and alertness by 100 percent.” (Loehr & Schwartz)

Famous nappers include da Vinci, Napoleon, Edison, Kennedy, Thatcher, Reagan, and Clinton. Churchill summarized it thus:

You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will accomplish more. You get two days in one—well, at least one and a half, I’m sure. When the war started, I had to sleep during the day because that was the only way I could cope with my responsibilities.


Further reading:

K. Anders Ericsson et al. 1993. The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. 2003. The Power of Full Engagement. Free Press


A spot contract is a miniature commitment contract that you make on the spot and award to the first person willing to spot you.

Regret staying up too late last night? Resolved to go to bed earlier? Make it happen on the spot. Email your friends, asking them to spot you:

If I’m not in bed tonight by 11, I will buy the first person to email me back lunch. Who’s game?


Live and work in a quiet place. Soundproof your home. Wear earplugs, shooting muffs, or sound-canceling headphones. Take refuge in nature.

Frequent exposure to noise increases heart attack risk by as much as 50 percent. Frequent exposure to noise also significantly impedes learning. One study found that “reading skills are markedly delayed in children exposed to high levels of aircraft noise. A mere 5-decibel increase is enough to delay learning by up to two months.

Conversely, by spending time in nature, you give “top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish.


Further reading:

Berman et al. 2008. The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature

Craig Childs. 2009-06-25. Perfect Quiet. PSMag

Sorenson et al. 2012. Road Traffic Noise and Incident Myocardial Infarction: A Prospective Cohort Study


Be smart about it. Take precauations. But hitchhike.

Hitchhiking opens you to the kindness of strangers, teaches you trust and patience, and exposes you to surprise. And since kindness comes suddenly and out of the blue, hitchhiking – to borrow from Mark Twain – is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.