Five Ways to turn Occasional Insomnia into Productivity

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Good afternoon from Barcelona, where it’s 2:15pm, or 8:15am back in New York. I’ve been up since around 1am this morning, thank you jet lag. For some strange reason, Europe is the only place that hits me with jet lag. I fly all over the world and I’m fine. But come to Europe, and I’m a zombie for a minimum of three days. So, in my zombiefied state, I figured I should at least be productive.

I’m not making light of insomnia, mind you. For those who have it more than occasionally, it’s brutal, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But when it strikes an otherwise healthy sleeper on occasion, one should take advantage of the wealth of free time it provides.

With that, here are five ways to boost your productivity while you’re up and unable to sleep.

1) Listen to the other side of the world! Go on Twitter and look for people currently tweeting using hashtags within your industry. They might be insomniacs next door to you, but chances are, they’re across the world from you, talking about the same things you are, and facing the same problems you face. Getting fresh “across the planet” perspective might be just what you need to have a breakthrough or take you to the next level.

​2) Learn some new things – You can use your own personal free time to try out new things that might improve your productivity, which you’ve yet to find the time to implement. Sign up for and get the latest apps, programs, and browser extensions to make you more productive. At 3am, you have all the time in the world to try them out and tweak them to your benefit. Added bonus: Go through the “preferences” files of your most used apps and see if you’re using them to your best advantage. The amount of things you can customize on Gmail will blow your mind. This is your time. Use it to your advantage! I’ve learned tons of new things when I’ve been awake during the dark hours, including the very cool theory of binaural beats. Additionally, the biggest reason we don’t master new things, or even just make them habits, is because we’re constantly interrupted as we’re trying to learn them. Focus on something for an hour when you’re not being bothered by anyone, and there you go! Want that promotion at work? Study up on something new that gives you the edge. Listen, they still haven’t invented NZT yet, so until they do, use every advantage you can get.

3) Workout! There are tons of 24 hour gyms in every city around the world, and at 3am, there are never lines for the treadmills, bikes, or weights. Some gyms even offer late night classes that are usually full of other creative people.

No gym near you? No worries – Go into your living room and do this series three times:

10 pushups
20 sit-ups
10 squats (real squats, ass-to-grass, don’t fake it)
20 straight leg raises
45 second plank

Who needs a gym?

4) Meet new friends. You’d be surprised how many other people have occasional insomnia for a host of reasons, not just jet lag. Co-working spaces have opened up all over the world that cater to these types of people. I’ve met some of my closest friends at 2am, while figuring out how to grow an audience or refine a mission statement. In my experience, when those who are already considered creative get insomnia, they become even more creative. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either!

5) Finally, use your occasional insomnia as a way to handle all those annoying tasks you promise yourself you’ll always get to. Go to Inbox -10, where you try and get your inbox below ten emails. Write a few blog posts. Update your computer. Do the stupid things you never get around to during the day, when emails and status requests prevent you from focusing.

Steve Winwood once said it best – “Don’t you know what the night can do?” Turns out, the night can do quite a lot, if you let it.

What’s your favorite productivity tip when you’re faced with occasional insomnia? Leave it here, and perhaps my friends at Sleep Number will notice it, and maybe even reward the best tip!

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