By Rosie Gollancz
ÂI cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better.Â
Henry David Thoreau
Working for a startup means that I rarely experience a day that seems long enough. Being part of a small team also means that there isnÂt anyone to fall back on, so getting your job done and doing it well is really important. The sheer number of responsibilities each person has on a daily basis mean that we have all had to take a step back and reassess both our work and relaxation time in order to ensure that weÂre getting the most out of each.
IÂm going to share some things IÂve learned, which I hope might help you increase your productivity at work and your sense of calm at home as well.
Having said this, I wish that I had a mind-blowing hack to share with you – one that would help you instantly become many times more productive. In reality, one of the first things I learned was that there wasnÂt one all-encompassing solution that would overhaul the way I work and play.
In my experience, becoming more productive is about making small improvements to habits you have already established, or a schedule you have unwittingly become accustomed to. Although it wasnÂt always easy to put these things place, the benefits they brought about were almost immediate.
My first secret to optimizing productivity: sleep.
Working in a sleep-focused company, I am surrounded on a daily basis by research on the negative effects of sleep deprivation and its potential effect on your mood, productivity and general wellbeing. It was therefore, the first thing I turned to in my quest for self-improvement!
When IÂm not well rested (which means having anything less than 7 hours of quality sleep) I really struggle to concentrate and my emotions take a nosedive. So, in general, I aim to keep to a regular schedule that sees me in bed by 11.30pm each night, ready to get up at 6.03am sharp.
Unsurprisingly, research has repeatedly shown that even relatively mild sleep deprivation impacts negatively on mood, cognitive performance and even motor function. Even keeping to the same routine wonÂt help if youÂre not getting enough sleep each night with dips in performance being observed in those who feel they have ÂadaptedÂ to their lack of sleep .
Sleep loss has also been shown to have a negative impact on your working memory, so the longer a task takes to complete the worse your performance becomes – when you consider that tasks take longer to complete when youÂre sleep deprived it really is a lose-lose situation [2,3].
Why 7 hours a night? This number is as individual as your shoe-size – IÂve chosen mine based on how much sleep I need to feel alert and motivated the following day. To sum up, not getting enough sleep has the potential to affect everything from your work performance, insight, risk assessment and even your communication skills  so why not make sleep a priority for 2013?
If you still need some convincing, IÂll point you towards the study which found similarities between the effects of sleep loss and half the legal limit for alcohol when driving on a personÂs mental performance . If you wouldnÂt show up at work drunk, then you shouldnÂt show up sleep-deprived either!
My second pillar of productivity: happiness.
Research has shown that when you are happy at work you put more effort in and, in turn, you are more productive . Being happy was defined by these researchers as Âexperiencing positive emotionsÂ, but it might not be just happiness affecting your productivity – general well being was linked to increased productivity as well.
Findings such as these definitely ring true for me – inevitably, there are days when you feel sluggish and struggle to be productive, but by and large, the key to unlocking your potential may just be finding that delicate balance between hard-work and time-out.
How can you do this?
One very simple thing weÂve started to do is make sure we take time out to eat lunch together as a team away from our desks each day. In doing this weÂve bonded better and having a few laughs and a chance to relax during lunch keeps us motivated for the rest of the workday.
Second, weÂve started reserving 45 minutes each Friday for a Âteam talkÂ Â each person has the opportunity to nominate himself or herself on a Monday to give a talk on a topic of their choice. Highlights so far have included a beginnersÂ yoga session and an interactive face-painting lesson! It might seem like a significant time investment but it has led to an increase in the teamÂs confidence and makes sure that we always end the week on a good note.
In accepting that there are only so many hours in each day, I have found it easier to focus on making those hours count, but thereÂs no doubt that it takes effort and willpower to work on yourself. In fact, the desire to become more productive has provided an excuse to work on some bad habits IÂd been keen to change but had never gotten around to!
 Pilcher, J., Huffcut, A.I., (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta analysis. Sleep, 19(4), 318-326.
 Durmer, J.S., Dinges, D.F. (2005). Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Seminars in Neurology, 25(1), 117-129.
 Lim, J., Dinges, D.F. (2008). Sleep deprivation and vigilant attention. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1129, 305-322.
 Williamson, A.M., Feyer, A.M. (2000). Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 57, 649-655.
 Oswald, Andrew J., Proto, Eugenio and Sgroi, Daniel, Happiness and Productivity. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4645.