I am very glad that I was big into acting when I was young. I took a performing arts course after university and I think it has finally come into its own since I have become a working mom. First of all on the home front, you have to act as if you are taking seriously any of the advice all the thousands of experts are hurling at you, for example, the organic brigade who don't feed their children more than rice cakes and water for the first five years and the fundamentalist parenting types who time their babies' sleeps and feeds to the second and live their lives entirely by the clock.
In the playground, it’s a question of pretending that you worry about every aspect of your child’s education rather than just being relieved that you got them to school at all. The office is more of a challenge and requires acting of Shakespearean standards, particularly if you have had very little sleep and are headed into a five-hour strategic planning session. If acting fails you, I would recommend the following tactics in cases of dire emergency – most of which I have personally road tested:
1. Drink lots of caffeine. Where at all possible, hook yourself up to an intravenous caffeine drip, although it’s best not to overdo it. You can end up a trembling wreck and then you’ll have to cover up the twitches.
2. Keep talking. Listening requires much more energy and if you keep talking, at least you’ll still be technically awake. Remember at all times to keep busy. You won’t last five minutes if you start watching the clock.
3. Divert attention from the nonsensical nature of your sentences. After one hour’s sleep, sentences tend to begin and then be left hanging in the air as you forget where it was you were going and where it was you had come from. Avoid this at all costs, unless you want to appear mysterious, like you are having so many deep thoughts that you can’t possibly finish a sentence without more thoughts crowding in. You know that diverting attention works with children who are throwing a strop. It also works on adults. If you are involved in a meeting about some obscure point of strategic planning, bring in some extraneous and entertaining anecdote. It will wake the others up too.
4. Develop cold-like symptoms and go for the sympathy vote. After all, severe sleep deprivation makes you look like you’re ill or at least in need of a few days/months in bed.
5. Avoid anything that requires a lot of concentration and focus on things you can do quickly, such as answering emails at top speed. It looks like you are being productive.
6. Tidy your desk. See above.
7. Walk around the office a lot and offer to get people food and drink, etc. They’ll be grateful and you’ll get some much needed fresh air.
8. Keep a low profile. Alternatively, try to be the centre of attention. This is a cunning ploy to throw people off the scent and should only be attempted by the true sleep-deprivation expert.
9. Dip your eyelashes in ice-cold water/set fire to your fingernails. This is obviously a last-ditch tactic.
10. Don’t have a heavy lunch. If possible, starve all day. The rumbling noises will keep you awake.
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