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In order to stay productive I want to make sure I don't try to work when I am too tired, as I should get some rest instead. Working on computers all day long as I do can make it hard to detect. What are some efficient ways to measure how tired I am?

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As a rough estimation, you can try to measure your reaction time once you feel you're fully awake and then compare to that value. – superM Dec 2 '13 at 15:16

Have a look at the review paper "The assessment of fatigue - A practical guide for clinicians and researchers"

Although this paper aims to clinical populations (physical and neurological diseases as well as psychiatric disorders) some scales may be useful for you.

UPDATE: If the above link does not work here is the entry in Pubmed.

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$30 to view.... – Tyler James Young Dec 6 '13 at 19:38
I looked through the paper a several months ago and none of the scales seemed to relate to short-term tiredness, unfortunately – user165604 Sep 8 '15 at 4:10

Very interesting question. I would very much like to know how to do so too! Here's a short list of things I can think of.

  1. Self-inquiry
    • give a score of 1-5 of how tired you are. @Kardashev3's answer contains lists of questions you can ask)
  2. Physical strength test
    • how many repeats can you make on a some exercise? (e.g. hand grips or push-ups)
  3. Reaction time test (as @superM suggested)
  4. Other physical indications (could be merged into self-inquiry, I guess)
    • do your eyelids feel heavy?
    • do your legs feel heavy?
  5. Typing speed test
    • since you are on your computer for most of your time, a quick typing test might be indicative of fatigue
  6. EEG analysis
    • not very practical, but there could be correlates in spectral composition of brain waves. It can definitely detect when you are sleeping.

These are just random speculations/suggestions/ideas. I hope an expert would give a better answer.

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I don't think "tired" is the accurate indicator. I believe (for people who work at computers) the assessment metric is mental energy.

The proxy I use for mental energy is the ease at which I can start new tasks. When I find I don't want to complete even simple tasks (answering email, updating documentation, etc), it's a strong indicator my mental energy reserves are low.

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Unfortunately, I don't think there is a practically workable solution on the market for measuring drowsiness in an office environment.

However, the required technology does exist today. Some cars use facial recognition software, setting off an alarm if it concludes you should take a break. Parameters include slackening facial muscles, your blinking patterns and how long your eyes stay closed between blinks.

An interesting idea for a smartphone or laptop app would be a program that does the same but in an office environment.

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I'd stay away from any gadgets since they tend to become boring & complex. These would refrain you from measuring. Instead, I'd recommend to choose something easy that requires your body and energy only, like:

  • Counting the # of squats you can do in 10 seconds. Its very important not to move away from the 10 sec measurement since more time would make you sweat and then that would refrain you from doing it again, a 2nd time. The '10' metric insteado of say, '15' and '20' is the shortest & easiest to remember number that I could think of. You can also do the squats almost anywhere and if you need privay, a restroom booth will also do.
  • Count the # of seconds that you can hold in a deep breath of air befor exhaling.

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    My method is a reduced form of mindfullness meditation. I use downtimes of the day to focus on my breath and try to abandon thoughts, observing them as they rise. Without even thinking, I can almost immediately feel my current state.

    You want your mind back to perspective before putting down some numbers, then I would suggest a self-inquiry questionnaire (a datasheet perhaps) like Memming suggested. If you don't want to leave things by chance, you can use timers like in the Pomodoro tecnique to establish checkpoints for a quick regroup with yourself throughout the day.

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