Like it or not, sleep and productivity are inextricably linked. If you sacrifice the former, the latter is going to suffer. Here’s what you should do instead.
After hitting the snooze button for the fourth time in a row, you finally drag yourself out of bed. You barely slept last night – after all, you had deadlines to meet. Bleary-eyed and groggy, you eventually manage to drag yourself into the office, coffee in hand.
Only once you’ve finished your cup of joe are you actually able to focus on getting stuff done. As you work away at your desk, you realize you’ve another late night ahead of you. You sigh and think that the weekend can’t come soon enough.
We live in a culture that’s obsessed with being busy. People take how many hours they work every week as a badge of pride. They talk constantly about how exhausted they are and how they wish they could get more rest.
And all the while, they fall further and further behind.
Sacrificing sleep for the sake of work is akin to borrowing money at an impossibly high interest rate. You might think you’re getting more done, but you aren’t. The less you sleep, the less you’re going to get done.
If it helps, you might think of your mind as a machine. Like any machine, it needs energy to run efficiently – energy from good sleep habits and a proper diet. Without that energy, things start to break down.
Your mind will wander, and you’ll find yourself more distraction-prone. Tasks that you might polish off in seconds will drag on, and you’ll start making gradually more mistakes. You’ll become gradually more impulsive and irritable, and make poor decisions as a result.
And ultimately, as you become progressively more ragged and run-down, you’ll start to burn out. The impact of sleep deprivation on the workplace has been well-documented. A RAND Corporation Study, for instance, found that sleep deprivation is responsible for economic losses of up to $411 billion per year.
There’s also the small fact that not getting enough sleep opens the door to a huge laundry list of health issues including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimers.
Basically, there are more reasons than productivity to get your sleep in check. As for how you can do so, there are a few small steps you can take right off the start.
Unplug and Relax
It can be tempting to turn on Netflix, browse the web, or chat on your phone while you wait to drift off. Don’t do it. The blue light from your screens – not to mention the mental stimulation of electronic devices – kicks your mind into overdrive. It tells your brain it’s not yet time to sleep, and gets you psychologically wired, even if you’re physically exhausted.
Instead of spending time on the phone before you sleep, dedicate the last hour of your day before bed to unwinding. Take a hot bath. Drink a soothing cup of (caffeine-free) tea. Read a good book.
Do something that doesn’t involve screens and electronics. If you must use your phone, you should at the very least enable night mode.
We’ve all had that client (or boss) who doesn’t seem to understand ‘normal working hours.’ If you value your sleep (and your sanity) it’s important to politely yet firmly establish your availability. Tell them when you’ll be offline, and stick to that.
Set your phone to Do Not Disturb – and if you do have any tasks that must be prioritized, delegate.
Remember That Your Bedroom Is Not Your Office
I once had an entrepreneurial friend who subsisted almost entirely on Red Bull, stubbornness, and spite. He would regularly pull seventy to eighty-hour weeks, jumping through a thousand hoops for his clients. It was inherently unsustainable – eventually, the entire house of cards fell down about his ears and he burnt out.
He’s doing fine now, thankfully. He’s kicked his energy drink habit and is gradually working to correct his sleep schedule. When I reached out to him, he said that one of the best steps he took involved separating the personal and professional.
“In the interest of saving space, I’ve converted the walk-in closet in my bedroom into a home office,” he recalls. “It was awful. Any time I couldn’t sleep, my desk was just a few steps away – I figured I might as well get up and go back to work.”
“I’ve since moved to a new place, and made sure to clearly separate my office from the rest of my home,” he continues. “My bedroom is exclusively for sleep.”
Sleep Smarter, Work Better
Regardless of your profession, one thing holds true. You need sleep to function. Without healthy sleep habits, you’ll not only be less productive, but you’ll also be less healthy – both mentally and physically.
Follow the advice I’ve outlined here, and take charge of your sleep cycle.
Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts. BlueCotton offers printed and embroidered custom t-shirts, hats, and outerwear for groups of all kinds: schools, churches, sports teams, non-profits, fraternities, sororities, or those who simply want to make a proud, personal statement. As the Chief Strategy Officer, Brad oversees marketing, human resources, and business development. Brad also never loses an opportunity to test out a new productivity hack or technique.