Too many things to do, and not enough time to do them; the budding ‘Wantrepeneur’ inside all of us desperately justifying the bullshit work hard/play hard philosophy it believes in so much. Yes, you need to be passionate if you want to succeed, and yes, you need to work hard, but you also need to apply the other side of that equation as well. You also need to work smart, bite the bullet, and accept that you can never be at your ‘best’, if you’re constantly running on empty. Which is why we’re talking about sleep; an overlooked priority when it comes to performance.
Using how exhausted/busy you are, as some form of productivity gauge, or social pride/bragging right has had its time; now you need to be better than that. Not sleeping is a false economy that leaves your cognitive functions in the same ballpark as say, a teaspoon.
Let’s face it, the world of sleep-deprived zombies, transformed by their morning espresso into a fully functioning member of the human-race, are not going to make the greatest of decisions about anything more complex than tying their shoes.
Sleep deprivation (no matter how noble the cause), is a path to higher body fat, increased stress, slower recovery, and the cognitive functions of a teaspoon. So, for any of you who want to kill it in business, or crush it in the gym… well, I have some bad news for you. You’re going to suck…
Here’s a quick litmus test if you’re curious about your sleep deficit. Lie on your bed in a dark room, and hang your arm just off the bed holding something in your hand, that make a noise when you fall asleep, and it drops to the floor. Less than 5 minutes, you’re in a bad place. 10-15 minutes, you need some work. Over 20 minutes, you’re probably the most refreshed person you know.
So, if you want to really up your performance in all areas of your life, apply the following 7 practices, and see what happens when you really are functioning at the peak potential:
1) Have total blackout when you sleep:
Deathly silent, and pitch black is what we want wherever you sleep. Your whole body is reactive to light, not just your eyes, and as for noise, anything that will drown out ambient noises (A/C unit, a fan, or a white noise app) is a game changer.
Oh, and phone face down, and on silent.
2) Manage your stress:
Combine excessive workloads, travel, stimulants, alcohol and partying (sorry, I mean ‘networking’), and you’ll hit your critical mass for stress management pretty fast, which can lead to some less than stellar decisions.
You need to find a way to release some of the pressure, and bring some balance back into your life, so you can focus clearly on anything that comes your way.
Find what chills you out (it’s each to his or her own here), and do it. It could be meditation, yoga, reading, writing, foam rolling, just find something that works for you, and use it every day.
3) Understand that it’s a 24/7 process:
You can’t expect to be manic all day, and then have Zen-like sleep. The same way you can’t instantly accelerate from unconscious to awake, you can’t fall asleep without a little transition time either, so using the next few points throughout the day will pay dividends when your head does hit the pillow.
- Take the last 30 minutes of your day, and make things a little more Zen.
- Get more sunlight in your life. A 10-15 minute walk outside can work minor miracles at night.
- Move more. Exercise will help balance your internal rhythms during the day, leaving you reaping the benefits later in the day. Just don’t workout too late; it can rev you back up for hours
- Try keeping a note of the positive steps of your day, what did you achieve that took you one step closer to your goals?
- Use the last few minutes to define your ‘must’ do for the next day. Make the act of going to sleep one more step in your journey.
5) Wake up like you mean it:
By now, it shouldn’t come as much of a shock when I tell you that having you drag yourself out of bed using every ounce of willpower you have, isn’t exactly… optimal.
- Wake up to natural light, or an alarm that simulates it. A blaring alarm in nature is the universally understood signal for danger, and that something pretty bad is about to happen (watch an African wildlife documentary, and you’ll get the idea). Setting off your primal stress response is not the ideal way to begin your day.
- Don’t press snooze! Juddering from half awake to asleep half a dozen times is something that’s going leave your body reeling. It’s the equivalent of a minor shock every ten minutes. Instead, set your alarm for when you need to get up, and have solid, undisturbed rest until then; makes sense right?
Last, you’ll note that I’ve left out anything about ‘supplementation’ in the article, and for good reason. What this article is trying to get you to do, is improve all areas of your life through improving not just your sleep, but your approach to how you do things with the ‘bigger picture’ mindset at play.