How much shall you sacrifice your sleep in order to be productive?
In this modern jungle that never rests and towards which one is always running behind and trying to catch up with, every creator, self-made man, entrepreneur or artist struggles every day with basically two things: (lack of) inspiration/willpower and time management. While the former is clearly what pushes one forward, what turns the average into great or what even makes us evolve as a specie, I prefer to leave it out of the scope of this article, since I would most likely need to write a book to cover all its depth and complexity; however, concerning the topic of how you shall manage your time while working on something, I believe I have some insight which goes a little against what you usually read in internet and watch in YouTube videos.
Every time you start something new, being an article, a book, a project or even your own company, the first question which immediately pops up in every one’s minds (well, not in everyone’s, just on the minds of the 1% who swim against the tide) is how much time you are going to spend finishing it. Before and exactly when you decide to move forward with something new, there is this motivational moment which, notwithstanding being great and the engine necessary for every creation, it is also the veil which impedes you to see the reality with clarity. Meaning that when you indeed get down to work, you realize how tough and time consuming will be the path in front of you. So this is when you begin elaborating a concrete plan, in order that you can structure your mind and finish that given task on the time frame you intend to (e.g. setting a two hours period per day to be allocated on this specific project you want to finish in two weeks time). But since people who are proactive and have this inner will to innovate are usually much busier than the ones who do not do anything – since the former group is always finding ways to improve themselves and therefore spending time on assimilating knowledge (and not on procrastinating) – sometimes it is quite hard to be productive even after you had set goals for yourself. Why? Well, mostly because your body and especially your mind are tired and therefore you lack all the will and inspiration (it seems that after all I would come back to these words still on this article) you need to have an interesting final piece.
But now if you look around and check the online material out there, you will see that there is this generally idea that you will only succeed if you really sacrifice yourself and redirect all the energies you have to the specific goal you want to achieve. Among the endless motivational videos in internet, this ideology has its climax through the words of the great Eric Thomas:
Removing the obvious purpose of being inspirational and also the main subject of the video – that you must never quit, but rather keep going until you succeed – it is important to break down the subliminal message behind it: and that is that you must deprive yourself from all the types of comfort and even well being, including sleep deprivation, in order to be successful.
In my personal case, I can tell you that I have always filled my agenda with as many activities as I can, not because I have wanted to impress others but simply because I love to do them. Honestly, I wish I had more time and energy to spend on the things I already do or even to invest more on other new challenges. In the end of the day, after wasting 9 hours on my working place (it is hard to admit but I still need to rely on a daily job to have my bills paid at the end of the month) and doing my after work activities – Russian course on Saturday, football on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, dancing classes on these same days and as well as going to parties on Thursday and Saturday evenings – I frequently arrive home with no will whatsoever to write articles which anyone who comes by my website might find interesting (the same “conflict” happened during one year while writing my book No More Bullshit about Getting Laid). Actually the last article I wrote took me around three weeks, when it should have taken about one week to finish under normal conditions, so it was during that period that I began to analyse what was going on and what was slowing me down. For instance, there was a week in which I felt really exhausted, but I often found myself combating that fatigue and keeping on the track of trying to complete the article. Result? Not only I had four days feeling this “inefficiency guilt”, where I could not advance almost anything, but I did not rest properly at all. However, on the Saturday after that week had passed, I slept like a baby and woke up like a warrior, meaning that I had totally recovered myself. New result? I wrote and produced more on that Saturday afternoon than in almost two weeks. So it is quite obvious what I am trying to make you aware of: that sleeping is almost or even more important for your work than the work itself!
According to the WebMD (http://www.webmd.com), this is what happens when you do not sleep properly or not at all:
- It causes accidents (ever wondered how the Exxon Valdez oil spill or the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl happened?)
- It dumbs you down (not only this means that it is more difficult to learn efficiently but also that you won’t be able to remember what you learned);
- It kills sex drive (I believe this one is quite illustrative, no need for further details);
- Can cause depression (it is literally depressing, when you sleep less than six hours);
- It ages your skin;
- Can make you gain weight;
- It may increase risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases;
- It impairs judgement, especially about sleep (“In our increasingly fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep has become a kind of badge of honor. But sleep specialists say that if you think you’re doing fine on less sleep, you’re probably wrong”)
If you are somehow a visual learner, than you will perhaps understand better by taking a look at this scheme:
So answering the question of this article? How much shall you sacrifice your sleep in order to be productive? Basically, I just recommend you to go back to the basics and try to self-evaluate your state at a given moment:
- You look into the mirror and you see your eyes with that undeniably tired look? Do not feel guilty, go to sleep;
- You are not in the mood for working and you fell you deserve to rest with useless activities such as watching football? Feel guilty, go to work!;
- You yawn every two minutes? Do not feel guilty, go to sleep;
- You say to yourself that you are really tired, but then you find yourself with enough energy to watch the last film of Tarantino? Feel guilty, go to work!
- You look onto the screen and only see blurry words? Do not feel guilty, go to sleep.
I know that if you both do not fight with all your weapons and do not want something really badly, you will fail miserably since nobody neither will do the job for you nor will care about you. Nevertheless, it is important to stress that sleeping because of sloth is one (negative) thing, but sleeping because your body and mind simply need to rest is a total different (positive) one. And “losing” time with sleep, in order that you fully recover yourself (and conversely that you do not rely on caffeine, magic pills or the like), is the best partner you will ever find when facing the difficult hurdle of producing something.