I laid down last night at 6:20PM for a 20 minute nap.
Knowing myself, I knew there was a real chance it would turn into a one hour nap. And that'd be good, too.
I woke up this morning at 7:50AM.
And I feel terrific.
I've become more conscious of how sleep interacts with other elements of life. There's certain types of days I can run well on without much sleep. The really grand secret of both managing people and of management consulting is that often, it looks like this --
Client asks, "What do I do?"
You reply, "Good question. What's the best thing to do here?"
Client replies, "Umm... I think X."
You reply, "You think X is the best thing to do?"
Client replies, "Yes... in fact, I know so."
You reply, "Okay, great, so you're going to do X?"
Client replies, "Hmm... yes!"
You reply, "Okay, when will you get it done by?"
Client replies, "I don't know..."
You reply, "Okay, when could you get it done by, if it was important to you?"
Client replies, "Thursday."
You reply, "Is it important to you?"
Client replies, "Yes."
You reply, "Okay, so how about Thursday?"
Client replies, "Hmm... yeah, let's get it done by Thursday."
You reply, "Okay, great. You'll have it done by Thursday. I'm watching you."
I jest, but only slightly. Sometimes technical expertise comes into play. Sometimes it's more sophisticated than this. But oftentimes, people need others to help sort through their thoughts.
I'm no exception -- I've got my own coach, I'm a member of a weekly production group, I've got team members that I report in on my nonprofit work to, and I've got a group of smart guys I do a knowledge share with every 2 to 3 weeks for a couple hour addressing everything going on.
I can disentangle for other people, but seeing your own life clearly is always the hardest.
This is where the sleep doesn't come in. A lot of my work looks like the above dialog. A lot of my role at the nonprofit is routine, following processes that work and doing paperwork. A lot of my personal habits -- stretching, cardiovascular training, managing my finances, meditating, answering all my email -- don't take an immense amount of creativity to keep going.
The problem is, this kind of routine work only sustains where you're at; it doesn't lead to explosive growth.
The majority of my consulting work are 3-month engagements. I frontload them as much as possible to figure out most of the difficult problems and deliver a lot of results in the first two weeks -- so in week six of an engagement, we're largely following a script and navigating small hurdles, that the more creative and genius-like versions of myself and the client designed earlier.
Likewise, keeping a nonprofit running and growing slowly becomes sustaining work because of the difficult and creative brilliant-like work originally put in by guys like Daniel Ternes, Zach Obront, myself, and other members of the team.
Following a stretching and cardio plan is easy, because I already researched and designed those. I already made my high-level financial plans, and can now just double-check the numbers occasionally. I already learned how to meditate and established the pattern of doing it daily, already and studied and practiced extensively on how to triage and process email quickly.
It doesn't require much sleep, energy, or open space to handle any of these things well.
But it takes a lot of creative juice to get them going.
And that's where the sleep comes in. Last week, I had an immense amount of creative work and blitzed through it, somewhat neglecting some paperwork, admin, etc. And not sleeping enough to get it all done.
The last few days, underslept, I was getting some documents notarized, answering a lot of email, checking on the status of a lot of projects, writing thank-you notes, paying bills, buying airplane ticks and mapping out dates, and so on.
These are all minimal-creativity-necessary requirements. They didn't suffer for the lack of sleep.
I didn't even notice, in the moment, that I was underslept and fatigued.
But now, I'm awake and alive, and brilliant ideas are flowing. I can now design solutions for the nonprofit going to the next level, put in some key thinking about how my clients can see huge gains and roadmap them out for future sessions, I can go get new clients, I can do excellent writing, and so on.
And here's where I think most people go wrong. They're constantly undersleeping and fatigued, and one of the first things to go is your ability to realize you're undersleeping and fatigued.
But, because they're doing routine work and not trying to go up an echelon of skill and creativity, they never feel the effects of it.
I could do routine "coasting" type work for months on end while sleep deprived, interrupted, without any space for creativity, without anything going really well.
But life wouldn't improve much, if at all.
It's when well-rested, mentally fresh, in good fitness, with clear open space for work that we can really engineer breakthroughs in our lives, and the lives of people we collaborate with, manage, or report to.
This only became evident when I started tracking the amount I was sleeping each day, and the type and results of work i did that day.
If you're running yourself into the ground, you might not realize it. If your work is largely routine, you can get by with treating your body and mind pretty badly. But then -- life will only improve at a glacially slow pace, if at all.
If you want to figure out your sweet spots for production, start tracking your sleep and the quality of work you're doing.
If you want to make some breakthroughs, get healthy and get some sleep.
Yup, sleep is required for learning and imprinting new memories -- (incredibly technical blog post about the fundamental mechanics of sleep here)
Tasks which don't require learning can be brute-forced without sleep. There is obviously still detriment to the body to being sleep deprived (sleep is the time when the body goes through autophagy, or "cleanup of cellular junk")
I've started giving myself 10 hours to sleep during the night. I used to give myself only 8, but usually ended up getting something like 6 because I have a tough time falling asleep. When I budget 10 hours, I can usually at least get a solid 8 in.
I agree with most of what you wrote, and understand the point you're making about sleep and creativity and breakthroughs. I wanted to add that, aside from people not realizing they're sleep deprived because they are just coasting, I agree with TYW's comment that there is a health aspect to this, which surely affects productivity for millions of folks.
A lifestyle that does not maintain a good work-life balance means chronic stress. Chronic stress triggers or worsens symptoms of chronic health issues - hypertension, clinical depression, eating disorders, auto-immune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, indigestion, heartburn, acne, etc. Dealing with these issues takes focus away from goals and impedes progress. Whether it's dealing with the symptoms themselves or the side-effects of meds to treat the symptoms (along with the time to order/pick up refills, remember to take the meds, more frequent follow-up visits to the doctor, etc.).
Sleep is something that should be viewed as a task, just like any other task. Resting is a task like any other task. Here is a tool that you might find helpful, although it's only in its initial stages. www.TrackMyStress.com (sorry for the self-promotion here, but it's relevant to the discussion and I believe it's the only chronic stress scale on the web and completely free).
The only other thing I will add is that I've noticed there are times when I can think so clearly and did NOT sleep well the night before (few and far between but it does happen and it's undeniable). In fact, sometimes I go out drinking the night before (which affects my sleep even more) and yet the next day I'm on the ball! (again I don't recommend it). I am pursuing this phenomenon as part of my product development as tracking the daily accumulated deficit of working too much/not resting enough may actually lead to the ability to enhance performance "on demand". Perhaps this might give an edge to professional athletes and other types of professions.
I've recently switched to roughly 8 hours per night. The only change I've noticed thus far is the nights I get my traditional 6 hours of sleep cause me to feel like ass the next day. It makes you wonder. Before I got involved in crossfit I felt "normal". After getting in great shape my new normal is a lot nicer. It echos what you're saying here.