Dec 9•4 min read
Let’s talk about the most unappreciated power to your leadership and productivity: rest. Yes, you heard right.
Leaders are not made for 24/7.
Ok then. What are you made for?
Perhaps you’re so full of energy and ideas and have a firm belief that more hours (at work) are better. Let me challenge that belief. Do you know why you believe more is better? Do you believe you achieve more in more time? Do you hold to the Silicon Valley paradigm that the office is the living room of the successful?
Science has debunked the myth that more work hours equal more productivity. In fact, there is the law of diminishing returns. You’ve probably observed it when you worked late into the night for the fifth week in a row, only to discover you didn’t get things done or you created work with a lot of errors to be corrected during your review work the next day.
The Power of Sleep
Rest has a powerful effect on our abilities to be creative, productive, humane (yes, you’re not the only one getting cranky when you’re tired) and our ability to lead well. See, rest helps you to be present, mindful, focused, able to respond quickly and to process large amounts of information – unlike a tired brain.
Lack of rest in professional athletes is known to impact their performance. That’s why athletes tailor their rest and recovery periods into their training regimen.
How Sleep to Boosts Your Productivity
Fitness trainers make use of the power of rest in between activities by creating “rest-based training.” “RBT is a system that makes rest, not work, the primary goal of the workout. It allows participants to take a rest for as long as necessary. Rest actually becomes a tool for increasing intensity, because exercisers can strategically use it to work harder than they could without rest. It also provides a buffer against overexertion, making even high-intensity workouts safe (Warburton et al. 2005).”
Did you catch that? Rest becomes a tool to work harder than you would without. You’re increasing your strength.
How Does Sleep Affect Employees?
If you work through your nights and lack sleep, cortisol levels go up. “Cortisol, the stress hormone, can damage brain structure if its levels stay elevated for too long. Basically, it changes the brain’s neural networks, contributing to a host of mental disorders.” (habitgrowth.com)
Enough high-quality sleep, on the other hand, improves both your creativity and mental alertness. That impacts your performance at work. You’ll get more done in less time, are ready to make decisions and to respond to requests and information better and faster.
Building Sleep Into Your Schedule
How can you build rest into your schedule when the tide is high and you work under extreme pressure? Every now and then, you will have peaks and will work late nights and weekends. The issue is when it becomes the norm. To prevent that, you need to define the norm, then you’ll also be able to articulate what a peak, a.k.a. temporary exception, looks like.
Have a schedule that defines your regular waking and resting hours. Schedule regular breaks – even if you only take abbreviated lunch breaks. Just a 5-minute break has an impact on your performance.
As a leader, you will particularly benefit from the impact on decision-making. Breaks can prevent so-called “decision fatigue” – something you as a leader have to do all day, every day.
Use your lunch break for a power nap. Power napping is a somewhat aged trend now. Still, a lot of people aren’t aware of the benefits or have experienced the powerful boost of energy and mental alertness they get from it. To power nap is fairly simple with the Power Nap app: set a timer for 20 minutes (other settings are available as well). Place the phone in your pocket. The app will track movement and wake you up before you fall into deep sleep. The sleep you’ll get is enough to give you a quick boost – a better one than coffee!
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