Whether you’re the leader of a multinational organization, an entrepreneur building a business or an integral member of a team hustling to deliver business results, you’ve probably at some point had the feeling that the day’s work is never finished. As a professional, clearing the to-do list doesn’t always mean the end of the work to be done. When you’re not executing managing the present, you’re probably planning for the future.
Between long hours of actual work and the non-stop mind-racing that comes with looking ahead at what’s ahead, today’s professionals often have a lot on their mind. And in many cases, this can be tolling on their sleep patterns. In fact, according to a recent survey, almost 40% of Canadians lose sleep over work.
This is a huge problem for Canadians. Sleep is proven to increase mental alertness, sharpen focus and boost productivity. And while it might sometimes seem like an impossibility to get out of the office at a reasonable time, or shut down your brain and get some rest, there are ways you can work on getting more – and better – sleep.
Reevaluate the Way You Look at Productivity
One of the main problems in working long hours is the misperception of quantity versus quality. Increasing from 10 hours of work per day to 18 will increase the amount of work you can get done, and while it may be effective in the short term, it will ultimately destroy your effectiveness through sleep deprivation. Being tired challenges your focus which means you ultimately end up making careless mistakes you wouldn’t make with a sharp mind. This, in turn, means that you’ll waste time fixing the mistakes you catch, and even more time fixing the bigger problems that arise from the mistakes you didn’t catch.
While you might not work 18 hours per day, the same principle applies to any extra-long workday. Mental fatigue will catch up to you and stressing over unfinished work will keep you up at night. So, each day, ask yourself one question: will your world come to an end if you wrap up your day at a reasonable hour and give yourself time to get home, unwind, and relax your mind so that you’re able to get a good sleep? In most cases, the answer is no.
Your best bet is to get a good night’s sleep and put in a shorter workday filled with higher quality work instead of stressing out and draining yourself by putting in a long day of degraded work.
Pay Close Attention to Your Caffeine Gauge
Your caffeine consumption should be a clear indicator of your need to reprioritize sleep. That cup of coffee essentially uses caffeine to block the signals telling your brain you need sleep but doesn’t actually address any of the physiological need that can only be met with sleep.
If you feel like you physically require caffeine in order to wake up and get your brain going, this should be a clear indicator that you need more sleep. If you find yourself in need of a second coffee in the afternoon, this is an even clearer indicator.
It’s important to avoid masking the fact that you need more sleep and rather listen to your body. If you’re feeling like caffeine is the only way to make it through the day, do yourself a favour – shut it down early, go home and get some rest.
Don’t Take Everything On by Yourself
Oftentimes, people who work long hours are doing so because they take on an unnecessarily big workload don’t delegate to their teams.
Many professionals simply keep all the work to themselves without delegating when they have the opportunity. While it’s true you can’t hand off everything you do, you can certainly seek support from your team to help you execute in some cases. Often times, this reluctance to delegate can be a product of feeling like others can’t do the task as well as you can. But it’s important to put your ego aside sometimes.
If you have a team, utilize them as much as possible. If you don’t have a team, consider outsourcing. Working an unsustainable amount of hours doesn’t benefit anybody in the long term. The mental fatigue and lost sleep from long hours or stress will inevitably have a negative impact on your productivity and output.
Make a Daily Exit Strategy and Stick to It
The only way you’ll ever be able to get out of the office at a reasonable time is if you start your day with a plan to do so. Prioritize your workload and manage your time effectively so that, barring any major meltdowns or unforeseen pressing priorities, you are able to disengage and leave at a reasonable hour. In doing so, you’ll allow yourself more time to unwind and prevent your workday from crowding out the possibility of a good night’s sleep.
While it’s not always going to be possible to wrap up at the office at a reasonable hour, and it’s entirely possible you’ll still have to plan ahead, working towards building a habit of better sleep will make you better – and happier – in the long run.