It's no shock that sleep influences our creativity and productivity. How can even your most brutal nights lead into highly effective days?
As a working mom with a full client load (whose infant son got a batch of 7 teeth in a few weeks), I have a profound new perspective on how to protect your productivity despite extreme sleep deprivation. Here are my best, time-tested strategies.
1. Mind your language.
Your mindset matters, and what you tell yourself influences your mindset.
In the morning, if I tell myself, "I'm exhausted -- I don't know how I'm going to make it through today," I tend to drag my feet and have a more negative outlook on the day.
The mornings where I tell myself something a bit more constructive feel significantly better.
This may sound too simplistic to be effective, but I consistently shock myself with the quality and quantity of work I produce on the days after the baby's kept me up all night, and I believe one reason is this suggestive selling.
Phrases like this work really well with my psyche. Experiment and see what resonates with you:
- I didn't sleep as well as I hoped, and I'll power through today like I always do.
- I've got this.
- Can't slow me down; can't stop me.
2. Block blue light before the sun goes down.
Blue light -- and especially any backlit screen -- messes with your sleep. Wear blue light-blocking glasses before the sun goes down to ease the transition.
Level this up with a tip I got from Dave Asprey: red light if you wake up in the middle of the night. It turns out that any white light in the middle of the night, even if it's just for a second, messes with your circadian rhythms. For middle-of-the-night diaper changes, we wear one of my husband’s tactical head lamps, which has a red filter, and tweak a Hue bulb in our nursery.
Between the blue light-blocking glasses and the red light, I've been sleeping much deeper at night, with much less eye fatigue. This translates into a stronger morning and, when combined with #1, a more powerful day.
3. Ritualize your evening routine.
We're just starting to use a bedtime routine with our son, and it's made me reflect on how important a nighttime routine is for all ages.
When we follow a regular going-to-bed routine, we prime our brain that it's time to wind down for the night, and our bodies begin producing the right hormones and chemicals for restorative sleep.
Consistency is key. Dr. Michael Breus, aka the Sleep Doctor, offers this sample routine if you need ideas on what elements to incorporate and in what order.
I choose not to use the evening to catch up on work, and instead participate in our family's evening routine. This supports my priorities, and is also a forcing function that ensures I'm making better, more strategic choices about my time during the day.
4. Honor your energy.
Some days, my brain simply isn't cut out for "front stage" activities like interviews, recording videos, or coaching others. On those days, I reach out with as much notice as I can to reschedule, and I don't beat myself up about doing so.
Other days, I feel unstoppable until the early afternoon, when there's a sharp drop-off. When this happens, I transition the workday by making a list of things I meant to do that day, but didn't. Then I close my laptop and give my body what it needs, whether that's a long shower, a nap, or nourishment.
And when I'm really tired, I focus on completing just one important task. Anything else I'm able to finish, regardless of its urgency, counts as a bonus.
5. Ruthlessly prioritize.
I've noticed that the things my brain thinks are important at 1 a.m. typically aren't that real or important the next morning, once I've had coffee and perused my inbox.
Priorities change throughout the day based on a ton of factors. When I'm tired, it's even more important that I make high-quality decisions about where I spend my time.
Lately, I've been reevaluating my to-do list after each completed task, so that at any given moment I'm always working on the most important activity.
How do you protect your productivity when you haven’t slept well? I’d love to know your go-to tips.