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Home > Blog > Not Achieving Enough? Wake up!
Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 5:20 PM
Not Achieving Enough? Wake up!
Anita Sharpe on Life

I was re-reading one of the features that will be in the upcoming print version of Worthwhile about an IBM executive who has a remarkable ability to change the chemistry in a room. One of her secrets? She sleeps about five hours a night.

Likewise, I once read a story about Martha Stewart, before her legal woes, which mentioned that she only sleeps about four hours a night. On business trips, while everyone else snoozed away, she would be up before the chickens photographing gardens, sketching ideas for the magazine (and undoubtedly tapping her fingers waiting for those chickens to get busy.)

Lindsey Gerdes, one of the writers for our print magazine, has the cover story in the August issue of Fortune Small Business about the success of Lifeway Foods' CEO, Julie Smolyansky. One of Smolyansky's secrets? You guessed it -- she sleeps only four hours a night.

I did an online search to see if I could find any studies linking limited sleep to business success. That didn't yield much. But for those of a more indolent disposition, I did find plenty of sites promising that you can 'get rich while you sleep.'


Mindwalker - 8/27/2004 10:46:35 AM
Kate, it's interesting that you bring that up. A few months ago, I did a presentation at one of our department's team meetings about the benefits of a midday nap. Even though there is research out there that proves a midday nap can significantly improve productivity (and one's health), to say the reception was chilly would be an understatement. Not only that, there was a lot of laughter and derision over the idea. 'Why should I expect to get paid for sleeping on the job?' one of my colleagues asked.

There is a definite feeling in most of Corporate America that taking a nap is a sign of laziness. After all, as the logic goes, if you need to sleep at work, then you must not be getting enough at home.

Will we ever see a day where companies actively encourage employees to take a brief, discreet 15-20 minute power nap? Doubtful.
Kate - 8/26/2004 5:25:38 PM
The only way I can imagine this tight a sleep regimen being healthy and creatively productive is if it allowed for the quick afternoon nap!
Carson McComas - 8/26/2004 11:49:50 AM
If 8 hours is good enough for Jeff Bezos, it's good enough for me. :)

Mindwalker - 8/26/2004 11:17:35 AM
The best adage here is probably 'to each their own.' If you feel more productive on only four hours, great. Just don't decry the rest of us who ... need ... more ... zzzzzzzzzzz. *grin*

To me, though, the issue is more about 'quality versus quantity' (then again, isn't everthing?). Here's a quick run-down and cross-comparison:

- Worked primarily out of home office.

- Slept odd hours. Four, six, twelve hours ... didn't matter.

- Sleeping period depended mostly on the job. If it was a rush 'gotta get it done in two days' kind of project, I tended to work longer beforehand and sleep longer afterward.

- Laptop was primary comptuer, so I was given option of working at home or work.

- Interesting phenomenon: even though we were given the choice of home or office, most days we all worked in the office. There's something to be said for camaraderie.

- On days I worked from home, I found myself still getting up at 7 a.m. to be on 'New York' time.

- Normal hours are 8.00-5.00, although we sometimes are required to stay longer if project needs to get done.

- No flex time permitted.

- While the regularity is nice, I still find myself sleeping 5-6 hours a night. On the days I sleep longer, I find myself more tired during the day. The annoying part is trying to sleep longer on Saturday or Sunday, but finding my rhythm is still tied into hearing the alarm go off at 6.00.

CONCLUSION: I generally felt more productive during the dot.com days. Give me the trust and choice to treat myself well and I'll still be more productive.
Robert - 8/26/2004 8:43:27 AM
I agree there is something, maybe a lot, to this less-is-more theory on sleep and productivity. But there is a flip side. When David Gergen was brought into the Clinton White House, partly to bring some order to some chaos, among his first counsel to the president was, 'stop calling up everyone in town at 2 a.m., and get some sleep.' Not in those words, of course, but when the advice was accepted, most in the inner circle saw a more alert and innovative chief executive -- and an increased ability and willingness to synthesize and analyze masses of information, which is what most top management people need to do best. One hears many stories about people rising at 4 a.m. to paint, write or exercise, but how many people truly are effectively synthesizing complicated and conflicting data and opinions at that hour, and still doing so 18 hours later? But of course, all I'm doing here is trying to justify the 6 hours plus that I usually need!
blablawa - 8/26/2004 8:21:32 AM
Sleeping only 4 hours a day will cut your productive output by some figure up to 40%.

Not to say that some people really do sleep less and really are more productive than the average person.

But there's no way you can turn this the other way around and say that sleeping less will make you more productive. In fact the net result will be that you'll produce less.

You might not feel this way and in fact not even know it, unless you start measuring it. One is not able to reflect on one's own brain. Even so drinking a few sips of icy water before a speech will drop your IQ by at least 5 points. Unless you'll see the score for yourself you'll argue that the refreshment clears the mind and boosts the brainpower. That's not true.
s.l. parker - 8/26/2004 6:26:22 AM
Young children prefer to be awake. They'll stand before you at bedtime, eyelids closing with eyes rolling back in their head, telling you, 'I'm not tired' and begging for five more minutes of the day.

Where along the way do we teach ourselves to enjoy sleeping over daily discovery and contribution?

An excerpt:

Alarm goes off. Snooze button is hit.

The thought (if any at this hour)... 'Just 10 more minutes.'

212 approach

Night before. Alarm is set 10 minutes earlier than usual. Next morning. Alarm goes off.

The thought...
“Beautiful. 10 more minutes I can add to my day.�

A small difference that adds the equivalent of over one and half work weeks to your year - to be used how you wish.

Push it to 20 minutes a day and you've just bought more time than most people get each year for a vacation.

This is your wake up call.


yenayer - 8/26/2004 4:37:34 AM
I don't know about CEO and entrepreneurs, but i have read a lot of interviews with writers. Most of them say that they wake up early (4 or 5 AM) to write.


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