I have probably the most bizarre sleep schedule out of anyone you know.
I also might have the most productive sleep schedule out of anyone you know.
I’ve just finished a painful week of having a friend staying with me making me very unproductive.
No, it isn’t that he’s been so distracting or wanting to party. He’s here so we can work every day and grow our businesses along with my taking him to see my muscular skeletal experts to fix his back pain issues.
The dreadful thing he’s done is forcing me into a regular sleep schedule, essentially the same sleep schedule he is on.
The results? I’ve seen my productivity drop literally in half and had to push back.
What Can You Expect?
I have to warn you this schedule is not for everyone. In my eyes I pretty much live the dream. But if you can manage it even just part of it this could massively boost your productivity.
I’m famously lazy. It’s been one of my goals for years to have the freedom to do as little I don’t value in my life as possible. Where possible I’m all about doing less not more while still accomplishing and experiencing more juice in life than others. Seems like a pretty logical philosophy right?
There’s a strange flip side to my laziness though. I’m also hyper productive often shocking people with how much I get done in a day.
A business partner will say “I need you to create a blog post for me by the end of the day” and I’ll give him 10.
In spite of this I get a lot of criticism for my quirky schedule. At first this surprised me since it is really the absolute ideal I thought, “shouldn’t everyone be envious and want to copy it?” You might face the same. I chalk it up to people tending to attack what is unfamiliar or they don’t understand.
Note though that using this system if it’s right in whole or in part for you will require some adaptation (I think pleasant adaptation) and it doesn’t work for everyone depending on your roles.
The Theory Behind the System
By now you might be asking “what is this? Is it split sleep? Is it uber sleep?” Uber sleep if you don’t know is a crazy sleep schedule that’s very broken up that was used by the creator of WordPress who famously said it was his most productive time when he was using it.
I don’t use uber sleep. That’s way too crazy and way too structured for me. I’d feel like I was in a prison.
My sleep schedule is based on two key theories I think you’ll find very agreeable. But first a story from my life.
I was homeschooled in grade 10 and 11 and partially grade 12.
I used to eat lunch with my mum around noon, pretty normal time and then struggle through the afternoons. Maybe it was my diet or maybe it was something else but I’d sit at the kitchen table quite sleepy trying to do my work.
This type of pattern continued on later into my life where I’d find myself at times struggling with fatigue pushing myself to get stuff done and frankly not accomplishing a lot.
You might ask “so did you start taking naps?” No, not exactly…you’ll see.
When I first built a business that ran without me I adopted this new approach and have continued it on since then as I’ve gotten involved in building new companies and doing new projects.
The two theories are:
- Work when you’re most productive
- Listen to your body
It’s literally that simple. I think these are principles anyone could agree on no?
See when I paid attention to all the time I tried fighting my body I wasn’t really productive anyway and it was a huge waste of time.
On the other hand, have you ever had one of those moments when you’re “in the zone” and get a massive amount done in a short period of time?
If you’re like me, you can probably get literally ten to twenty times more done during those flow periods than in the fighting your body periods.
My realization is stop judging myself for how I think I should be and start working with what is. What is is that there are times when I’m hyper productive and times when I’m pretty useless. If I try to force myself to work during an unproductive period just because that’s what society says are regular working hours then I’m just hurting myself and missing out on living life.
Not only do I get way more done this way I’m also much happier.
Most people are chronically overtired. Or at least studies show most Americans are chronically sleep deprived and I haven’t seen any reason to believe this isn’t a problem affecting a lot of the rest of the world.
Do you realize the negative consequences of this?
Studies show short term sleep deprivation leads to:
- Foggy brain
- Worsened vision
- Impaired driving
- Trouble remembering
Long term sleep deprivation leads to:
- Insulin resistance
- Heart disease
- Even brain damage
People often credit me with having a great memory but maybe it’s just that I’ve had enough sleep? Maybe you could have an amazing memory with more sleep too?
People’s relationships suffer too as they become more irritable, less sensitive to the subtleties of those around them, and frankly just have less to give.
My basic theory is productivity has a lot to do with energy and focus and both of these suffer when you’re overtired or heck just sleepy!
So how do I do it?
Very easy, the easiest sleep schedule in the world. I don’t worry about having 6 hours or 8 hours or 10 hours of sleep. I don’t worry about having naps in the afternoon. I just listen to my body and do what it tells me.
People ask “what time do you go to bed?” The answer “I go to sleep when I’m tired”.
The other day a friend asked me “what time are you going to get up?” The answer “when I wake up”.
In other words I let my body tell me. If my body is naturally waking up I assume it’s not tired and doesn’t need the sleep. If I’m struggling to keep my eyes open I assume my body wants to go to sleep and I’ll go lay down.
Sometimes this means I go to bed right after dinner, other times not till late at night. Sometimes it means I take naps, sometimes those naps last all afternoon.
I go to sleep when I’m tired and I sleep until I’m not.
Things to Watch Out For
If you’re like most people you’ve probably got a ton of objections right now.
“I can’t do that I have meetings”
“I can’t do that…”
Fill in your own blank. And I get it really I do. I live the dream but I don’t live in a fantasy world. I also have appointments I have to make, calls I need to talk, clients I need to meet, employees I need to manage, etc.
So take a deep breath and I’ll walk you through some of the pitfalls and how to deal with them. And as I already said this isn’t for everyone but I’m a firm believer if you can bring at least part of this into your life it will be better, you’ll be happier, and you’ll be more productive. Sounds good?
Meetings, Appointments, etc.
Let’s face it for most people in most of life you’ve got obligations, things you need to do, places you need to be, people you need to talk to, etc.
Of course, you can’t simply decide “wow, I’m tired right now so I’m going to sleep rather than taking this meeting”. You’d mess up a lot of relationships that way.
But if you organize your life well you’ll probably find you can place the vast majority of those meetings into fairly predictable blocks of time. For me this is primarily the afternoons. By the way if I can do it anyone can because I’m doing most of my business with people all over the world so I take calls from London, Hong Kong, Sweden, LA, etc.
Not all of these meetings will fall into a normal pattern. Despite my best efforts sometimes time zones mean my preferred times don’t work for the other party. That’s fine schedule outside of your normal block as the exception not the rule.
What I’ve noticed is your body is pretty smart so if you need to be awake and productive during a certain fixed period of a few hours each day your body will tend to adapt to this and you’ll be great.
Something else will happen. People accumulate a sleep debt by chronically being overtired. Because you’re not going to be overtired you’re going to be well rested your body will easily be able to cope the odd times when you wake it up sooner than it will like.
So what do I do? I schedule the meetings around those fixed blocks as much as possible, set an alarm for the appropriate amount of time before them and let my body do its thing around that time. This might mean I fall asleep right after a call or might mean I nap until just leading up to a call. Either way it works.
You might say “I can’t sleep in a lot of these places”. That could be a problem.
In my experience usually there’s places I can take naps if needed and if you’re doing this habitually probably you can create them too. I’ll do this when I’m on a long drive where I pull over and go to sleep if I’m tired then wake up and continue driving when I’m not.
Again the more you let your body have the sleep it wants when you’re in a place where you can sleep the less it will be an issue when you’re in places where you can’t savvy?
Be Mindful of Diet
Certain types of diet make me tired. No way around it our digestion consumes an intense amount of energy and so one way to mind when you’re tired is to pay attention to what you eat and how you feel in the aftermath.
If you realize “hey when I eat meat” or “when I eat a lot” or “when I eat gluten” I get tired an hour or so later well then don’t eat that stuff if you’re going to need to be productive a few hours later.
Just by not eating I find I can often greatly improve my energy.
Change how you schedule your tasks
You’ve really got to be aware of prioritization when you do this and discipline yourself to getting to work when you are up and productive.
For me if I’m not on it there’s definitely a chance of a wasting a bunch of time not being on point when I wake up.
Remember the idea is to be more productive, which means not creating new deficiencies when we eliminate others.
I find having a list to work from helps with this so you’ve got something to go to without thinking when you get up. Prioritization is very important particularly when you lead a team.
To assist with all of this perhaps the most powerful solution is our “first thoughts” concept from Richucation productivity.
Beware the 25 hour day
Finally, there’s a tendency if you let it get out of control a friend of mine calls the “25 hour day”.
This is where you stay up an hour later each day and eventually your day gets turned around to the point that it’s not productive.
To avoid this I find it helps not to leave my work till the very end of the day, which tends to push my bed time later. By structuring the day so I can let my mind relax my body naturally falls into a rhythm.
This is very unorthodox I know. But more and more with international business, working from home, remote contractors, etc. it’s an option for more and more people.
How much makes sense for your life is up to you.
What I’d suggest is at least take those two basic principles:
- Work when you’re productive
- Listen to your body
And refine your schedule to maximize your energy and your focus.
Then write and let me know how it worked for you. Hopefully it makes you happier and more productive like it has for me.