Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

The Business Case For Sleep

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 14

There will be times when your manager asks you to drop everything and put something together for her. When that happens, don’t be afraid to delay another deliverable, with a quick note to the other stakeholder explaining why it will be late. I found that transparency is respectful to the other party, and over time builds mutual respect.  And if need be, I let the two managers duke it out over what is a higher priority.

Your manager may not like owning the responsibility of the trade off, especially if you have a history of working weekends, and staying late to deliver last-minute “urgent” requests.  BUT, limiting how many hours you work will make you much more effective, and a greater asset to your manager and the company.

Take the issue of sleep deprivation. A recent study by the CDC found that 30% of Americans get less than six hours of sleep per night.  On a personal level, sleep deprivation leads to higher rates of traffic accidents, and some serious health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.  In short, being tired is bad for you.

James Maas, who taught Psych 101 to 2000 people  each semester when I was at Cornell, studies sleep deprivation.  His website  and summarizes it well:  “Recent medical research proves that sleep deprivation literally “makes you stupid, clumsy, stressed out, unhealthy and will shorten your life.”

I admit it – I spent plenty of time sleep deprived, and it didn’t feel that bad to me.  And the latest research explains why. Brain imaging studies comparing rested and sleep deprived people have shown that “ individuals who are sleep-deprived experience periods of near-normal brain function, but these periods are interspersed with severe drops in attention and visual processing. …The periods of apparently normal functioning could give a false sense of competency and security.

And aside from the research, lets step back and think about it.  Can you do your best work if you are tired or sick?  Can you effectively lead a team if you are stressed out?  Without recovery time, can you be creative and sharp?

When having the conversation with your manager, remember to make a business case, not a personal request.   Even the Wall Street Journal admits that “a good night’s rest is good for business.”  Tired people make mistakes.

What has been your experience with rest and work?

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Why The Right Thing To Do Is A Business Case For Good

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 3

In 1994 Massachusetts had a statewide referendum that would have required companies to reduce the amount of product packaging. I lived in Boston and there was a raging debate between the environmentalists and the business community.  One side said that excess packaging is bad for the environment and costly to the public. The other side claimed that the costs of packaging reduction would be astronomical and cost jobs.  The measure was defeated 65% to 35%.

Fast forward to today – many companies cannot reduce their packaging quickly enough. The difference is the business case. Less packaging brings lower costs, a green brand, and in some cases more ease of use.  If you can deliver a better product at a lower cost, why wouldn’t the company do it?

Corporations are in business to make money, and it is very hard to argue that a company should make less money for any reason. It is far more effective to make a Business Case for Good.

If your company must decide between doing the right thing (A), or doing the wrong but less expensive thing (B), the worst thing you can do is to argue for “A” based on ethics. Instead, use your creativity to create a business case. For example, argue that A will differentiate your product in the market, and allow the company to command a higher price.  Or, argue that “B” will have higher support costs, or bring a legal risk.

Whatever you do, don’t EVER mention an ethical justification for A, not even as a fourth bullet point.  I’ve used a Business Case For Good on several occasions, and invariably someone else said “of course we should do A.  It’s the right thing to do.”  This is a test. If you agree, someone on the other side will use your agreement to bring the argument back to ethics, and you will lose.  Instead, be coldhearted, and say “That should not be a factor in the decision -we need to do what is best for the company.”

You want this to become a contest of who has the best numbers, and in the next post, I’ll show you how to properly buffer a revenue forecast.  If you make up better numbers than the other side, your company will start doing the right thing in spite of themselves.

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