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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