Sleep: the disposable hero

As project managers, we often have very busy and chaotic schedules, blitz to reach milestones, fast pace projects, and everything else possible that can happen to ensure we work hard for the success of our projects.

There is a bit of a glory in the profession for busyness.  If someone works long hours, he must be good.  I think this is a mistake.  We should focus on results.  Although often long hours are impossible to avoid, there is a planning problem if it is the norm.  In a project, if the team is always fighting fire, then maybe as I read somewhere, one in the team is an arsonist! Hopefully it is not the project leader!


Work tends to increase with the amount of time available.  Because of that, it is good to set time boundaries to tasks.  Time boundaries also force innovation and encourage us to find the most efficient way to do a task.

The final frontier of the busyness approach is to neglect sleep.  Some may claim and be proud of working late at night, over the weekend and 60 or 80 hours a week.  They will reduce their sleep hours to the extreme minimum, and often compensate with coffee.  There is that belief out there that sleep is optional, can be reduced, and may even be just a waste of time.  Some even use to opposite approach: they wake up very early, which is very fine… as long as you are also going to bed just as early.

Sleep seems to be to disposable hero of productivity.

The hidden impact of lack of sleep

What is the hidden impact of lack of sleep.  We say hidden, but it is often just hidden for a while.

Medical research seems to be producing some interesting information on the importance of sleep.  And the more I am aware of this, the more I see interesting article on the subject.   Sleep is an inherent part of the way the human body works.   As project managers, we cannot escape this reality.  Among others, here are two interesting article on the impact of sleep on the human body.

Hidden Caves in the Brain Open Up During Sleep to Wash Away Toxins

“Hidden caves” that open up in the brain may help explain sleep’s amazing restorative powers.

A new study published in the prestigious journal, Science, has found that the brain may wash away toxins built up over the day during sleep.

The research discovered “hidden caves” inside the brain, which open up during sleep, allowing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to flush out potential neurotoxins, like β-amyloid, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Read Full Article

And here’s an interesting article from the NY Times provide some interesting information on sleep and the consequences of not sleeping enough.

Cheating Ourselves of Sleep

 According to sleep specialists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, among others, a number of bodily systems are negatively affected by inadequate sleep: the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight control; immune function and disease resistance; sensitivity to pain; reaction time; mood; and brain function.

Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, especially among people with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Anne Germain, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. People with PTSD tend to relive their trauma when they try to sleep, which keeps their brains in a heightened state of alertness.

Link text

Based on all of this, wouldn’t it be better to manage well our energy, our body, our mind, and respect sleep and its power.  I think so.  I used to be a big offender on this subject.  I would just stay very late to work all the stuff I like to do.  I must say that I was then more busy, but I am now more productive.  Strange paradox… but I’d rather be productive.

Sleep and high performance

For sports and fitness, it used to be that we would consider only training.  Then it changed to management of training and nutrition.  And now we are seeing many training programs that include appropriate consideration for training, nutrition and sleep.  Why?  Because to optimize results it is important to have a holistic approach aligned with the way the human body works.

Sleep is a fundamental part of recovery and development.  Appropriate sleep hours is an important part of performance.  It seems athlete are now aware of the importance of rest, recovery and sleep in achieving top performance.  Yet, sleep is just as important for project managers.  For knowledge workers, sleep will actually enhance mental performance and enable the person to analyze better and faster.  Tasks will take less time to complete because of higher mental clarity and sharpness.  Communication and stakeholders’ engagement will be much better and clearer.

Sleep and Productivity

I am happy to see now this subject appears in the world of productivity.

Mychael Hyatt Published a podcast on the subject.   In it he mentioned this:

Nothing is more important than sleep. Exercise, diet, and mental focus are all important, but they can’t make up for a lack of rest.  / Source: Michael Hyatt

#068: Sleep and Your Productivity [Podcast]

In the podcast, Michael mentioned the importance of managing your energy, a subject he discussed in the second episode of his podcast.

#002: 10 Practical Ways to Boost Your Energy Level [Podcast]

Harvard business review even had an article called

Real Men Go to Sleep

In the article, it talks about the american cultural view on sleep:

Unfortunately, a deeply embedded American cultural tradition dismisses sleep as a waste of time. At least since General Electric founder Thomas Edison declared sleep “an absurdity, a bad habit” a century ago, many successful business leaders have promoted a virtual cult of overextended wakefulness, often amplified by considerable media attention to their behavior and commentary. From the Wall Street dynamos monitoring and mastering global financial markets at all hours of the day and night to the NFL coaches living all season in their offices, a sizable contingent of self-disciplined professionals in positions of authority continue to perpetuate unhealthful patterns by pushing themselves and others under their control to turn work into a restless marathon.

And this one talks about power of sleep for entrepreneurs and elite athletes.  As I said, athletes understand this better, but leaders and professional workers would also benefits from this.

The Power of Sleep for Entrepreneurs and Elite Athletes

Do you get enough sleep?

Or do you constantly feel drained, tired, and find yourself yawning throughout you day?

Sleep might be the most important aspect of building a great business, and having a high performing body.  It is also, one of the most overlooked aspects considering the focus on diet and working out.

What if having the right amount of sleep (and knowing when to sleep) solved all of your health problems, gave you unlimited energy throughout the day,  made you 10x more productive than you’ve ever been?

 Read full article

So to better achieve your goals, enjoy your pillow and sleep!  and let that sleep enhances your career, and even your personal life I would say.

In closing…

I hope this article has inspired you to include sleep and managing your energy as a key component of your productivity system.  You may be surprise by your new level of energy and increase in productivity.