The movie version of an entrepreneur is a 25-year-old in a hoodie who never sleeps. Except for the hoodie, this isn't me--and I don't always wear the hoodie.
I haven't been 25 for a long time, and I sleep for nine hours every night.
Every time I tell people about my sleep habits, they wonder how I can be so productive. I wonder how they can be productive without good sleep habits. A good night's sleep brings clarity of thought. It allows me to make decisions quickly. When I'm tired, the decisions just sit there. I waste time. I'd rather be sleeping.
I am, by all accounts, a work engine. I wake up each morning and immediately start meetings with people not in my timezone, and I frequently end my day with a work meeting over a drink or dinner. I sometimes travel 70 percent of a month, often to brutally different timezones, with punishing flight times. Nonetheless, I average nine hours of sleep a night.
I have realized that unless I have a full night's sleep, I'm not able to be at my peak performance. To be a work engine, I need to be firing on all cylinders. I need to be naturally alert--not caffeinated alert. I need to bring patience and consideration into a conversation so that I can make timely decisions with a clear and rested mind. And I need to have the calm that a full sleep brings to my whole being in order to have the energy to make it through back-to-back meetings full of context switching and decisions that have real-world impact.
Sleep Well, Eat Well, Move Well
I often hear people say that they are too busy to make time to sleep enough, exercise regularly, or eat right.
If you don't frame your day around these good habits, then you're starting at a deficit--you probably won't get as much done as you wanted. Burning the candle at both ends and not paying attention to your own needs will only lead to burnout--and will ultimately require taking deeper time off to reset. The end result, by only running hot, is that you will get less done over a longer time.
A Few Tips for Better Sleeping (and Better Living)
Here are a few tips that I've picked up over time. Some of them are trade-offs or time buybacks--after all, there are only so many hours in a day.
Reading a book before you go to sleep calms your mind. Screen time stimulates it.
If you keep your screens by your bed, you never detach from your work world. Leave your computer and phone outside of your bedroom.
Bedtime is not a thing for children. Your mind and body like the routine of a set time to go to bed and wake up. Routine matters.
Exercise is a waking activity. Use meditation to clear your mind for rest, and exercise to wake it up.
Airplanes are for traveling from one place to another. I use the time to naturally move toward the next timezone--even if this means not working on my computer and losing those working hours.
To me, television and video games take up time that could be used for exercise, reading, talking with my family, or having an intentional meal. Make sure that you're giving your time to the things you need and value most.
Simple is better than complicated. Learn what you need to sleep well, eat right, and get regular exercise. Plan your day around these basics.
Getting regular sleep is a literal drug. Regular sleep creates the right balance of chemicals in your brain that set you up for best success in a day. Leaning in on doing what's right for your body will set you up for the most productive use of your days.