If you're an entrepreneur, you need to hustle 24/7. You need to be always on. You need to make superhuman efforts and far outperform the average 9-to-5 working chump.
And getting a solid 8 hours of sleep just doesn't fit that picture, does it?
This is the kind of message I'm seeing a lot in entrepreneurial circles. More specifically, I've recently seen the spread of the idea that entrepreneurs ought to wake up at 5 AM or earlier, to get some extra productive hours in.
It fits the picture of the look-at-me-I'm-working-so-hard hustler, but it has little to do with real productivity. In this video, I explain why I think getting up super early is the dumbest trend in entrepreneurship.
The content for this post is primarily in the video, so watch that first. One thing I want to clarify is the connection between getting up early and being sleep deprived.
It's one thing to suggest an early wake up time of, say, 6 AM. I have no issues with that at all, because you can have a normal family life, a social life with few compromises, get enough sleep and wake up at 6 every day. No problem.
But of course, getting up at 6 isn't cool enough. Your Instagram followers won't be impressed by that. We gotta step it up, hence waking up at 4 AM...
Waking up at 4 AM equals sleep deprivation. After all, you'd have to go to sleep at around 8 PM in order to be able to sustain a wakeup time of 4 AM and still get enough sleep. And who the heck would do that?
No, the reality is that you're going to get up super early, but you're still going to go to sleep relatively late at night. And thanks to coffee, you can probably power through and still feel relatively normal.
In short, yes.
Sure, you can function relatively well on less sleep. The average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night. My guess is that most people who undersleep by an hour or two per day don't feel like sleep deprivation is a major issue in their life.
However, research shows that when you put it to the test, even mild sleep deprivation affects your brain's performance significantly.
A mildly drunk person feels like they're perfectly fine to drive (or do some cognitively challenging work), but in reality, their performance is significantly impacted by alcohol. It's the same for sleep deprivation: it may feel like you're just a bit drowsy, but you may be performing at 50% or less of your full cognitive capacity.
You don't need 8 hours of sleep to function, but you need 8 hours to be truly effective.
Now that I've said all that, my hot tip is to not believe me. A bunch of Internet people are spreading the idea that getting up super early is great for your productivity. I'm saying the opposite. You shouldn't believe any of these Internet people, including me.
I also don't want to suggest that you take the simple mainstream advice of "you need 8 hours a day" at face value, without questioning it.
The only thing I hope to get across is this: sleep is important for your productivity (and your health). More important than you probably think. And if you are serious about being more productive and more effective, it's worth spending a bit of time getting to the truth of this.
The first stop in such a search that I recommend is Matthew Walker's book Why We Sleep. If you're going to read only one book on the topic, this should be it.
Also, it makes sense to try this out for yourself. Ultimately, what works for you is what matters most. The key point in this is that you need to measure how effective you are when you sleep different amounts, not just how many hours you put in. To that end, listen to this podcast episode to learn about Personal KPI, a way to measure what really matters for your productivity. And read this post about the apps I use to track my Personal KPI.
There's another aspect to this that grinds my gears: productivity isn't about working like a maniac, for as many hours in the day as possible. Productivity isn't about doing more work, it's about getting more done.
What's the difference?
Imagine the following scenario: there are two small businesses, both operating in the same market. In business A, everyone is constantly working overtime, everyone is stressed and under pressure, everyone is working hard and no one gets paid well, because the business is barely surviving.
In business B, people work 8 hours a day, intensely, but not in a stressed way. No one does overtime. Everyone gets a good wage and the business is profitable.
Surely, in business A, more work is happening. There's more effort and sweat going into that business. You have to be a hardcore, life-sacrificing hustler to work there. But is that a good thing? Isn't it just a really ineffective business? In fact, if the business can't pay people well and requires everyone to do unpaid overtime, doesn't that mean that the business is actually failing and is only being kept afloat by "cheating"?
I paint this picture, because as an entrepreneur, I see it as my job to create a well designed, highly effective "machine" that turns input (e.g. from working hours and materials) into more than enough output (value, money) to pay for all the input and generate a profit. The better this machine is designed, the more effortless it is to get a great output from a "normal" input.
And I aim to design my own life the same way: my goal is not to suffer harder than anyone, in order to make piles of money. My goal is to get so good at what I do that I can have all the money and freedom I want, without breaking much of a sweat. That, to me, is the goal of productivity (and it's what I teach in my course).
In short, I aim to get a lot of work done without having to ever compromise my sleep, my freedom or my health.
Have you experimented with your sleep schedule, as a productivity strategy? Do you have any personal experience with sleeping less, sleeping more, sleeping differently and how it's affected you and your business? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.
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