Twice a year, Bill Gates takes a week off – his ‘Think Week’ – to go to an isolated cabin so that he can focus on reading, evaluating new business strategies, and realigning his mind. Nelson Mandela went for solo long walks early in the morning, to be more mindful about his day. Swedish director Ingmar Bergman took a short nap after lunch to be more productive.
What Bill Gates is doing on his cabin break is essentially deep work, a strategy to boost productivity by focused, distraction-free work completed in one stretch. Almost anyone who has achieved a lot in their lifetime has a secret (or not-so-secret) hack that they rely on to keep them focused, intentional, and productive. But productivity hacks don’t have to be complicated or intense.
While planners, alarms, trackers, and lists have a place in your productivity arsenal, one of the best hacks to be more productive is are free, simple, and can be started from today – get a good night’s sleep. Let’s unpack this.
You know how you feel in the afternoon if you’ve not slept well the night before. You’re longing for the duvet and would rather be snuggling into the pillow than sitting up. But there’s a surprisingly deep connection between sleep and productivity, and it extends beyond just feeling groggy in the afternoon.
If without enough sleep, the cognitive functions are impaired and the individual is less capable of making good decisions, understanding complex problems, or finding creative solutions. In the long run, insufficient sleep can lead to health problems like immune disorders, heart conditions, unstable diabetes, blood pressure, and all kinds of aches and pains.
You already know the usual pre-bedtime tips – chamomile tea, a warm shower, fresh bedsheets, meditation. But we dug deeper and asked the experts for some unique tips on how to sleep better.
Here are some key insights:
• Choose mild pre-bedtime exercise: If you’re not tired by the end of the day, the sleep quality may be patchy or disturbed. But that doesn’t mean you have to put yourself through an intense workout after a day at work. In fact, heavier workouts in the evening may spike the adrenaline so much so that you find it hard to sleep. Instead, go for a moderately paced 30-minute walk in the evening and take a warm shower afterwards. You’ll be surprised at how well you sleep.
• All of us fall into bad sleep habits at some point, but the important thing is to steer back on track as soon as you realize it. It’s never too late to take a closer look at sleep habits and make changes, for the sake of productivity and health.
• Give your eyes a break: Make a playlist with sleep-casts, sleep stories, or ambient music, and let your ears do the work. Adjust the audio track to a low, soothing volume. If you can, download the songs onto your device so they can play in Airplane Mode, that way you won’t be disturbed by beeping notifications.
• Whether you’re running one of the biggest software companies in the world or writing the world’s next hit TV drama, getting a good night’s sleep will boost the ability to focus for long stretches and channel all creativity into the next day’s output. Try it and see how you wake up ready to knock off every item on your to-do list…