We are the underworld of the workforce. If you are blessed with the ability to sleep (lucky you!), then you’ll have no idea what I am talking about - but for the rest of us sleep-deprived mortals - lack of sleep can become a big gnarly focus for life and a hindrance to work performance.
As I write this, I’ve been on a 4am bender. It’s not a cool club to belong to. Despite the huge numbers of people in the club, it’s very anti-social. And quite frankly, there is only so much talking to yourself in the middle of the night that you can stomach.
So how do we function at our best when we have had no sleep? Here are a few ideas:
Own it but don’t let it own you
Letting insomnia rule you is easy to do (I speak from experience here!). You’re tired and depleted and you don’t have the energy to do anything, especially have your work game-face on.
So you need good routines and habits around food, exercise, coffee rules (welcome to the no coffee post 12-noon club) to keep you in a steady state.
Crucially, when we are sleep deprived the first things to go are the most important - good food and exercise are supplemented with additional coffee and muffins. We seek comfort in the short term pick me ups at the expense of the things that will keep you in health so fight the temptation and grab a walk and a salad instead.
For me, a good doctor, melatonin and always having a good book on my kindle are crucial. Managing my stress levels when I am awake during the night is paramount and I’ve found that reading a good book really helps.
While you need a plan around how to manage the habits that support sleep, it is important that you don’t focus on sleep at all costs because that is going to stress you out!
Hatch a plan
Some days there will be no choice in what you have to do at work (think giving presentations, going for an interview, asking for a pay rise or a meeting with the crucial client).
On these days you must accept that you need to be at your best, and you’ve had no sleep. For me - remembering the times when I’ve had a big day at work and I’ve smashed it out despite not having slept is important. If I could do it then, I can certainly do it now and so can you.
If you do get to dictate how you spend your time and focus at work, then creating a list of light relief (or natural inclination) tasks really helps. For me, that is the creative stuff like writing blogs, reviewing marketing plans or thinking about how we can do things better.
It’s a bit weird, but I find that when I am tired I become more creative, so I’ve learned to embrace that too.
I’m an introvert, so when I’m lacking sleep and low on energy the last thing I want to do is catch up with loads of people but some people find their light relief task is having that coffee catch up you’ve been putting off.
Whatever it is, work out what your light relief tasks are the things that need doing, are important and work with your current state.
Form a support network