The importance of sleep in a startup

flickr-4751173One of the biggest myths in startups, that just can’t seem to be killed is this notion of working day and night and never sleeping.

Over the past 12 months, the time since I have joined Buffer as Co-Founder, was also the time, where I have developed the most focused sleeping routine in my life.

Getting enough sleep and prioritizing it over any other task, is one of the most important things I believe. Here are a few thoughts on why sleep and thinking about your sleeping habits is so vital:

Productivity doesn’t come in hours

A discovery that took me quite a while to understand is that your productivity doesn’t come in hours. It comes with the energy you have every day. A great book that Joel made me aware of titled The Power Of Full Engagement puts it this way:

“managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal”

I am sure you have realized this before: you can complete tasks that can take you hours if you are tired, in minutes if you are fresh and fully focused.

Embracing the single idea, that there is a set of highly important tasks you need to get done, not a number of hours in the day, you need to be working, is what can make all the difference.

It allows you to shift your focus on those things that will bring your startup further. Instead of keeping busy and spending 15 hours in front of the computer, you are forced to think really hard, which tasks you need to complete that will actually make a difference.

Escape Parkinson’s Law with more sleep

A quote that stuck with me, ever since I have heard it the first time is this:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. ~ Cyril Parkinson

Even though, you are in a unique position whilst building your startup, to not expand tasks to fill the time in the day, it is easy to get trapped by this law.

It happens even more so, if you are tired and haven’t had enough sleep. You keep working away and you keep busy on the tasks in front of you, knowing that you need to spend many more hours in front of your computer, just to fulfill your startup working craze.

What took me a while to realize is that this is not productive at all.

I learnt that you are only equipped to escape this, if you have had enough rest. It makes your mind much more attentive for the tasks, instead of hours in the day.

Give your day structure with a sleeping routine

Lastly, it is again this concept of structure in your weekly or daily routine, that I keep coming back to.

Personally, I am sleeping 8 hours every night, from 1am to 9am. Then, I sleep another 30 minutes during the day from 3pm to 3.30pm. Together with my routine of going to the gym, this makes my days so solid and focused, getting the work done that I wanted to is a lot easier.

Joel went into even more depth on creating such a sleeping ritual, that you might find interesting.

Feeling healthy and happy 365 days a year

If you are building a startup, you have the unique opportunity to setup the whole environment around yourself in a way so you can be most productive.

“The only way to do great work is to do what you love.” Goes one of the most famous quotes from Steve Jobs. And to really enjoy doing what you love, being fresh and having had plenty of sleep is most crucial.

To toss another evergreen quote in here “Building a startup is a marathon, not a sprint.” If you can create a sleeping pattern that is sustainable 365 days a year you are much more likely to make it through the crazy ups and downs of your startup journey.

Because above all things, you want to be happy and feel healthy, whilst doing it. So be. And get some sleep.

Photocredit: kurichan+

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