The author of this highly rated article is Claire Newton.
Claire Newton is a qualified psychologist, speaker, trainer and coach.
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Professionals in our line of work tend to live and die by deadlines – especially at this time of year when year-end functions, parties, conferences and seminars seem to be the order of the day for many of our clients.
While most of us will have “stock” talks and keynote addresses that we can deliver at short notice, we are also often called on to tailor-make talks for corporate clients. Sometimes, we’re not given a lot of notice and so find ourselves having to write and prepare an entire presentation in a much shorter time than we would ideally like. Add to this our normal list of commitments, and suddenly there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done.
At times like this, something has to give, and it is usually our sleep!
Yet, while we think that stealing a couple of hours from our night’s rest is harmless, the effects of not getting enough sleep are cumulative and damaging. The irony is, we eat into our sleep time trying to be more productive, when the truth is – not getting enough quality sleep makes you less productive!
How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?
“You need to get 8 hours sleep a night” is one of those injunctions like “drink 8 glasses of water every day”, that most people take at face value, without ever really thinking about it. It’s nonsense! It’s like saying everybody should have size 6 shoes, or be 1.8 meters tall!
When it comes to sleep – like everything else – there is a normal distribution. Studies have shown that the average length of sleep for an adult is seven and a quarter hours, but many people report needing more or less.
To work out how many hours of sleep you need, keep a sleep diary for at least 7 days when you are relaxed (for example, when you are on holiday), and are able to go to sleep when you want to and wake up when you want to without an alarm clock. By the end of the week you should be in your natural pattern of sleep, and will be able to see how many hours you should sleep for. The test of insufficient sleep is whether you are sleepy during the day, or if you remain alert.
Once you’ve established how much sleep you need to function optimally, the next step is working out how to engineer enough time at the end of each day in order to allow for this.
Here are some ideas:
• Ask yourself “What do I work for?” List all the things (material and abstract) that you get out of your job. Identify your motivations, the value and meaning of your job. Does this justify the amount of time you put in?
• Create a pie chart of how much time you spend on activities – work, shopping, exercise, family time, cooking, homework with kids etc. Make another pie chart showing how you would like to be spending your time. Put this chart up where you can see it every day. Make it your goal to achieve this.
• Start a psychological health care programme. Include training in relaxation, negotiation, time management, stress management and assertiveness.
Find more information, tips and ideas in my articles on Insomnia and Burnout on my website, www.clairenewton.co.za