As a workplace performance expert, I’m always looking for ways individuals can excel in their careers. Professional development comes in many forms: online courses, membership associations, employee mentor programs, workshops, etc. But there is a way that will dramatically influence our career success, and it’s effortless: sleep. You could literally stop reading at tip number one, but I’ll show you a way to implement it at the end. Plus, we’re an ambitious crew, and the more we excel, the greater the path we pave for the generations that come after us.
1. Get the gold standard sleep time.
Renowned neurologist Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, refers to the best sleep hours as being between 10pm to 2 am. If you miss any sleep during this time, then fatigue may still be a factor regardless of how long you have slept. If you usually go to bed after 10pm, work your way up to the habit. I’ve found that it helps to focus on being in bed early the night before an important meeting, key work event, or crucial deadline. Sleeping helps our bodies regenerate and use some of the career development skills that make us successful in the workplace. In fact, neuroscientist Matthew Walker noted a study across four large American companies that showed the cost of sleep deprivation is up to $3,500 per employee, per year. So by being in bed early, you will save your employer money, be good to your body, and be more productive. It is a win-win for everyone!
2. Create your "why" card.
Motivation and energy go hand in hand. It’s hard to go to the gym if you don’t have the motivation to let’s say... plan a date with your little black dress. Loosing weight isn’t the only reason we commit to the gym. There are a number of reasons, just as money isn’t the sole purpose for work. Creating your very own "why" card can help you stay inspired on the rough workdays. To create a "why" card, grab a piece of paper and write, “social, financial, and career,” a goal under each heading, and why you want to achieve that goal. On your least productive days, or even when you just feel like you need some extra motivation, look at your why card to help push you along. You can even find a picture that represents your goal.
3. Energize with oxygen.
Our brains need twenty percent of our bodies’ oxygen. The more oxygen we receive, the easier it is for us to think clearly, concentrate, and be better energized. Try to get fresh air during the workday. If it’s not possible, take some deep breaths outside first thing in the morning and in the evening. When we are unable to get fresh air, plants like Aloe Vera, Peace Lily, or English Ivy can help energize and clean the air. In fact, NASA listed English Ivy as a top air-filtering houseplant.
4. Check messages at set intervals.
According to Alex Moore, CEO of the email productivity solution company Boomerang, it takes 64 seconds for an individual to recover from the interruption of an email notification. Stay focused by turning off your notifications and reading every email as it lands in your inbox. Instead, check your messages at set intervals. Answering every email can be taxing because sometimes our brain has to make complex decisions in the response. If you need to open your emails periodically, pause and allow your self to recover for a minute before moving onto the next task.
5. Do the right tasks at the right time.
If there’s a task that has become habitual, your brain doesn’t use much energy to do it. That’s why we sometimes default to complete the tasks we find easy first on the mornings that we’re tired. Try switching things around. Do the hardest tasks or the task that aligns with a professional area of improvement first thing in the morning, because that’s generally when we’re most productive. Also, be intentional about what you want to do after you finish a task. Sometimes we get so caught up in doing our work that we don’t consciously think about what task should come next.
[Related: Why It’s Time to Buck the 24/7 Work Trend]
There is something that you can do right now, though. It goes back to the first tip and our promise. It can be helpful to set a bedtime alert on your phone using night shift or something similar. Doing so can help you wind down for the day. Are you in? Glasses up and let’s toast to a bedtime routine — here’s to a restful evening and a healthy, productive day.
Rachel Montañez is an advocate for well-being and a workplace performance specialist. She is the founder of Sleep 10:2 and specializes in helping parents with infants get better quality sleep, time, and work-life harmony. Join the Sleep 10:2 community at www.sleep10to2.com.