What I learned in 2015-2016 Part 1 - Go to bed early, get up early.
So i doubled (at least) my productivity by shifting my 8 hours of sleep forward 1.5 hours.
How so? Hold your horses and let me give you some context.
Since I went sole trader at the end of 2014, I had a HUGE increase in the amount of admin work I had to complete at the end of each work day: Confirming clients, checking off used sessions, billing and invoices, rescheduling clients, booking consults, updating and prioritising to-do list, blah blah blah.
Trying to do this at 8.30-9pm after 5-7 PT sessions was not ideal but I didn’t feel like I had another choice, either it got done or it piled up.
One day after a particularly long run of clients I decided I couldn't be arsed, and I went straight to bed at 8.30 and crashed out.
Expecting to sleep straight through to my alarm at 6:30am I was surprised to wake up at 5:15 WIDE awake.
I thought to myself I might as well try to get some of that work done seeing as I’m already up, next thing I know, I’ve finished all my tasks, knocked a bunch of things off the to do list, and all before my regular alarm for the day has gone off!
Then it dawned on me:
I was a shitload more productive in the morning!
After operating at a high level all day, I had nothing left by the evenings, and without even realising, I was working at a glacial pace.
Not only was I more mentally efficient in the morning, but there were less distractions; texts, phone calls, social media notifications, and even outside noise was practically at a whisper. This combination of better cognitive ability and less distractions meant I was getting my work done in about 1/3 of the time.
Productivity aside, the thing I like best about going to bed early is that I always wake up before my alarm. I feel so much less groggy and fatigued when I wake up naturally as opposed to being jolted awake by an annoying noise. There is also a lot of literature suggesting that being woken during phases of deep sleep (stage 4 and REM sleep) can be detrimental to cognitive ability and feelings of fatigue during the first half of the day, I would also add that it just SUCKS waking up to an alarm every day.
"But i don't get tired until midnight" i hear you say...
If you aren’t getting tired until 5-6 hours after the sun goes down, you may need to assess your night-time activities.
One culprit can be excessive stimulation, playing highly engaging video games or watching intense movies right before bed can leave your head spinning, try reading a book to internalise stimuli, or journalling to dump all the day’s events onto paper so you aren’t still processing them in bed.
Another common issue is that we are now surrounded by bright lights until we switch them off to go to bed. Natural Circadian rhythms will normally dictate that shortly after the sun goes down humans will begin to get tired,this happens when melatonin production increases with lack of light entering the eye. This also reverses in the morning as the sun rises and shuts off melatonin production, helping to wake us up.
I recommend using more gentle forms of lighting after 7pm such as incandescent bulbs or candles, and also using blue-light blocking programs such as F.lux for your computer, Twilight for android, or Night Shift for Iphone. Minimising blue light after sunset can make it easier to get tired at an earlier time, rather than just laying in bed awake.
Conclusion: If you are going to bed after 10, what are you doing between dinner and when you decide to pack it in? If it’s not something productive, it might be worth revisiting your priorities. If it is, how productive are you actually? I noticed massive increases in productivity, and better quality sleep from shifting my 8 hours from 10.30pm-6.30am to 9pm-5am, and trying to make sure the alarm is the last resort, not a daily occurrence.