Don’t Lose Steam: Your Guide to Staying Productive on Little Sleep

Sometimes life hands us more on our plate than we'd like.

And sometimes, we have to deal with that plate with fewer hours of sleep than normal.

We've all been there. Wondering how to get through our to-do list on little sleep? I want to explore some insights for you in this email.

The Importance of Sleep

We all love our work (hopefully), but there's a universal truth that sleep-deprivation can hamper the productivity of even the most hard-working and passionate of us.

Why? Because the human brain is no dolphin's brain.

Let me explain. Dolphins put half of their brain to sleep at a time so they can keep swimming and take in oxygen.

We can't keep swimming (or working) with half of our brain while the other half rests. So, what do we do when we need sleep and yet the world doesn't pause?

An Early Start

Here I am, writing this newsletter at 7 am. Nothing too unusual about that but I've been up since 3:30 am! Not by choice, my daughter decided she was wide awake and wanted to come downstairs to watch Hey Duggee.

I wasn't looking forward to spending the day tired, but quickly realised productivity didn't necessarily have to take a back seat.

Quick side note – you don't always have to be productive! I want to make that really clear. Productivity isn't the goal. The real goal (for me at least) is to have more time and energy to spend on the things that matter. Like family, friends, and experiences.

So how did I write this newsletter on only 3 hours sleep? By outsourcing the checking of my work. If I had a VA, I'd send it to them to check for silly mistakes.

Instead, I sent it to ChatGPT to do a quick check through.

Delegation – one way to keep things moving.

Which Tasks Should I Focus On?

Sleep deprivation can be a monstrous obstacle when it comes to creative or innovative tasks.

Research supports this, suggesting that high-consequence tasks or ones requiring novelty, are severely impaired when sleep isn't adequate.

That leaves us with mundane tasks like household chores and setting up meetings.

So, the rule of thumb for the sleep-deprived: easy, routine tasks today. Novel and creative ones tomorrow.

(Following that advice, I should write this post tomorrow…)

Coping Mechanisms and Solutions

There are several methods to keep on top of your to-do list while you're half awake.

First, consider caffeine. It's not an ideal solution but it can get us through the rough patches of the day. Remember, it's not a long-term solution and it can impact your sleep if you drink it too late in the day.

Second, if you can find time for a nap, it can do wonders. You'll awake feeling like a new person! Make sure you don't sleep too long though otherwise you'll be going into deep sleep and will wake up feeling worse.

What If You’re Pressed for Time?

Enter the concept of Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR).

Introduced by Andrew Huberman, it's a relaxation technique where the mind is awake, but the body extremely relaxed.

This deep rest induces the release of serotonin, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system – our sleep system. It's like hitting the reset button on your brain.

Here's a guided NSDR video 👇

The Sleep-deprived Productivity Plan

In summary, a good nights sleep is irreplaceable for optimum productivity.

However, on days when your child wakes you up at 3:30 am, remember to:

  • Stick to routine tasks, leaving creative ones for well-rested days
  • Have your work routine set to make tasks automatic and habit-driven
  • Delegate tasks to a partner, colleague, VA, or AI, when possible
  • Have caffeine, but sparingly
  • Try NSDR or take a nap when feasible
  • Most importantly, aim to get good quality sleep the next night!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this productivity plan. Are there any other methods you've used to tackle work while sleep-deprived?

Until my next post, stay productive, and remember, your best work happens when you're well-rested 💤

Scroll to Top