I’m sure you’ve heard that ‘less is more.’ I’m also sure you’ve realized how often that theory is completely ridiculous. It’s not like you’ve ever said, “Oh please, give me less cheesecake, for that shall be so much more filling.” When it comes to cheesecake, more is definitely more, and usually more isn’t even enough. So ‘less is more’ is a dumb philosophy when it comes to delicious pastries. However, when it comes to your own productivity, you might be surprised how important it is to do nothing.
And let me show you why, thanks to the New York Times. In one study of nearly 400 employees, sleeping fewer than six hours a night was found to be one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A Stanford study of basketball players discovered that when athletes slept 10 hours a night, their free-throw and three-point shooting percentages each increased by 9 percent. A 2006 Ernst & Young internal study of its employees revealed that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.
But suppose you can’t take a vacation or get an extra few hours of sleep every night. No problem. Anders Ericsson (the guy whose research Malcolm Gladwell made famous with his 10,000-rule) found that elite performers tend to practice for no more than 90 minutes at a time and no more than 4.5 hours a day. Repeat: these people are better than I am, and they’re working about half as much time.
Most of us have grown up thinking that we rest or sleep in order to repair our bodies physically, but it turns out that rest and relaxation are far more important for how they clear our minds. To quote the Sunday Review, “in a series of new studies, published this fall in the journal Science, the Nedergaard lab may at last be shedding light on just what it is that would be important enough. Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking.”
Bottom line – if you’re not taking enough breaks, you’re not doing as good a job as you could be. Keep that in mind today when you start to get worn out. Your brain is trying to tell you to take a break so that it can get back to performing at its peak level. So listen to it! Besides, naps are awesome.
And you know what else is awesome? I originally thought about titling this article “Sleep Your Way to the Presidency,” but then I realized there’s more than one way that sentence can be interpreted.