Don’t flex on sleep

by Patrick Haney via Flickr

A student in Ruby Mendicant University tweeted today that he’s sleep-deprived due to overworking himself for Ruby Mendicant University. I hope I’m not partially responsible for his sleep deprivation, but I feel like I could be.

I might have set a bad precedent by throwing sleep on the RMU sacrificial altar, which is unnecessary, and even counterproductive when trying to attract and coach newer students.

In any situation where compromises must be made, you look for a “flex” point. Often in business decisions, you ask whether you flex on time, quality, or cost. Sometimes you can spend more against a hard deadline, or other times it’s better cut corners to save cost.

Often in life, we don’t put enough thought into the question of which part must flex. I didn’t think much about this during my RMU sessions, but I should have.

In my case, I had these things going on in my life: 1) Work, 2) Family, 3) Entertainment, 4) My RMU ambitions, and 5) Sleep.

It was pretty obvious that the first place that should flex is “entertainment”. I can give up TV & RSS feeds for a few weeks. No problem.

But then I found that I was still underwater. So what flexes next? Do I spend less time with family? No, that’s too important. Work? Not feasible.

That leaves sleep, or my RMU ambitions and my predefined definition of “success”. At that point, the seemingly noble choice is to flex on sleep.

The problem is, sleep should be the absolute last place you flex. Working into the wee hours of the morning has repercussions that actually start a domino effect on all the other places.

You’ve now mortgaged your entire next day: I guarantee you’ll diminish your effectiveness at job, your patience and kindness with family, and even the next day’s schoolwork!

I know this because i’ve now made the same mistake twice. Weeks after my last RMU session, I’m just now catching up on sleep and feeling like myself again.

So why did I flex on sleep? Easy: pride.

My pride wouldn’t let me scale back my RMU ambition. Sometimes pride is a good thing, as it causes us to accomplish things we normally wouldn’t. But RMU isn’t about showing what you can accomplish in a short time, it is about accomplishing what you can in the longer term, and staying on the path to mastery (at least that’s my interpretation).

What should I have done? I should have told Greg I was underwater, and scaled back my ambitions. I’m proud of what I accomplished, but the costs were just too large for my level of effort to have been a good long-term investment.

Sleep is too key a component to your success in too many areas of your life to sacrifice it for short-term gain.