Posts

Snoozing on the Job

Should leaders pay more attention to the quality and quantity of their sleep?


This is the second in what might become an occasional series. It’s mostly come about because so many of my coaching clients are mentioning issues around health and wellbeing at work and in how it impacts their leadership. Perhaps it’s just that I’m writing in the winter-time. Nevertheless, with so many people of all ages and experience levels, and in different working sectors mentioning it, there might be something worth giving at least a little attention to. (Click here for my ‘Wellbeing’ tag to read related articles)


How well do you sleep?

And how does the quality of your sleep affect your ability to lead and function at work?

I’m convinced that way back in the mists of time, one of my ancestors volunteered our whole family to be the nighttime guardians of our tribe. We would stay up into the small hours of darkness, patrolling the borders, bravely investigating the slightest sound and, whilst watching the stars at about 4am, have the kind of interesting ideas that would really get our pulse racing.

Nowadays, that’s still a pattern that I can fall into, even when I don’t want to. And it makes me really, really tired in the daytime!

I noticed that being tired when I was trying to work had an impact that was way out of all proportion. I would miss the signals that a colleague needed my support. I would fail to spot that we were about to make a bad decision at the board. And I would produce poor-quality work that often needed revision.

My productivity, health and relationships in and out of work, all suffered. So I decided to do something about it, and got curious about what helps people sleep (and what doesn’t).

For lots of us, especially those who aren’t exactly ill, but maybe just aren’t as well as we’d like, sleep seems to be right at the heart of that wellness. If sleep is wrong, it can seem especially difficult to make improvements in any other aspects of our wellbeing and in our ability to deliver everything we want to.

So I thought I’d do a little research.

Good grief! – there is an awful lot of writing and stuff about this (there are even Sleep Coaches – see this link!). I don’t think I want to add too much to all of that writing. In part, because it’s not my area and also because what worked for me, may not be the same for you.

In terms of what currently makes a real difference to my own sleep though, there’s a few things I can’t help wanting to mention because their positive impact is so high.

Don’t take these as a solution for your own sleep needs. Rather, see them as a jumping-off point for your own experimentation. Here’s my current sleep-assisting strategy:

  1. Ban electronics from the bedroom. I joined the library and only read paper-based books in bed now. I got a stand-alone alarm clock (no-tick and with a read-out that can go entirely black). I also got a notebook for all my great 3-4am ideas.
  2. Get up at the same time as often as possible.
  3. Don’t eat after 8pm. At all.
  4. If you feel a late night coming on, try a herbal tea at bedtime, especially anything with valerian in it
  5. Have a very slick productivity process, especially something that is good at quickly and easily capturing your “To-Do’s”. I’ve written before how I’m a big ‘Getting Things Done’ (GDT) fan (see this non-affiliate link), and I’ve also used paper and app-based systems to help implement that. I currently use an IoS/Mac-only app called Things – see here

In the end, most of the useful stuff I got came from just a couple of different sources, both of which are also good reading around the subject:

  • An article in The Guardian featuring the work of Hugh Selsick, a South African psychiatrist who runs the Insomnia Clinic in Bloomsbury – see this link;
  • An article from the slighty batty but dedicatedly self-experimental Tim Ferriss, which at the time of writing was still available here – and if that link no longer works, google: “tim ferriss 5-tools-for-better-sleep.pdf”.

It’d be great to know about your own sleep patterns and how or if tiredness affects you at work – and what you’ve done or are doing about it. As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach.


Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers

Health and Work

Well-being has a huge impact on success at work. Can you be physically and emotionally healthy and hold down a demanding job?

Modern working life seems to make it tough to be healthy physically.

I’m struck by how many of my clients are dealing with poor-ish health. They’re often carrying minor health issues that haven’t been (or can’t really be permanently) ‘fixed’. They suffer from problems caused by sitting around in front of a screen all day, from long hours and the impact this has on diet, from emotional eating and drinking in response to the stresses and strains of demanding jobs, and from frequent coughs and sneezes.

And I write this, as it happens just a few days away from the shortest, darkest day of the year, when dealing with those health-related issues seems harder than ever.


I know these are all “first-world” problems really.

In the scheme of things, my bad back, caused by such a sedentary working day, is just a minor niggle. Yes, I can get a bit snappy and do tend to take the worry home with me if I’ve had a particularly stressful day. And yes, the coffee I’m chugging all day to raise enough energy to get through the afternoon does make me sleep poorly, but at least I’ve got somewhere safe and warm to sleep – it isn’t really such a big issue, is it?

Except it is a big issue really.

In a big picture sense, it’s an important issue because in the UK just those factors of stress, anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders account for around 20 million lost working days every year (HSE link).

On a more individual level, I think it’s also a big issue, because poor physical health and un-managed stress have such a huge impact on emotional well-being. And emotional well-being is the key to the self-awareness and good relationship-management that actually drives so much of our success (or otherwise) at work.

As Bruce Lee famously said:

You cannot poor from an empty cup.

If our physical and emotional reserves are low, our interactions with colleagues will be less effective and our work will suffer.


Not all of my clients are dealing with poor-ish health though. Some put a lot into maintaining their health and do it very successfully. And of those who do carry health conditions that will aways need managing, some manage them very well indeed.

My own health and emotional well-being seems to go up and down in long phases. I can have many years where I’m cycling or running regularly, eating healthily and living a well-balanced life, and then something happens to knock that off course and it might take a couple of years for me to get it back on track again.

I don’t know what the key to the physical side of all this is.

Having read about and trained with and followed a number of regimes, I still couldn’t say “Here are the seven steps to psychical well-being” with anything like certainty.

I do know that for me, changing things for the better has often involved quite small starts – deciding to go out for 20 minute walk at lunchtime no matter the weather, for example. Or just mentioning I was feeling physically drained to a friend resulting in an unexpected invitation to a long-distance bike ride – with enough time to train for it!

Actually, maybe those are part of the key:

  • Do something small; and
  • Reach out and ask for help.

What’s your experience been – how’s your health and well-being; does it have an impact on your ‘success’ at work; how did you change your health for the better?


My instinct is that this is such a big issue that I should reach out myself to a few people I know and get some more about this up on my website – watch this space.

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. And be healthy.


Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers