Why it is critical to achieve a work and sleep balance

Are you one of those people who are struggling with getting enough sleep? Have you always struggled or is it worse since the pandemic? Can you work with sleep deprivation?

A recent conversation with a former client identified she is existing on 3.5 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis. She admitted she knew it wasn’t good practice to sleep so little and she thinks her ideal sleep should be more like 7 hours. However, she felt she needed all the hours possible to do her work.

I don’t think she is alone in this struggle to get enough sleep, even people who get more than her 3.5 hours have talked about how they need more sleep.

What changed with your work and sleep balance since the pandemic?

This is what I have been thinking about — work-life balance, as well as work and sleep balance, are all affected by the pandemic. Let’s point out some of the things that changed.

  • Working remotely — There is little separation between workplace and home. Many people struggle to figure out where to work in the house as well as how to end work.
  • No clear end of the day — This point ties closely to the first point. Because we are working from home, you may continue far past when you would end the day if you worked in another location.
  • Multiple disruptions — Children, deliveries, animals, family members, contractors, and neighbors all impact your day when you spend it at home.
  • Guilt — While you might have felt some guilt when you worked in another location, you feel more if you leave a project before you complete it at home.
  • Lack of understanding of remote work by employers — This is new ground for everyone, and some employers are not clearly understanding how remote work should work. There was no manual for many companies and expectations may be that people should keep working because they are at home already.

How can you readjust your work and sleep balance?

Everyone must figure out the best strategy for themselves, but I can share what has worked for me. I have worked from home since 1981 both as an employee and as a sole proprietor small business owner who also had multiple contracts running under the business.

Office location

We bought this house understanding that we wanted office space. My husband, a remodeling contractor created an office in the lower level of our home in the first year. It had direct outside access via a door leading to the driveway. I stayed in that office from 1992 to 2005 when our children had grown up and I took over my present office, which was the former playroom and then family room that our sons and their friends inhabited.

If you can find a room to repurpose as an office, you can have a dedicated workspace. My upstairs office overlooks the city, and I can see out the window behind my monitors. Natural light is better for you. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone but if you can position your desk by a window, do it. Your mood will be better and for me, the natural light eliminated my headaches caused by the fluorescent lighting in the lower office.

Family Members

My two sons were turned 5 and 6 shortly after we moved into this house. They were in kindergarten and preschool and my business was much smaller in those days. Not everyone has that luxury but the same luxury of not working as much meant less income.

If you can find ways of managing children’s needs and activities while you work, especially in these strange times, you will benefit. I realize many options because of the pandemic are unavailable.

You may not be able to have childcare or family members care for the children, you may not even be able to send them to school. However, if you can find ways to work for periods of time where the children are still safe and occupied with school or other activities, this can be helpful to get your work done.

Tools for more productivity

Incorporating tools for more productivity can make work from home more successful, improve your work-life balance and lead to better work and sleep balance.

I am not sure if the cart goes before the horse or the other way around but if you get more sleep, you also tend to improve your productivity. If you improve your productivity, you can relax more and get more sleep.

My favorite app to keep me organized is Todoist.

I started using the premium version of Todoist in 2015. They keep enhancing the app and I keep finding more ways to make it more useful for me. It helps with every area of my life. If you have a plan and can check it off, you can increase productivity. Todoist is cross-platform, works on Macs and PCs as well as cross-device so it works on my computer, phone, and iPad. When I check off a task in one place, it syncs across devices.

Todoist will help you plan your day and record those upcoming tasks so that you can relax. Fear of forgetting something or being disorganized can lead to loss of sleep. There are other tools technology has provided us. I use many tools to run my business and my life. I think you will benefit by exploring how you can better organize all aspects of your life.

How does all this work together to increase your work and sleep balance?

Taking care of yourself will make you a better employee or entrepreneur. When you run yourself to the ground, you lose productivity, get sick, and fail to focus.

None of this is easy.

Allowing yourself to sleep with earlier bedtimes and specific wake-up times leads to improved work and sleep balance.

This is an area I must work on myself. Our Buddy, the German Shepherd, now that he is almost 10 years old, will wake us up to go outside in the middle of the night. I have spent many a night outside with him. In Wisconsin, this can be a rude awakening, especially in the winter. It is hard enough to wake up in the middle of the night but going out in freezing weather is a crisp wake-up call.

Allow yourself naps when possible.

I work with three clients daily and usually two on Saturdays. They are spaced out all over the day. Evenings are often prime time for my working clients who can’t meet during the day.

I tell my clients I need to make sure I have a brain for them. I find a time to grab a nap during the day. This may be easier for me as an entrepreneur but if you have a flexible work schedule, consider even a 20-minute nap to revitalize. Set an alarm and then get going again.

For some of you, you want to put a stop to your day.

Your family needs you. My husband and I get together for dinner between or after client meetings but then he takes over kitchen clean up while I go back to the office for work on client projects, marketing, or finance. For those of you with family members who need your time and attention, make sure you make time for them.

If you are in a job that continues to disrupt your work and sleep balance, consider if it is time to make a career change or career pivot. Many of my clients are landing new roles this year. The time is ripe. If you need a guide for your career journey, consider how my interactive Zoom-driven process can guide you to a more successful work environment. Learn more.

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Julie Walraven

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