You’re probably familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s old saying “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” While that may be true, I admit that I tend to rely on the axiom of, sleep as little as possible, so there’s more time for work. And right behind work, comes time to play.

I always felt that I could sacrifice sleep for the more active things I wanted to do.  I know from experience that many of you do the same. Just because we all tend to do it, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Studies all prove Ben was right. But maybe you don’t believe it. That’s cool and so you may decide to stop reading now. But if you’re curious…

A few facts:

Ouch! The fact that lack of sleep can make me fat and stupid got my attention. Got me to consider I might stop thinking of sleep as an annoyance. Maybe enough for me to quit thinking I’m some kind of a superstar because I can get along on 5 to 6 hours of sleep. Frankly, studies show that the only time we can get along on 5 to 6 hours sleep is after we retire and then only if our retirement is one of almost total in activity. Seriously, I have to admit that I used this think of sleep as one of the world biggest inconveniences – almost a complete waste of time. Just think what I could do with all those waking hours to grow my business, spend more time with my family and fit in more hours for fun and entertainment! How could I possibly fit in 8 or 9 hours of sleep?  Why would I want to? After all, wasn’t I doing what everyone who virtuously described themselves as hard-working did? How could sleep be a productivity tool?

So why did I decide to change? And why might you want to change with me? Here’s the scoop. I love learning and sharing how to increase productivity. Because I spend a lot of time researching the topic, I couldn’t help but notice the all the chapters, paragraphs and discussions about sleep within the materials. I became convinced that burning the candle at both ends really is a bad thing; Not a virtuous one. I noticed that Benjamin Franklin said “early to bed” not just “early to rise”. I never really noticed a problem with my decision-making ability given my sleep habits. And I don’t think I was putting anyone’s life in danger. But I did start to notice that when I got an extra hour or two of sleep on a regular basis, that I had more energy. Whether it’s true or not, I felt like I could remember details better, make decisions easier and in general just be a bit happier. The world was trying to teach me one simple lesson: Brenda needs more sleep.

In order to do try to get more sleep I had to get and stay focused on my own productivity. I had to figure out where I could cut an hour or two of my workday and still have the same output. I wouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t get the same or even more of the things that I wanted to do done. The decision was mine. So I looked at the things that tend to take up my time and after some honest assessment, there were several areas that I could add productivity tools such as automation, rules and delegation to help me reach my goal. Yes, it required measuring. It required taking stock of the time that I spent in various tasks. It required carefully looking at the things I had to do versus the things I like to do. I had to really want to make this change because otherwise it was easier to go back to my old habits and just sleep less.

For me, the big areas to improve were managing e-mail, fine-tuning my business and helping employees and clients execute. For some reason once I started getting more sleep regularly, I actually could do some of it faster or accept the fact I had to eliminate things. Thankfully, this all fits within what I love most – the art of being productive. I just always felt that the easiest way to have more productive hours was to create more hours by sleeping less. But cheating myself of sleep meant I was cheating my productive self during my waking hours.

As I continue to stay on the course of maximizing sleep, I have push back on falling back into my old pattern. I have to shut out the inner voice that for so many years told me sleeping more meant I wasn’t doing enough or I was being lazy. I mean come on, am I the only one who can still hear my parents berating me for not popping out of bed like pieces of toast?

I’m still a work in progress. Recognizing more sleep as a worthy goal is the first step. Adhering to it is the hard part. But if you see and feel positive results, I have a feeling you might join me in the “get more sleep challenge”. Here’s a tip: Instead of treating sleep like a problem or a nuisance that needs to be fixed, consider sleep as a business resource to be optimized. And finally the real secret is, that although getting 8 to 9 hours of continuous sleep is the ultimate goal, find opportunities to sleep where and whenever you can by maximizing the art of napping!