Some years ago, a famous adventure game titled Monkey Island (The Secret of Monkey Island, LucasArt 1990, someone else could remember Guybrush Treepwood the mighty pirate?) after the credits of the game clearly said “Now turn off your computer and go to sleep!”.
In that case the authors joke about addicted players, but it is not uncommon to have issues sleeping among designers.
Unfortunately, upcoming deadlines, continuous reviewing of the work required by clients, time lack, etc. sometimes affect designers and creatives all over the world.
Inspiration and creativity never sleep someone could say but there are several side effects for too many nights spent working at the PC.
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There is tons of literature about the bad-side effects of not sleeping. Every freelancer is able to read about wise suggestions, reading articles and books about how is wonderful and healthy sleeping 8-9 hours per night. Most of this articles or medical abstracts begin with “Go to bed”.
This is not absolutely wrong but I think this as to be the end, and not the begin, of a way that let you win your sleeping hours.
Why many freelancers just don’t follow the advice of going to sleep? Easy. There’s work to do.
Many creatives find easier work at night. No noise, phone calls, chats, requests, e-mails. On the other side if you do not sleep, your speaking and concentration is not always 100 percent and you may become irritable and make mistakes in your works.
Forgoing to sleep is a bad idea and could seriously affect your creativity. You may think that you are getting some extra hours but, as matter of facts you are killing your job more than your health.
Which are the most common areas that are affected by sleep deprivation?
Here below a short list as example.
Sleep deprivation may cause ideas lack. If you are tired the best ideas fly away and you lose the right moment. Good ideas very often come from everyday life, from seeing common objects in a different way. Being tired you are unable of developing creative lateral thinking because you are not attentive enough.
Getting tired you become nervous and short tempered. This is a danger side-effect if you think about how many patience and diplomacy you need to deal with your clients!
If your brain don’t have a rest your memory and judgment will not function fully. This can produce a self-criticism lack that gives as result poor creativity works. On the other hand it may also produce an opposite result, a self-criticism excess which cause dissatisfaction and motivation loosing.
But things may go even worse and you can make mistakes.
Usually you need to be completely focused to avoid small mistakes. Think about what may happen if you are an awake sleeping worker! You may forgot to double check your products, wrongly save them, over-save older file on newer ones, accidental deleting of files, badly backup and so on. A small instant may cost a huge waste of time.
You are your boss and the center of your company. This also means that your decisions directly affect your business world. If you are not focused on your business you may lose your customer trust, a huge amount of money and credibility. You need to take the smarter choices and be full of energy to transmit a positive opinion about you and your work to the customer.
As said, these are only a small and more evident areas, affected by sleep deprivation, which have a direct bad result in your productivity and personality .
What can you do to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life?
You definitely need to discipline yourself.
Too much work and not enough hours? No problem, you may think. You have done this kind of stuff more and more and you are surely able to evaluate how long it takes preparing this poster or that postcard. Web banner advertising? It’s a piece of cake!
“It’s just for today because this is a priority. Once finished this work I’ll go to sleep, this can’t wait for tomorrow.”
This is what probably you have said to yourself more than one of your past evening. At this point the damage is accomplished. You are going to have more and more works that “can’t wait for tomorrow” in your future.
You are not a future teller and you can’t really say if you are going to engage the worst nasty problem you have never had to face. If everything goes well you may be wrong for a time-lapse in a range between 30 minutes up to one hour.
Don’t be stubborn. It is not an honor point and you are not to going to gain any extra if you continue to work in a endless working day.
Working crazy days, finishing late at night and then sleeping late the day after waking up with a terrible headache as after an hangover or, even worse, pass the sleeping lack waking up early to start working again, is the best way to go exhausted shortly.
You have to regard sleeping time as one of your task, and, as a matter of fact, a priority one. The temptation as a freelancer is push yourself to finish a task. You may think that doing work pay the bills while sleeping doesn’t but this is not true. If you waste time to recover the mistake that you did, the relationship that you broke, the ideas that you lose well, you are losing money.
Time is money! This is not just a proverb. For a freelance this is the reality. You can’t afford to waste time by trying to recover mistakes produced by sleeping lack. Much better is sleeping instead! Learn how to manage your time. This is not a skill that you can reach in a day but with small everyday steps you can. Everything needs practice and changing habits even more, you need stubbornness.
A healthy seven to nine hours sleep is a must for every freelancer. This means that you still have about 17 hours to go ahead with your deadlines. Even eating for a total of three hours and spending a couple of other hours to a sport activity, a walk or a chat with your best friend you still have from 10 up to 12 hours to work!
Well, be aware of this, try to remember it and try to better organize your daily work.
Define a time when you want to finish your working day, imagine you as an employee. Prepare your list of priorities and try to follow it.
Everyone has a time of the day in which he works at his best. After a good night of sleep I’m at my best in the morning. Someone else could prefer the afternoon or the evening. This is not important. The productivity boost is different and very personal. The main point is that productivity and creativity are like a curve: the time that you have reached the top you have already started to decline. That’s why you need to set an effective ending time.
If your body is not a good enough as alarm then use a traditional alarm clock, set the ending time and stick it. Take your time for short pauses, for lunch and to reply to e-mails and phone calls. When the working day comes to end you have virtually finished and the activity is officially closed.
Now you surely still have a huge amount of thing to do.
Even during your daily work you need to make a prioritized list of all the tasks you have to accomplish. This is even more necessary when you are going to work at the evening because now you only have a few hours left. A lot of things to do not so many time available. So, focus your efforts on those deadlines that can’t be put off and fix the others as priorities for tomorrow.
Clarify EXACTLY what tasks are productive. Determine if there are any tasks that can be saved for tomorrow. Fix another alarm to the new and REAL ending time and, again, stick to it.
Don’t bypass that time stretching your afternoon and exhausting your evening! Think that bypassing the bound you are losing your time and that, with a great probability you are going to throw away the exceeded work tomorrow because it is not up to your standards.
The time for your public contact has been passed with the end of the official working day time. Let the phone ring after that time. This will help you to avoid interruption. If you need to work, close off everything else and stay focused and respect your priorities list.
Avoid coffee abuse or other energy drinks and simply go to sleep when you feel tired without delay. The time that you fixed is only the extreme line. The far bound that you have not overcome. Try to start a routine and go to sleep every day at the same time.
If you are not sleepy then read a book or do something else but stop to work.
Once you have finished with yourself then you have to discipline your customers too.
Your customers continue to stress you without any pause? Obviously you can’t ignore they requests and needs but you can guarantee that you will respond to all emails and requests within 1 business day, and in some particular occasions (not always!), unless there is a holiday.
This is a comfort for your clients that let you able to schedule a predefined time in which you will open your e-mail box and reply to all without too many interruptions.
You have to remember that you are working for you so you have take charge of the tasks and then develop them to better ensure a proficiency workflow to your client. As we previously said you need to define your priorities and YOU are the first of these.
A not immediate reply to modification request will increase the value of your product. Be smart and give additional worth to your work and creativity! If a customer call or write you to have a URGENT new brochure or to have URGENTLY modified an existent graphic product, then stop him. Evaluate the work and the real urgency, think about your other tasks and priorities and shuffle the list appropriately to insert this new task postponing something else. It could be the case that all the others tasks in your list are more urgent. Than talk to your customer giving him a REAL deadline, the time that you take is to ensure him the best attention and accuracy that its important request needs.
If you have continued to work late for a long period it could happen that, even if you have solved your overworking problems, you still suffer from insomnia. How facing this situation without pills abuse?
Insomnia could be result of stress. A physical activity can be helpful to relax your body and give rest to your brain. Do exercise regularly and you will have a positive reply from your body, posture, weight and mood. A good and regular exercise produces chemical substances that allow you to feel better and relax the everyday stress. Just avoid to exercise too close to the sleeping time because you may be too energized to sleep well. I tried doing exercise early in the day but I found that I’m too physically tired then. My best is a couple of hours before sleeping. Try to find your best.
A relaxing hot shower and a good hot tisane both could be helpful to calm down a stressful day. Avoid to eat too close to the bedtime. You’ll start digestion processes that may disturb your rest.
If your stress level is too high you may find a solution improving the peacefulness of your working environment. There are several beautiful sounds coming from nature that are really helpful to calm down a stressful day and they could be also useful to better sleep at night.
Ocean waves, crickets chirping, tree leaves moving at wind and rain fall melody are also available as application for your iPhone and smartphone. You may find useful listening white noise, a noise which intensity is the same at all frequencies within a given band and that our brain is able to “delete” together with other annoying noises.
Here below a couple of well featured software house that provide this kind of sounds:
Make a challenge with yourself and try for a week to perform one of the previous suggestions. For example try that which say use alarms to set your time.
Evaluate yourself at the End of the week and, if you have improved your life or your work in some way, then try to add another little step. The to-do-list for example.
Apply a new suggestion a week and, at the end of the first month, compare results and goals that you got.
You can’t learn how to manage your time and gain sleeping hours in a day but you can in a reasonable span of time if you train yourself with small steps that you can afford.
Stay awake and focused during the day, avoid to working late at night and turn you computer off when the time is come and go to bed.
Other resources on this topic that have inspirited this article
While compiling this list, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great tips. Feel free to share it with us.