Back in law school there was a boy in my class who was terrible with time management.
Everyone knew, but it was especially clear whenever an assignment was due because you could tell he had barely slept. His hair was super messy, his eyes were glassy, and he yawned every five minutes (and not just because the teacher kept booming). The funniest thing was when you really tried to stay awake. He would open his eyes very wide and sit as upright as possible.
It seemed like he was awake, but the worst was yet to come. After swaying like a tree in the wind as he hit back waves of exhaustion, he tried a new tactic. He would sit on his desk with his elbows and hold a sharpened pencil under his chin! Every time his head started hanging he would get stung and suddenly (hopefully) focus for a few minutes before it happened again.
That sounds crazy – and it is – but I didn’t realize the craziest part until I stepped into the corporate world. Lawyers not only normalize lack of sleep, they glorify it! Some even make it seem like a self-sacrificing act of heroism. To be honest, I believe it’s a self-destructive act of stupidity!
Clarity is a key element of any profession, and I’ve found it to be one of my best assets. It guides me not only in my position as CEO, but also in college, law school, and every other aspect of life. Your mental clarity is crucial and is directly related to your sleeping habits.
If it helps you understand, let me break down my philosophy in my sleep.
First, sleep is not a currency. You shouldn’t trade sleep for other things thinking you made a good or healthy purchase. In fact, you shouldn’t be swapping sleep at all!
Second, your wellbeing is priceless. Even if sleep were a currency, you wouldn’t be able to buy anything because of the effects on you. I will settle for seven hours of sleep on occasion, but I know that I usually need at least eight. In an ideal world, I’d get ten, with that extra two hours after the main course would seem like a dessert. You can’t have it every night without consequences. You still have responsibilities.
Third, there is a balance between work, rest, family, friends, and self-improvement. Sleep ensures that each of these interactions are clear and effective as you are well rested.
I asked LinkedIn informally about this phenomenon and received some responses that boiled down to being a question of the ego. Someone on my network coined the term “machoville” to explain how most lawyers live in a psychological city where everything is a test, competition, or act of heroism where those who suffer the most are win. In my opinion, this kind of self-inflicted suffering deserves neither sympathy nor fame.
I have more than one bone to choose from with this problem. The most obvious consequence is that it is unhealthy and affects your ability to think clearly. It tarnishes your judgment and decreases the quality and efficiency of your work.
Rest well. Don’t interfere with your sleep. This way you will maximize your performance and impact.
Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next generation contract management company that pioneered online negotiation technology. Embracing legal innovation, Olga has dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She believes that with the advent of technology, the legal profession will emerge stronger, more resilient and more inclusive than before. Olga is also an award-winning General Counsel, Operations Professional, Startup Consultant, Public Speaker, Associate Professor, and Entrepreneur. She founded the Women serve on board Movement to encourage women to be on boards of directors at Fortune 500 companies. she wrote Get on board: earn your ticket for a seat on the corporate board and Fundamentals of intelligent contract security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.