In our current on-demand world, everything has to happen n-o-w. We need to get the thing done yesterday. And when we get that thing done, there’s an even bigger thing waiting for us to tackle.
An endless pile of demands, distractions, and notifications seems to be the norm at this current cultural and societal moment.
If you’re a remote worker, entrepreneur, freelancer, or a combination of them like so many of us today, you can work whenever you want. What’s even worse is that work can easily blur into endlessly surfing down internet rabbit holes about some random thing that you wanted to check out ‘really quick’ when suddenly, you’ve downloaded seven ebooks and purchased three online courses about it.
It escalates quickly.
Although it’s given us incredible flexibility, this internet machine has also put us on a hamster wheel that never. stops. running.
I found this frantic lifestyle kick into overdrive when I became a parent. The hunter/gatherer mentality kicked in full-force and I worked, worked, worked to make a living doing something I love so as to help provide a solid foundation for my family without losing my soul in a dead-end j-o-b. I was hell-bent on productivity and gain.
It started as a sprint and then turned into a marathon. But my strides didn’t slow down, the distance just increased.
In our modern world, we’ve disregarded the natural cycles of work and rest, planting and harvesting. We’ve lost our rhythm as a culture and are running at a monotonously fast pace with no particular aim and no intention of slowing down or pausing.
For the last 5 years, I’ve averaged 5 hours of sleep per night. For one, yes, I’ve been busy. But also, my favorite time of the day has always been that hour between 5 and 6am just before the sun comes up when my wife and daughter are asleep and it’s just me, my coffee, and a book. Yes, I sacrificed sleep, but I was able to ease into things and get a huge jump on the day. At 6:30, I’d get to writing and working and wouldn’t stop until I absolutely had to.
Did I get a lot done? You betcha. I grew a daily blog, furthered a copywriting career, and dove into my ministerial studies. I was a machine.
But I always felt behind. Like I was treading water, but the waves were getting higher and higher.
I started to see a really tired guy looking back at me in the mirror. My eyelids were always heavy. My body was getting slouched and soft. My mind was cloudy. I made some brash creative decisions that I regret. And my fuse was getting shorter and shorter.
Finally, something had to give. So on June 1st, I committed to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Side note: Okay, let me just say here that it’s ridiculous I’m compelled to humble-brag about that. Getting 8 hours of sleep is something we’ve known for millennia (as we’ll get into further down in this post) but now there’s this trend of people bragging about how they’re adopting it as a productivity ‘hack’. No, it’s not a hack, it’s common sense. Anyhow, back to the post…
I started setting my alarm for 8 hours ahead when I went to bed and said goodbye to my 5:00 am hour-and-a-half long introvert sessions.
Just the sleep adjustment alone was enough to get my ego on edge. That’s 3 hours of productivity PER DAY that I was throwing out. It seemed like career suicide. How would I get anything done? I imagined my stress levels skyrocketing…
And then came summertime
As soon as my sleep schedule increased, my kid started her summer break. We chose to keep her home for the most part this summer as opposed to filling her time with camps and whatnot. We have a few weeks of vacation planned over the summer as well.
Wow. I was freaking out. Nothing was going to get done! All I’d be doing would be sleeping, vacationing, and playing with my kid. I may as well file for bankruptcy now!
But, no… Something different happened.
Something far different…
After a few days of my body adjusting to this new sleep schedule, my mind cleared up. It was like the thick fog of lethargy lifted and suddenly, I could see again.
As adults, the things we struggle with the most are the things that someone else told us to do when we were kids (feeding ourselves, playing nicely in the sandbox, and putting ourselves to bed).
My posting frequency had to go to once a week instead of 2–3 times a week, like my hunter/gatherer mind wanted, but that was okay. I was able to go deeper into a post. Spend a few days on it as opposed to 30 minutes.
I also had to get my schedule dialed in and stay disciplined to keep my time spent on a given project within the boxes on my Google Calendar (which I’m still working on, btw).
After a week or so, I noticed something… Wowza. I was getting way more done. My work was better — more intentional. Because my calendar was dialed in, I knew exactly when to stop tasks and move on to the next one. And when I was with my family, I was more fully there because it was the only thing on my calendar at the moment.
That’s when the epiphany hit me: it’s summertime — the season for being outside. For vacationing. For spending time with family and friends enjoying long dinners and drinks under the stars. It’s the time for making work fit where we can, but placing a higher priority on sunshine and play.
And sleep — well, that’s a non-negotiable. That should have been a given this whole time.
The struggle is real..
As amazing as video streaming, social media, productivity software, and mobile banking has been, emerging technology has bombarded our lives and thrown us completely out of whack with the natural rhythms of life.
Going to bed is an act of faith. Sleeping is a spiritual exercise. Not a test, mind you, but an exercise. A discipline.
As is written in Psalms 127…
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
( — mic drop — )
Now, please — if you have issues with Bible verses or if you think it’s a command from an angry God, PLEASE rest your shoulders, unclench your fists (and consider NOT deleting me from your digital life forever — yet). Humans wrote the Bible. It didn’t just fall from the sky.
What this means is that humans have been struggling with this — scrimping on sleep and burning themselves out while learning the bitter lessons from it for THOUSANDS of years.
This is nothing new…
Work is necessary, but sleep is divine.
Summertime is divine.
Embracing the seasons is divine.
And so, a closing word…
May you accept the grace to embrace the rest of your summer without feeling one iota of guilt for doing so. May you bump back those deadlines and set realistic expectations for this particular season. And may you see sleep as an essential part of your life, get the rest your body needs, and allow life herself to renew you and bring you divine gifts as you slumber.