Sleep: the (frustrating) key to getting more things done.

This might be the biggest catch 22 ever. I was speaking with a neuroplasticity researcher, Cat Castellanos, who said the best way to being productive is to make sure you’re a also being unproductive.


I have a tough time with this. Every waking hour I’m trying to figure out how I can get the most out of…every waking hour. In Cat’s words:

“You’re not going to be productive in spite of your downtime, you’re going to be productive because of it”.

The more I thought about it, the more it was echoed by other interviews I had done – with reputable people – doctorsbusiness people, even a professional triathlete.

In my podcast interview with her, Cat explained to me:

“Entrepreneurs feel so guilty about downtime that they feel like ‘well if I have my computer in front of me, and if I’m sending some emails, then at least I’m getting some stuff done, and I don’t have to feel guilty – because I’m still working’. But, you have to have that division, because it will make you more productive when you’re working.”

Here is a 3 step plan to help you to get more done:

Step 1: Plan to do hard work, for 20 min to 3 hours – no distractions. Turn off your wi-fi. Turn off your phone. Have someone you need to be available to? Tell them you’re going to be unavailable. Impossible, you say? False: If you’ve ever taken a ride in a plane, you’re unavailable for that entire time. It is not impossible to be unavailable if you want it enough.

Step 2: Do the work.

Step 3: Take a break. Sleep. Watch comedy, play chess, pet a dog. Do whatever will totally remove your thoughts from that work.

Step 4: Follow your own rules – I was half-way through this list when I got distracted and found myself on LinkedIn. I chose to write for 20 minutes straight – so 11 minutes left.


Put it in the calendar

I recommend building this “focus time” into your calendar If you don’t, you’ll forget it. Invite people to the event, too – this will set their expectations so that they know you’re busy.

If you have an iPhone or Amazon Echo, you can say out loud, right now “Hey Siri/Alexa, remind me at 2pm to work for 20 minutes”.

And she will!

Ways to disconnect

1) Meditation

I’m quoting Jenny Blake, author of Pivot & Life After College here – “I can’t afford not to meditate”

Meditation is a form of disconnecting, and it takes different forms for different people. Want to start meditating? No need to go on youtube and research the best posture or a mantra or anything – just sit still for 1 minute, and focus on your breath. Say “hey Siri, put 1 minute on the timer”.

2) Working out:

Do a few pushups or burpees, or run for 5 minutes. . I’ve done these in levels of increasing investment: pushups require nothing but laying on the floor on your stomach – you can even be naked. Running requires shoes and some clothes.

3) Be grateful:

Take 5 minutes a day to think of 3 experiences that day that went well. (If you do this every day, you will be ASTOUNDED at how much you get done, and how much opportunity opens its door to you).

4) Watch fail videos on youtube:

Ironically, as much as I like to see people succeed, this is a guilty pleasure of mine – similar to America’s Funniest Home Videos without the host. Great way to disconnect through humour.

Then, at the end of the day – sleep, knowing you got something you planned to finish, was finished.

Listen to the full interview below:


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