Seriously, WTF Were You Thinking, Skipping That Nap?

Monday, 2:01pm
Reno, NV
Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoooooooon…” (The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon”)

Howdy.

File this little piece of consulting advice under the “WTF Were You Thinking?” Department: I frequently encounter entrepreneurs (usually the struggling kind) who confuse “working” with activity.

When they finish a project, for example, the sudden evidence of fresh free time startles them — somehow, inside their head, they feel they “should” be devoting every waking moment to the gig.

So they dive immediately into the next job.

This is so wrong.

You’re not a machine.

You need downtime, and lots of it — that’s where the creative process flourishes, and your overall energy levels recuperate.

The top performers in all niches jealously guard their free time, and greedily devour it with gusto.

Here’s what they know that you keep forgetting: The harder you work, the more down time you require regeneration and recovery from the stress.

However, (and here’s the real trick), the more PRODUCTIVE you yearn to become…

the more you have to respect, guard and cash-in your time AWAY from the work.

One hour of writing after a 20-minute walk and an hour-long nap will be HUGELY more productive than six (or ten, or 100) hours of sleep-deprived “forcing it” work.

Every writer I know has tried to force copy during an overnighter at least once…

and ended up tossing ALL of it in editing, and starting over.

Forcing it is an excellent way to miss a deadline and ruin your career.

You simply cannot cheat on the biological bill that comes due each day — nutrition, zzz’s, plumbing maintenance, exercise and brain stimulation.

Maybe in the future, you can have your head put in a glass dome and keep it fed with tubes so you can skip some of the physiological requirements of being human…

… but I’ll still put my hour’s worth of writing (after the walk and nap) up against whatever crap you produce in that state.

You’re a complex organism.

Stop pretending being a workaholic is some kind of heroic adventure.

It’s not.

It’s slow suicide and a waste of life-force.

The equation is very simple: Nurtured productivity > forced effort.

Got it? Good.

Now go take a nap, and order my book when you wake up and get back to pursuing your dreams…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. No, seriously, order my book. It’s just to the right of this column, a nice big icon to click that will take you instantly to the correct Amazon page.

Okay, you lazy ass. Here’s the link, so you don’t have to scroll to the right…

P.P.S. Yeah, that’s me in the photo. Mid-fifties, back when naps were NOT to be missed, no matter how urgent is was to play another song on the guitar as your horse ambled off into the sunset…

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  • Vidso says:

    You’ll read a lot of success stories of entrepreneurs claiming to be killing themselves working ridiculously long hours for months on end before ‘catching a break’. When they finally do ‘make it’, they’ll usually say something along the lines of,

    “It was all worth it.” (Referring to the sacrifice of social life and even sleep.)

    I’ve read your book…along with several interviews (and audio ones too), you mentioned starting out your career with a “Gun-to-the-Head” mentality. You described going through a crash course in writing copy (speed-reading followed by re-reading the good books). My question to you is,

    Does this down time/taking naps methodology apply here as well?

    I’m not financially successful. But I want to be.

    I’ve cut out a lot of distractions from my life (especially in the last 2 months). When I am involved in some down-time (gym, catching up with friends), I can’t help but feel like I’m wasting time. My focus shifts to ‘work’.

    It’s difficult to relax when you feel like you haven’t earned it.

    …especially when you’ve been relaxing for the past 30 years.

    BTW, was that glass head talk a Futurama reference?

    • John Carlton says:

      I first encountered this “power napping” thing when reading David Ogiilvy, the British advertising legend. He’d gotten it from a mentor himself — it’s a fairly old tactic for savvy movers and shakers. A tired brain doesn’t process, think, or be creative very well.

      So yes, it works with anything you’re doing.

      It’s a TOOL, not an escape from what you “should” be doing. You can be busy and still be essentially lazy, by using work as an excuse not to grow or discover the stuff you need to be more successful.

      Use every tool you have.

  • Larry Fleeman says:

    John,

    I’ve tried the forced effort thing and can confirm from personal experience that it is a total waste. I’ve long thought that Mexico is on to something with their daily siestas that we are missing up here.

    -Larry

  • Varun Sharma says:

    The human body has a natural preference for ‘segmented rest zones’ and sometimes that can be a difficult pill to swallow for us solopreneurs. For some unexpected reason, all that’s important approaches in quietness and laze. That should be enough evidential base for the argument.
    Thanks for the heaven-sent advice!

  • Mary Ann says:

    And to think of how many naps I’ve missed because I’ve always practiced “Nothing Comes to a Sleeper But a Dream.” I’m on my way back to bed now!

    I always appreciate your wisdom John — thank you.

  • Jimbo says:

    Amazing advice.

    What you’re describing is similar to what I call the
    “Busy = Happy” delusion. We’ve all seen these people.
    as long as your hustling and continually beating your
    brains out on some project or another…

    …you MUST be happy. This is a fantastic
    way to turn into a little old person who hasn’t
    the foggiest clue of who are you are or what
    makes you happy.

    But yes… you ARE busy.

    Great advice on reconnecting John.

    Jimbo
    order who

  • Pulling all-nighters worked for some types of college exams, but I agree that when you want to come up with good, original material your brain must be functioning optimally. But when my brain is tired, forget it. Which is why it’s not good to wait till the last minute.

    • John Carlton says:

      I, too, crammed for exams. But you can’t nap after an all-nighter, or you’ll lose the “state specific” memorization. If you memorized stuff while tired, you need to be tired to recall most of it. It’s a trap. Best to study right up to the time of the test, dive in while still in the same state of awareness, and do your best. But it’s a dumb way to try to learn anything. You’ll forget most of it pretty quickly…

  • PJ Pires says:

    Needed to hear it today.

    Even for traders.

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