Alice’s Book – Chapter Snippet

Read the latest snippet of Alice's personal development book on why time management is really about energy managent...

Hi,

thank you for stopping by and for your interest in my personal development book sharing with the world why time management is really about energy management! 

 

As a Life and Success Coach, my business and mission is focused solely on empowering  you to create a life by design. I specialise in time management and mindset… but not as you know it. 

Whilst I advocate the usual time management practices (well, most of them – there are a few famous ones that I don’t actually advocate but I will reveal that later), I teach that time management is really about energy management. 

And this is what the book I am currently writing is all about! 

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I became passionate about time management about a decade ago when I started to recover from a long bout of mental health issues, including depression and an eating disorder. Overcoming this I realised how precious life, and time, is and I made a promise to myself to never waste my time in the future. 

Alice Dartnell London Life Coach with a stack of personal development books

I became obsessed with time management and neuroscience, as well as personal development, but I confess, I took this too far and in my desire to maximise time I ended up suffering a burn out. 

Now, as a business owner who specialises in time management, I am showing people how to use their energy management to master their time management. 

Alice 

Read the Latest Chapter:

“If you want to be productive, then rest ”

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”

 

I’d like to think I am fairly intelligent and educated so what I am about to say always makes me feel a bit silly. I am well read on a range of personal development topics, and I am a big advocate of living a healthy life, so this might sound pretty ridiculous, but I never knew how important sleep was. It was just something you did at the end of the day when you were tired right?


I need to share my prior lack of understanding with you because it explains one of the main reasons that I burnt out unexpectedly in 2019 at just 32.


Starting my recovery from my depression and eating disorder in 2010, I did my best to get clued up about health. I got on board with the #strongnotskinny bandwagon and started exercising to be strong (not a size 6) and got an annual subscription to Women’s Health magazine. I started to learn about antioxidants and how to reduce inflammation, and a little light bulb went off in my head when I realised how important your gut health was (after all, they call it your second brain). Like anyone in my 20’s I did my fair share of socialising and partying (which meant a lot of drinking), but I balanced this with making sure I only drank on social occasions, I juiced, I made raw dessert like cheesecakes made from cashew nuts and dates and swerved coffee for green tea.


On the outside, I looked pretty healthy, but I had no idea how little I was sleeping and what this was doing to my insides. Combined with my lack of knowledge about how important sleep is, I genuinely had no idea I was heading for burn out or the severe damage I was doing to myself! I’ve always been someone that has always managed to have lots of energy and function on little sleep. In hindsight I can see that actaully I wasn’t performing at my best, so when I say I could function on little sleep, what I guess I really mean is that I got away with it because I masked it well.


Because of my lack of knowledge on why we sleep or the importance of it, I didn’t ever think about the damage I was causing my body on the little sleep I was getting. I just didn’t know. I didn’t put two and two together. When I try to roughly work it out, I think I was averaging 5 – 6 hours of sleep a night. Scientifically (depending on what study you refer too), anything under 6 hours a night is classed as sleep deprivation**. Considering I did this for 15 years, I am actaully surprised I didn’t burn out sooner (especially when I think of all those times in my younger days when I would party all night, come home in the morning, sleep for an hour and set off about my day again – I don’t recommend that as part of energy management by the way).


Following my recovery from my depression and eating disorder, and the vow I made to myself to “never waste another minute of the day ever again” because I felt I had already wasted that decade with my mental health issues, I became obsessed with time management, productivity and efficiency. Again, combined with my ridiculous lack of sleep knowledge, in my mind, the less time wasted in bed the better. After all, I clearly didn’t need it did I, because I was functioning just ‘fine’ without it. I also am one of those irritating people that don’t get hangovers, so after a night out with the girls or perhaps a party weekend away, even after a few hours sleep I was ok and ready to get back on it – and this was always met with comments like “I don’t know how you do it” or the common compliment I got that I was ‘a machine’.

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach London Alice bed snooze button clock insomnia miracle morning
sleep matters

I reckon there is a lot of people who think scrimping on sleep is the solution to gaining more time in their day. OK, they might not quite be as bad as my “I’ll sleep when I am dead” attitude, but I notice it around me all the time. When we’re super busy, we tend to go to bed late and wake up early in order to catch a few more minutes (or hours!) in order to get everything done. I haven’t done any hard research on this, but I’ve observed this over the years talking to friends, when I worked in an office, and with my coaching clients (who get pulled up quickly by me on this of course of course!)

We also have a tendency to sacrifice the things that are good for our health, not just sleep, like exercise or making healthy meals, when we’re feeling under the cosh with our time but that only comes to bite us on the backside later (we’ll save that for another chapter).

I’m not one for avoiding responsibility but I don’t think it was just my lack of knowledge that contributed to my chronic sleep deprivation. I think we live in a culture of “Sleep Machismo” (as Psychology Today puts it, it refers to “those who sleep less and so are deemed stronger and more masculine than those who obtain an adequate”).* I saw evidence in this with the harmless compliments telling me I was a machine for being able to go about on such little sleep.

In the world where busy is a badge of honour (and not even in the ‘good’ form of busy but often the stressed-out variety) and prioritising a good wind down routine or going to bed at a decent time makes you “lame” or an “old lady” (as one friend who goes to bed at 9.30pm called herself), it is easy to overlook the importance of sleep.

I think the “busy as a badge of honour” is also now creeping to “lack of sleep being a badge of honour” – it’s a competition as to who is getting the least sleep. In an article called ‘The Dangers of “Sleep Machismo” Culture’*** (in “Psychology Today”) the dangers of ‘Sleep Machismo’ are explained perfectly – “We live in a competitive, masculine society in which sleep is often deemed for the weak… As if our society is not competitive enough, must we now compete against each other in regard to lack of sleep?… The culture of “sleep machismo” normalizes and even glorifies sleep deprivation as a sign of mental strength, ambition, and dedication. Many people are so chronically sleep-deprived that they do not recognize the signs of deprivation and even come to mistake these as being normal.”

 
This is something I can wholeheartedly relate too. I never knew in the lead up to my burnout that I was sleep deprived and this was ‘encouraged’ by the accolades I received around it.

I’ve also definitely noticed a “I’m more sleep deprived that you” game going on in society (and I am sure I have been guilty of this a number of times myself). In July 2021, I had a particular hectic two weeks putting the house on the market unexpectedly and was rushing around getting everything sorted. When I say rushing around, I really mean it too – I clocked over 20,000 steps in one day on one occasion! Combine that with the stress of liaising with my soon to be ex-husband, insomnia started to creep in – and it was awful. I got to the stage of sleep deprivation where I was being sick, had a permanent dizziness and nausea, and on a couple occasions my eyesight blurred so much, I struggled to see and work on my laptop. This is not me ‘bragging’ by they way. This is me warning others the importance of sleep because the physical symptoms (and of course mental symptoms) are severe! As I will explain in a moment, there is a reason why we sleep – our bodies need it. I am on a crusade now to tell people how important sleep is to all those people that like me aren’t aware, so I share these stories as a tale of caution.

However, when I tried to be honest with people about what was happening (especially when I got the “how are things?” questions from well meaning people who were asking about my impending divorce), and tell them about the insomnia and my concerns, a lot of the times I was met with “yea, I’m tired too”. I was then told about how they had had a bad night sleep because of the heat, or just because every now and again we do, or it was self-inflicted because they’d been socialising so much since the lockdown restrictions had eased up in the UK.


Take my mum bless her, who like many retired folk, loves a bit of gardening, and that was the reason for her ‘tiredness’. I was telling her about my recent insomnia, not to brag, again, it is not a competition, but I was sharing my concerns about my health and worrying what I should do. Her telling me her gardening at the weekend had made her feel tired just felt like it was the “I’m more tired than your tired” Sleep Machismo creeping in again and it just felt like it wasn’t on the same scale.

Personally, I don’t think the “tiredness as a badge of honour” is helped either by ‘motivational speaker’ coaching world. If you are like me and into your personal development (which I will assume so as you wouldn’t have picked up this book), perhaps you love your motivational videos or a good inspirational podcast? I love these too, but I do notice the over emphasis of the need to “hustle for success” which means scrimping on sleep, going to bed at 2am and waking up before the crack of dawn to get a head start on the world. The message is loud and clear on these kinds of ‘motivational’ talks – sleep is for the weak or unsuccessful. Personally for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth and I will share the connection between sleep, energy management and success a little further into the chapter.

Part of my battle with learning to respect sleep also wasn’t helped by my partner at the time. Another reason I am passionate about including this in my teachings about energy management is because the more we normalise good sleep routines, the more we’ll feel the collective benefit. Perhaps like me, you WANT to improve your energy management through sleep, but your living situation means it is easier said than done.

When I was recovering from my burnout in 2019, my lovely friend Angela recommended I read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (if you haven’t read it, please do). To be fair to her, she had told me to read it for ages but in July 2021 I finally got to it (and then instantly wished I had read this five years before!) After that, I started to prioritise my sleep. The trouble is, whilst it was a priority for me, my partner didn’t find it a priority and even said “I find it an inconvenience” when I told him about my new sleep hygiene rules and sleep prioritisation. 

My new “sleep routine” was I wanted to be in bed from 10pm to 6am in order I could get my 7 hours sleep a night (which was a huge step up from the usual 5 hours a sleep I was getting in the week). Personally, I thought that was a fairly normal request, some might say a basic human right (after all sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture!) but with their CrossFit schedule twice a day meaning home at 9pm and up at 5am, we really struggled to accommodate these clashing sleep routines. (In case you were wondering, this wasn’t the basis of our split)
Even two well-meaning people can actually be a bad influence on one another and a good sleep routine! I had someone on my “Own your Day” time management course who desperately wanted to get into a better sleep cycle but found between them and their partner, they were often going to bed past midnight, even when they had a busy and full day of work the next day and an early start. The lure of “oh just one more Netflix episode” was a bad influence on both of them, despite them both having the goal of going to bed earlier!

Let’s get something straight. Being tired all the time is not right, it is not normal. Drinking copious amounts of caffeine or energy drinks to perk you up throughout the day isn’t good for you long term, and “manning up” and simply try to power through shouldn’t even be a consideration. Maybe it is ok for a day or two, after all, life throws us curve balls and we have to flex around it, but it isn’t a long-term strategy! Let’s celebrate the person who priorities their sleep and praise the person who replies, “I feel fabulous” instead of “OMG I am crazy busy and tired” when you ask them how they are.

 

 

You Have To Understand It To Prioritise It – What Is Sleep Even For?

If you’re more savvy when it comes to why we sleep and thus the importance of it, feel free to skip this section of the chapter and shoot to the bit about the connections between energy management, or feel free to head straight to the next chapter. But if like me, you weren’t taught it at school, always had a difficult relationship with sleep or are simply curious to know more, then stick with me for this whilst I delve into the realms of what sleep is even for.

I think this is important because part of my reason for not ever prioritising it (pre burn out) was because I didn’t realise it was so important. Had I known all the wonderful things that happen when we sleep then perhaps I would have made it more of a consideration. Whilst this is not a book on sleep so I’ll not go too deep into it all, I want to share a few things I wish I had know about sleep.

Have you ever noticed how you think and feel the day after a bad night’s sleep? It might have been self-inflicted (late night TV viewing, working too late, one too many drinks with friends) or perhaps you had the misfortune of something external impacting on your sleep. But I guess you noticed a difference in the way you acted and went about your day. You don’t need a science experiment or study to tell you that a lack of sleep directly affects you.

On a surface level, you’ll notice your daytime sleepiness, perhaps a struggle with focusing or reaching for the sugary and fatty snacks (hello donuts and cookies!), or maybe have a shorter fuse.

There is a direct correlation to how we think and our sleep. A lack of sleep,

  • Reduces your attention span
  • Hampers memory
  • Affects decision-making ability
  • Slows thinking

And this is one of the main reasons that sleep is a crucial part of energy management to support your time management.

Being sleep deprived is only going to slow your thinking, decision making, your producvity and your pace – you don’t need me to tell you that this is NOT a good use of your time.

But a lack of sleep goes beyond even that. Insufficient sleep can directly affect your mood, including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability, which isn’t going to contribute to your optimum energy.

You probably notice that yourself, and the stats certainly show the link between the lack of shut eye and our mental health matters. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is estimated that over 300 million people worldwide have depression, and around 75% of depressed people show symptoms of insomnia.****

A lack of sleep could also inadvertently cause a vicious cycle where your feelings of stress impact your functioning and productivity, slowing down your thinking and output, which in turn makes you feel overwhelmed, and thus causes more stress.

Making Sleep And Rest A Part Of Your Energy Management

My “sleep when I am dead” attitude didn’t really make me feel that prioritising my rest and downtime was essential. I was always on the go and running from one thing to the other – I was great at maximising my time through mega efficient planning but having a diary that was back-to-back, left no room for me. More importantly, it left no room for rest or sleep. My regular massages and facials probably looked like I was great at self-care but looking after yourself is more than a little pamper every now and again. It’s about knowing when to slow down, put the breaks on and go into “rest and recharge” mode.

Energy management is about sustainability (this is one of the core principles we talked about at the start of the book) and this happens by knowing when to go fast and when to go slow. There are going to be times in your day, week, month or year where it needs to be high octane, full throttle and all systems go. But this isn’t sustainable, so you also need to learn to balance it against those times where you need to slow the speed and use the time to rest, and this includes of course, prioritising sleep. I always find it odd that in the sporting world we wouldn’t expect athletes to train hard every waking hour – we’d expect them to balance their tough training with periods of rest and recovery, stretching, and other things that are going to serve their body such as nutrition. And this also means sleep.

Usain Bolt, widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time as a world record holder in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 × 100 metres relay, advocates his sleep of 8 – 10 hours a night. Tennis star Rafael Nadal, (who owns 14 Grand Slam titles, and by winning the 2014 French Open became the only male player to win a single Grand Slam tournament nine times and the first to win at least one Grand Slam tournament for ten consecutive years) reportedly sleeps eight to nine hours per night. My point is sleep is very much part of the training programme for athletes because of its restorative effects. I am not saying you need to start taking ice cold baths and eat a diet personalised to you by a nutritionist but perhaps I can convince you that by prioritising your sleep, you’ll boost your performance in whatever you do.

Not only is sleep going to improve your energy (that’s a given) but by improving your output and performance in the day, things will take less effort and you will use less energy. it’s a win-win.

The bottom line is… rest IS productive!

As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says in his book, “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less”, rest is an essential component of working well and working smart.

When our brain is resting, it is actually still active – so whilst it is not directly focused on a task, it is actaully still active. This is often why our solutions come to us after a good night’s sleep (ever been told to “sleep on it”?) and why our best ideas pop to us in the shower (or maybe even on the toilet!)

Going back to the analogy of an athlete, the brain operates like a muscle, and like you can overdo it at the gym and fatigue your muscles therefore requiring a well-earned rest day, it’s essential your brain has some down time too.

 
In fact, down time is essential for boosting motivation and focus, learning and making memories (the brain consolidates memories and learning whilst you sleep), processing new information and problem solving.
You’ll know from yourself that you feel more focused, creative and ‘on it’ when you’ve had good rest and sleep.

 
Of course, sleep is critical (not an “inconvenience”) but don’t forget to rest too – you could be getting your 7 hours of shut eye a night as prescribed but you still might be over doing it and going a million miles in during your waking hours which isn’t going to support your energy management. The constant adrenaline and stress on the mind and body is part of the issue, not just the amount of time you spend in your pyjamas. Taking breaks throughout the day and balancing the tasks that take a lot of energy Vs the tasks that are easy to fly though is also important. It’s that balance of a bit of adrenaline Vs being a bit softer.

 
Post burnout, the key to managing a busy life, business, big dreams I am pursuing, and multiple projects has been factoring in rest times. This is something I never used to do but my downtime is now planned in just as much as the deadlines, work, client calls, etc. And yes, I do plan these in like I do meetings and appointments.

 
This is one of my biggest tips but as a huge believer in making things practical, let me share a few more that work for me and my clients.

To be continued

Questions for the reader 

Thank you for reading – as this book is work in progress, I would love to get your feedback on a few key things..

• What kind of practical tips would be useful for you to know about rest and sleep when it comes to your energy management?
• When we sleep something magical happens in the brain and the body – would you like to know about the science of this?

I am always looking for feedback to please email alice@alicedartnell.com

References

* https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/202012/the-dangers-sleep-machismo-culture

**Even in the medical field, studies may use different technical definitions of sleep deprivation as some classify it as seven hours of sleep or fewer while others use six hours as the cut-off. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation

*** https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/202012/the-dangers-sleep-machismo-culture

****https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health
*****https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/these-famous-athletes-rely-on-sleep_n_5659345?ri18n=true

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