Tired but wired? Break the cycle

by | Jan 22, 2020 | Leadership

It’s late. You’re exhausted. You’ve had a long day, you had a broken night and it’s only Monday.

If you’ve got children, then it’s likely been a whirlwind between getting home and their bedtime and maybe you found yourself multi-tasking, checking your phone for emails because your head is full of the issues that came up at work today. You think if you just deal with one, then that will put your mind at rest, but of course you get sucked in and before you know it, it’s 11pm.

If you haven’t got children, maybe you worked late because you thought if I can just get this done, tomorrow will be easier, though you’re scattered and unproductive because you’re so tired so it all just takes so much longer than it should do and you get home late, wound up and knackered.

It’s a vicious cycle.

The tireder we are and the further into the day, the harder it is to focus our attention, which means it’s easier to give into impulses – like checking emails – or just busy ourselves in the hopeless task of trying to get on top of everything. This in turn activates feelings of stress which fuels our busyness. Long story short, we end up not giving our brain any downtime which adversely impacts our sleep – and the cycle continues.

How to break the cycle

Work backwards. If you know how many hours’ sleep you need and when you need to get up – or will be woken up by a small child – then you know when you need to go to bed. Set an alarm on your phone or kitchen timer for one hour before and make that the signal to stop what you’re doing and get into a wind-down routine (see next point). This sounds simple and don’t underestimate how hard this is in practice.

Have a wind-down/sleep routine. Maybe it’s some quiet time on the sofa. I go to bed about 45 minutes before I go to sleep and do 10 minutes of a breathing app followed by half an hour of a novel (or as much as I can read before I start to fall asleep).

Take a close look at your email and phone habits. Lucy, a Director I worked with, was checking her phone when she was with her children, and then firing up her laptop when they went to bed working until midnight. Two commitments she made were to hide her phone when she got home, and not to bring her laptop home.

Stop and regroup. When you find yourself busying yourself during the day whether that’s scrolling through emails or rushing around doing “stuff”, then pause what you’re doing and regroup. Probably the best question you can ask yourself is : “What is the best use of my time right now?”.

And the answer may well be : give your body and brain a break.


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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps senior managers and directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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