As I write this post it’s way past my bedtime…I know- I’m a mum we have this right to instruct things we don’t necessarily follow, but know will yield good results. I had to write this today because the topic is both time sensitive and evergreen. On the time sensitive front…it’s the Festival of Sleep- it’s a thing. Now that is a party I will happily attend. I fall in the group of people who will skip breakfast if it means 5 more minutes of sleep (that is a whole different topic). Evergreen because lack of sleep can be an ongoing problem throughout the year, particularly this time of year when a lot of people have been off for their Christmas break.

Don’t judge me

There are people who have genuine reasons to have poor sleeping patterns such as having a newborn, working shift patterns and so on. In certain circles there is immense pressure to become an early riser or hustle till you drop to prove you are working hard. For others a work break requires time to be filled with social media, reality TV or messaging fests. I’ve already forgiven myself so no need to judge me. I personally think it’s ok to switch off, how you want. Not doing meditation, yoga or reading a book during my downtime does not make me a horrible person despite your views on trash tv or social media. It means I’m normal- sometimes. However the longer the late nights get, the harder it is to switch back to your normal and perhaps better sleep routine.

Back to work (I’m not digressing..stay with me)

So the holiday ends, as all good things do and you return to work and you’re tired because of the lack of sleep. You need a medal just for making it to work on time and making an effort to get dressed (not- people can see your shirt is not ironed). Your family is more than forgiving of your moodiness, your impatience, absent mindedness, because they know by the time it gets to 3pm you will start to get better and better until you return to your normal self. To be fair you can just about pull off a day’s work if it doesn’t include talking to people, except the only problem is, your job involves talking to people. Your emotional intelligence halo starts slipping at this point.

Side effects

Your work colleagues don’t have the full picture because there are only so many times you can explain your constant yawning and tiredness without becoming an embarrassment to yourself. So let’s take a look at how you come across and are perceived by your colleagues, boss, seniors, stakeholders, suppliers or customers versus what is actually going on.

Rude- the constant yawning in meetings

Abrupt- you’ve just had enough

Work shy- procrastination and regularly missing from your desk because you need to stay awake

Substandard work- your brain is tired

Sloppy- absent mindedness and mistakes

Unprofessional- late for meetings

Missed deadlines and unreturned calls- you just forgot

Judgement Day

Does any of this sound familiar? Remember I said not to judge…(by the same measure shall you be judged). To be fair you are hard working when you show up on time, smartly dressed, with all your notes for the meeting that has been planned for weeks and people have especially flown in for. You do add value when you’re not so tired that you keep forgetting words and people have to complete your sentences for you. It’s a bit harsh when your next appraisal comes and your boss by some weird chance happens to have spoken to all the people you interacted with on your tired days and they have a resounding negative opinion of you. Sure your performance should not be judged by a snapshot in time, but actually, it is and first impressions are important. You need to bring your best self and your ‘A’ game all the time because you only get one chance to make a good first impression and after that, it’s damage limitation.

The turning point

You wouldn’t come to work on drink and drugs if you really care about your career and your future within the company you work for. Yet some of the consequences and even symptoms of lack of sleep resemble those of someone on drink and drugs. So maybe, it’s not such a bad idea to limit certain foods from your diet- sugar and processed food?? and adopt a better diet. Nor would it be so wrong to find an exercise routine that suits you, or cut out certain drinks before bed and reduce screen time so you get a good night’s sleep.

Welcome to the Festival of Sleep- bring your best pillow.

I write more tips, strategies and techniques for career progression on my blog at www.gradstrategy.com.

Originally published at medium.com