One thing I learned about myself during grad school: I’m a world class sleeper.
My department had a student lounge, so even if I was just a few meters away from undergraduate foot traffic and two corridors away from faculty offices, I could stretch out on a couch with my coat over my head and take a 30 minute nap at the end of the business day.
With a nap resetting my body and brain, I was usually able to muster up the energy necessary to complete an evening round of reading or writing, and then go home for bed and come back to do it again in the morning.
These naps saved me while I was both working and taking classes, and had 12-hour campus days.
My schedule wasn’t as rare or unusual as I imagined it should be: this is a nation of exhausted people. Exhausted people are all-but-drunk people, and all-but-drunk people make a lot of unnecessary mistakes.
I made such a mistake recently: home from work and distractable, I reversed in my front yard, and hit something. No harm’s been done to anything except my savings account and my ego, yet I struggled to judge myself kindly.
If I’d been less weary, and if I’d handed over driving duty to someone else in recognition of the fact that I was weary, I wouldn’t have caused the damage I did.
I’m not alone in this.
Public health and occupational hazard specialists name fatigue as responsible for 15% of workplace accidents, 25% of auto accidents, and up to 30% of airline accidents.
The impairment associated with wake beyond 15 hours was shown to be equivalent to a 0.04 blood alcohol level. What’s more, the longer the wake period, the greater the detriment in physical and mental faculties.” —Fusion Health
Over the last few years, British junior doctors, doctors with between five and fourteen years’ professional experience, have failed to come to an agreement with the government about their working conditions. The government plans to increase junior doctors’ normal working hours by two hours during the week and ten hours on Saturdays (doctors can already work during the weekends at a higher pay rate).
For these doctors, many already understaffed and under-resourced, this proposal looks like a contract to work themselves into the ground. Some have already worked 100 hours per week without protective EU regulations, even though research shows that working more than 30-40 hours each week depending on the kind of work we do undermines our effectiveness.
Regular breaks, work schedules, holiday, supportive trainers, and not being too tired, too stressed—or in denial about those things until it is far too late—are important.” —Rachel Davies-Wood
What can you reduce or remove from your workload?
What resting and recovery activities can you add or expand?
Many things can be optional about the way we choose to fill 168 hours per week, but rest time can’t be.