Just go to sleep

The understated productivity hack that I use as a Software Engineer

Sleep makes all the difference but its value is often undervalued. I’m not talking about getting those few extra minutes before your alarm goes off for the third time. Sleep for software engineers is often forgone for productivity. In my experience, a lack of sleep doesn’t help anyone. Staying up late to code doesn’t mean you’ve got more to show for it.

The lies we tell ourselves

I’ve struggled with this in recent years but whenever I stray, I’m promptly reminded why sleep is vital. We don’t do it to intentionally harm ourselves but we don’t give it the importance it deserves. Next time you want to stay up a few more hours, ask yourself is it really worth it or can it be done tomorrow?

When you’re struggling through a complex problem and you want to do that bit extra into the night, you’re sacrificing relaxation and sleep. That lack of sleep is a debt that needs to be paid. When there is a production outage that only you can fix by staying up until 2:00 am, you’re sacrificing the next day. Not only will you need to wake up later to get some more shuteye but you’ll also be really unproductive. Even worse, you’ve been up all night coding, it’s probable your code is riddled with bugs. You’ll spend a few more hours trying to figure out what the hell you were thinking. Instead of being more productive and getting more done, you’ve just made more work for yourself. All because you gave up a few hours of sleep, was it worth it? No, it never is.

Challenging your assumptions

The human brain needs rest. It needs time to structure your thoughts from the day. It needs time to recover from an intense day of coding. This time can be negotiated but, it comes at a cost. Here are some of the techniques I use to help me a more productive engineer and a better person to be around.

  1. Try and form habits around sleep.
    A consistent schedule can help prepare the body for rest and get to sleep sooner.

  2. Avoid working into the night!
    Set strict rules around when you work and when you don’t. If you don’t set boundaries, work will fill that space.

  3. Ask yourself what you’re sacrificing.
    When you forgo sleep to “get something done”, it may not be worth it if you lose the next day in productivity and end up with low-quality code that needs to be thrown out.

Take care of yourself and prioritise sleep, the difference a good night’s sleep can make is incredible. It’s the best productivity hack there is, you don’t need to get up at 5:00 AM or follow everything your favourite entrepreneur does - just get some sleep.