The new career powertool: Naps.

Do you look older than your age? For you, or others around you, this simple point can be an important indicator of productivity, creativity, and performance.

Take a look around you during your next meeting or while sitting in the lunch area with other people in your organization. When you see someone who looks overly tired for their age (you know - lines in the face, bleary eyes, constant yawning, etc) ask yourself if she or he is tired because they are simply highly productive. In all likelihood the answer will be no.

A colleague of mine, Randy Otto, has long believed that insufficient sleep is one of the most important reasons for a drop off in productivity or creativity. Recent research backs up his observation - the term for it is LPT - for lost productive time.

An article in last January's Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicates that fatigued workers cost employers about $136.4 Billion a year. NASA decided to test the concept with its workers and found that a short nap during working hours can boost output by as much as 34%.

Imagine how you much you'd achieve if you were a third more productive. (What about that perpetual under-achiever at the end of the row of cubes near the elevator? Maybe he'd get up to an acceptable level finally.)

Psychologist and sleep researcher Sara C Mednick has written a book about this theory. She’s used her tests to reinforce the case. In, her book, "Take a Nap! Change Your Life!” she says that how and when you sleep can improve your health, memory and productivity. The results of her work are impressive and showed that a nap mid-day gives you much more energy that coffee and a real creative boost.

Further research by her co-author, Mike Erhman, found that naps "can restore proficiency in a variety of critical skills".

I believe many people in many organizations are sleep deprived. I hear comments from my clients all the time which are clear evidence of this.

Here's another quick test to see if you’re sleep deprived:

- Do you fall asleep within 5 mins of hitting the pillow every night?

- Can you fall asleep almost instantly when on a plane or while a passenger in a car?

- Do you nod off frequently in office meetings?

While many will brag about these abilities, saying they are able to do more than the "average Susan or John" because they need less than 8 hours each night; medical evidence says the opposite. These folks are sleep deprived. And according to Erhman, that means they are far from the top of their games. In addition to minor accidents, it has been linked to contributing to workplace disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a major chemical disaster in India and the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl.

I've personally sat in boardrooms and executive suites on many occasions and watched people in attendance nod off when the lights go down. Not surprisingly, these were not the greatest leaders with whom I've worked.

America is a nation of the walking tired, self-reports show that 51% of us know that sleepiness on the job is interfering with our productivity.

What to do? You have a choice - hunker down and push harder (yourself or your team) or try something different. Given that one definition of insanity is "doing the same thing repeatedly with a hope for a different outcome every time"; it may be worthwhile to try the napping thing. What do you have to lose?

And, if it works, your team's performance will be a lot better. And they'll appear to be younger at the same time. Not a bad situation for any concerned.


Leadership Coach

How does the next 12 months look for you?

Are you optimistic or concerned? If you’d like to share your thoughts about the future with readers of this blog, click here, and spend 2 minutes on our current research. The results will be posted in the coming weeks.