"The startup culture has projected sleep as an evil for your business while the real evil lies in being unfocused 20 hours a day."
Every once in while we come across an article about the crazy work hours of successful people and to be honest, all of us want to work that hard (at least I want to). Writing this blog brought me back to my memories of class 9th when I was too much into these type of articles. All I dreamt of at that point of time was to have freedom to have a crazy work ethic like Elon Musk. Back then I was working on my then e-learning website ( which is now non-operational). When I started my current company Collobe (which is by the way, an upcoming data analytics product for employee productivity) after my class 10th boards, I finally got the freedom to have that crazy work ethic. Somehow things worked out and we got ourselves into a TV show(video is below) and finally landed ourselves an incubation at ‘Nasscom 10k Startups, Bangalore’.
At the incubation center, we got what we wanted, the liberty to work as much as we can. So since January this year, we’ve done numerous experiments with our productivity. We’ve tried a bunch of different techniques and to be honest it’s been an amazing experience to do these specially when we personally are in the productivity tool space. Below are the three main things we’ve done.
Now, obviously this was the first choice. We used to sleep at about 12 in the midnight and would wake up by 5 AM in the morning. One of the things we do to save time is sleep at the office to avoid travel time. In this case, it was no different. Now, I would prefer this schedule because when we followed this, the productivity levels were really up, more code was being shipped everyday and we didn’t feel sleepy at any time of the day. A lot of it depends on what kind of people you surround yourself with. We are fortunate enough to have some great people around us who are really into work. A major factor in productivity is the relative productivity of people around you, the level of your productivity is directly proportional to the relative productivity of people around you. Usually, breaks are considered negative and the one who works continuously is treated like ‘Arnold from Terminator’ but the reality is that working continuously is a myth in general. Looking at the screen without pretty much doing anything is definitely not something which you could consider as work. People should seriously consider taking breaks at least every hour so that when they come back they could wholly focus on work. We observed that when we didn’t take any break for about a period of six hours, hardly work of three hours was done. Working at daytime is pretty much something that we’ve been trained for since our school days ( Engineering students would disagree!) so this is the easiest working pattern to adapt to and fetches good results.
In our childhood days, all of us had a curiosity that what would it feel like to work at night while the other people are sleeping. We’re naturally trained from the beginning that night time is reserved for our sleep, but we thought to give working at night a try. We worked on this pattern for about three weeks and this broke many of the myths that we had in our mind. Working at night could be extremely productive as there’s no disturbance or noise surrounding you but it comes with its own set of challenges. The less number of distractions, more the productivity. But, this time there’s no one surrounding you and as you have nobody to match up to, your body naturally slows down and goes into semi-relax mode. One of the biggest problem with this approach is the sleep time. We faced serious difficulties in sleeping during day time as in our case we felt that our mind by itself wasn’t ready to consider daytime, a time to have sleep. Due to this, our sleep hours declined to 2-3 hours a day. Our eyes used to turn red and all of this resulted in lower productivity even during time. These three weeks, we shipped the lowest amount of code and other activities also got slowed down. It was about time that we had to leave this routine but that’s equally challenging to have your routines switched within matter of 1-2 days. In my honest opinion, I would only suggest this to people who are really unproductive when surrounded by people and could pull off uninterrupted sleep during daytime.
Now, most of you won’t believe this but we seriously did work for 20 hours a day. We used to sleep only three hours a day and this is the last thing I would advice to anyone. The startup culture has projected sleep as an evil for your business while the real evil lies in being unfocused 20 hours a day. I’m a coder and my job requires a lot of problem solving each day and focus is a prerequisite for this. During this work ethic, I found that even though I was working for twenty hours, I was barely focused for about six. Forget shipping code, I was barely in my senses when I worked like this for about a month. I had back pain and my eyes turned red. My memory also got affected, it became difficult for me to remember anything and my face also became dull. It was easily observable by people around that I wasn’t well and then came the day I finally gave up on this. I now work for about 16 hours, sleep for 5-6 hours at night and I am loving it. I am able to work at least ten hours of those sixteen being super focused on my work. I would seriously advice that there’s no glory in being awake too much for working when the only that doesn’t happen is serious work. Sleep is not your enemy, it’s a catalyst for productivity, utilize it, rather than considering it blasphemous when doing a startup.
These experiments have helped me shape my views on productivity, and seriously pull the curtains from the myths about productivity that we all read in the media. In the end, productivity is something that varies from person to person, but I guess, we all have one thing in common – that is we are humans and there are some limits to which we can push ourselves. You could agree or disagree to me, but I’d seriously urge you to comment what do you feel on your productivity as we are building something in this space. I’m no Gandhi, but these were “My Experiments with Productivity”.
NOTE: This blog was originally published on our blog 'False Opinions'. Read it here with audio version provided at the end of the blog