How to be Productive and Still Get 8 Hours Sleep

Stay Productive, Sleep Well

Yes, you read that right. Productive people sleep eight hours a day. They also watch tv, go to wine tastings and perform sun salutations in the morning.

Productive people don’t have more hours in the day. Nor do they live perfect lives. What they do well is use their time effectively.

Here’s what I learned from years of going to graduate school while holding a full time job as a journalist and still having a life:

I need my eight hours sleep  everyday to write my reports and still have time to travel and have coffee with friends.  I know that I will never accomplish all the things that I want to do in one day but with careful planning and prioritizing, I can achieve whatever my long term goals are.

My not-so-secret reason behind being productive? I spend my time and energy on things that matter to me and ignore the rest.

1. Set a value for your time

We put value on a lot of things – the house we live in, jewelry, our MBA from Harvard – but are cavalier on how we use our time. But what we don’t realize is that time is a scarce commodity – we only have 24 hours in a day. No matter how much money we have, we can’t buy more hours to include in a day. If we put a premium on time, we’ll be more careful in using it.

2. Determine your priorities

List down five of your life’s priorities – is it getting on top of the corporate ladder, earning a million dollars, watching reality tv? Stop worrying if your priorities seem odd – only you know what you want in life.  After you made your list, ask yourself if what you’re doing is aligned with your priorities.

3. Do a time audit

Just for one day, bring one notebook and a pen and put down how many minutes you used for each activity that you did for that day. Include the time spent in the shower, travelling and responding to e-mails. By the day’s end, you will know how you spend your day and cut down on the “un-essentials.”

Un-essentials refer to any activity takes so much of your time but is not among your life’s priorities. For example, one of your priorities is to finish a big project that will get you the promotion that you’ve been aiming for years.

If after doing a time audit you discovered that you spend about three hours a day on your Facebook account, ask yourself this question: Is this worth it? Would this help me finish my project and finally be promoted?  Think about it for a while. And if after some thinking you concluded that this is an “un-essential” then gradually cut down your Facebook hours and channel those “saved” hours to any of your life’s priorities.

4. Follow your rhythm

Do the most important task at a time which fits your body clock.  I’m not a morning lark and prefer to write most of my analytical reports in the afternoon. I can’t force myself to write in the morning – it just

won’t happen as my mind is sharper after lunch. I instead spend my mornings on routine stuff: responding to e-mails, drinking coffee and running errands.

5. Learn to say “no”

This is perhaps the hardest thing to do because you try to please everyone. So you end up committed to a lot of things because you were guilt-tripped into doing them.

But doing something out of guilt is not only a waste of time but will also strain your relationship with others because you feel resentful doing what you don’t want to do.

This is why I learned to say “no” to toxic friends, the type who call me many times so that they can whine about their abusive partners or their boring jobs but refused to do anything about it (much less listen to my well-meaning advice). This is one “drama” that I don’t need so I decided to stop talking to them.

I didn’t end up sad and alone and when I said “no” to these people.  I’m happier, more fulfilled and nurtured deeper relationship with friends and family who respect me and value my time.

6. Get help to stay productive

You don’t have to do everything. If you are neither competent nor thrilled to do a certain task, pay someone else to do it for you.

You don’t have time to clean your house or teach your son with their math lessons? Hire a housekeeper and a tutor. That’s what I did to have more time. I hired a part time research assistant to transcribe my interviews and do web research for me. Believe me, the extra time that you’ll gain is worth every cent that you pay for outsourcing.

How do you stay productive while sleeping tight at the same time? Share your tips below.

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Prime Sarmiento writes on business and career tools for Ahead Interactive (AI). AI offers online tutorial and test preparation programs for students in primary to tertiary levels. As a freelance business blogger, Prime helps globally-focused entrepreneurs communicate with their clients. Get in touch with her via her website.


  1. Batyr on the 27th June

    A real ‘Work Awesome’ type article. This is why I am here for. Been missing for this kind of stuff. While, this not completely ‘New’, it does what it aims for – that is being fresh while being productive. Prime Sarmiento, thank you very much and keep ’em coming…

  2. Steve Leighton on the 27th June

    I do like this article, such a good counterweight to the prevailing wisdom in my industry and relatively practical to boot. Many thanks.

  3. Al Pittampalli on the 27th June

    Great post. My best advice for staying productive is exercise. Not only does it give one more energy, and better focus, but most find they need to sleep less.

  4. Jørgen Sundgot on the 27th June

    Well-written and concise post – I’d particularly like to emphasize pt 3; I dare you to spend a week carefully tracking your time to see just how many “time sinks” you can find. I did, and the results were a little embarassing, to be honest.

    Of course, this also has the added bonus of making you acutely aware of where you’re spending your time, which is likely to result in positive side effects almost immediately.

    Remember, though – auditing is something that’s best done every once in a while, as it is impossible to live under that kind of scrutiny without suffering from increased stress levels.

  5. Drew on the 27th June

    I love to multitask in order to be productive. For example, I’ll eat and read newspaper while driving to work, do all my personal calls at my desk at work, sleep during dinner with my family, and surf facebook while in the bath.

    ….Just kidding. But you hit a great point with your take on prioritizing. I realized I had become an “all talk, no do” person now that I have a wife, a kid, a full time job, and a house to take care of. So I decided to cut back on “toxic friends”, lesser hobbies, and other things that I thought I needed in my life. I’m glad I did!

  6. Prime on the 27th June

    @ Al, oh i forgot about that. exercise is such a great way to feel energized. I miss doing my yoga but my gym sessions always help me when I’m stressed. I get destressed.

    @jorgen – i also find myself surfing mindlessly for about 1 or 2 hours, checking emails every 5 minutes, which is why in the end, when I’m in the middle of something important, I just unplug.

    @drew – i’m happy that my post helped you. cheers! 🙂

  7. nathan powell on the 28th June

    ooh, sleep, the bane of my life. I find myself thinking about work while I lie awake at night.

    I really need to start running again to ware myself out.

    Thanks for the post!

  8. Camille on the 29th June

    Worse than #5, friends who are habitually latecomers and make you wait for 30 minutes to an hour and half before you can finally order your first plate.

    Workawesome, more posts like this, please! I keep on loving you 😉

  9. Effervesent on the 1st July

    Thank you for such a great article. Your wisdom on this is so on point. I have found the hard way that trying to run non stop like a machine is recipe for disaster, not by one burnout but by several burnouts I had by working for near 24hrs because I was too stubborn to accept it. This ruins me for the next day. sigh. but better late than never and I am totally implementing these things better and more efficiently in my life every day. Thanks!

  10. Mark Woods on the 6th July

    Great article, I agree with what you say and in that order. Values are strong, priorities are key to productivity and it’s necessary to do a reality check! We all have the same amount of time in the day but different demands. If it’s a high enough priority its going to get done.

  11. Douglas Tobaiwa on the 3rd May

    Good post,

    I particularly like the part about getting help. If all else fails get professional help stop trying to do it on your own. A lot of people are out there looking for jobs especially students who will also love to learn or be mentored by you. Lastly I use small tricks like being driven or taking a train so that I can catch up on some work while travelling.

  12. Privy on the 13th May

    Right, because everyone can afford to simply ‘pay some else’ to do it. Wow, was an elitist, western perspective on time management.

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