For all my talk about finding a healthy work life balance based on doing stuff, I’m here to report that there is a very real limit to how much you can actually do. This limit is dictated by your need to sleep.
Unfortunately, in the last month I had to learn this lesson the hard way. With work becoming increasingly busy and having taken on one too many outside projects, I was averaging about five hours a night for a full four weeks. Throughout this time, the effects of sleep deprivation slowly began to destroy my life.
To be fair, I was able to get by okay in the first week. By week two, however, coffee stopped having any meaningful effect and my ability to focus diminished greatly. Things continued in slow decline, and, toward the end of the month I had become so sensitive to sensory stimuli that I was unable to work without turning off the lights in my office and donning a pair of earplugs. This, of course, worked wonders for my reputation around the office.
Fortunately, around the time things started getting really bad, my work eased up and I was able to catch up on my sleep. That said, this period of sleep deprivation isn’t one I will soon forget…
Not to be all on Catherine Rampell’s jock today, but the other thing I read in the Economix while I was catching up on the internet seemed far more interesting than imagining Shearman & Sterling partners bitch about how flat profits per partner left them with only $1.56 million, on average, to play around with in 2011.
On the one hand, it’s an obvious point: a study about the most “sleep-deprived” professions found lawyers to average only 7 hours of sleep a night. Only “home health aides” received less sleep.
It doesn’t come as a galloping shock to anybody that lawyers average less sleep than almost anybody else. What did surprise me was the figure. What the hell kind of lazy lawyer is getting seven entire hours of sleep every day?
My client wasn’t getting enough sleep. I assumed it was insomnia, but that didn’t fit the bill. It wasn’t that she couldn’t sleep; it was that she wouldn’t sleep. She was staying up from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., lying in bed — mostly, playing Angry Birds.
Those few hours were the only time she was left alone all day – no one from the firm called to assign her something awful to do or yell at her for something awful she’d done. To relinquish this sliver of “me time,” even for sleep, was out of the question….
I was kidding around with some of the guys at my gym, tossing around the question – would you fight Mike Tyson for $3 million?
One of them joked – I think he heard this on Howard Stern – that he’d fellate Mike Tyson for $3 million. He could spend the first $1 million on mouthwash and retire on the rest.
Then another guy spoke up, a sometime professional heavyweight boxer. (I’m not making this up, he really has boxed, for big money, not too long ago – and has plans to do so again.)
“It’s not worth it. Mike would destroy you. There would be no retirement.”
He went on to explain what he meant. He knew from experience – this guy had been in the ring. You’d have more than bruises – you’d have concussions, brain injuries, damaged bones and joints. You’d never be the same – and it wouldn’t be worth it. You’re better off not having $3 million but appreciating the finer things, like being able to walk and talk and think.
I saw his point.
Biglaw is also not worth it, even for big money. That’s because it, too, destroys you – just like Iron Mike…
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