Which of the 3 Sleep Patterns Is Your Natural One?

People talk about managing time, but we can’t get more time. The real question is, Are you making best use of the time you have? One of the keys to that is having enough energy to engage fully. And one of the most significant—and overlooked—ways to increase your energy is improve your sleep. Tweet This

sleeping traveling family

I’ve spent years reading studies on sleep and experimenting with my own sleep. (It started when our daughter was born and wouldn’t sleep—or let us sleep when she was awake. It’s amazing how interesting something becomes when you can’t have it.) There’s a lot we could discuss about getting great sleep.But in this post I’m going to focus on an aspect of sleep many people have never heard of.

It turns out that there are three natural sleep patterns and we’re all wired to follow one instinctively. We can make ourselves follow another pattern (and many of us do) but when external pressures are removed (like when we’re on vacation) we will slide back into our natural pattern. It’s like a personality type—an introvert can learn to speak loudly and act aggressively, but that’s not their instinct.

And even more important for today’s topic, we have more energy when we work with our sleep natural pattern rather than fight it. Tweet This While an introvert can become skilled at shouting, it exhausts them.

The three generic patterns are…

Early Morning (studies say about 10% of people are wired for this)

  • Preferred wake up time: 5-6am
  • Preferred go to bed time: 8-9pm
  • Peak energy window: immediately upon waking until 11am-12pm

Mid-Morning (studies say about 70% of people are wired for this)

  • Preferred wake up time: 7-8am
  • Preferred go to bed time: 10-11pm
  • Peak energy window: starts an hour after waking and lasts until 12-1pm

Late Night (studies say about 20% of people are wired for this)

  • Preferred wake up time: 10-11am
  • Preferred go to bed time: 2-3am
  • Peak energy window: 9pm-1pm

Which most describes you? Again, we can all live at any pattern. I’m a night owl but I’m writing this post at 6am. I don’t want to miss mornings with my kids so I currently live outside my natural pattern. But when I’m on vacation, I slide to later and later nights—and later and later mornings. And my brain is on fire late at night when I’m rested.

Leadership is about investing energy—in other people, in other projects, in making tough decisions. Relationships require energy. If you want to increase your influence, consider increasing the quality and quantity of your energy. Tweet This

One way to do that is to find your natural sleep pattern and work with it. So plan for your most demanding work to be at your peak energy time. Oh, and 95% of us—no matter what our pattern—need an afternoon nap around 3:00-3:30pm. So don’t plan any big conversations, creative sessions, etc for that window, if you can help it!

photo credit: Tired Travellers – Koh Hong – Travelling with the Fujifilm X100T via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakWhich of the 3 Sleep Patterns Is Your Natural One?

What Is Life Giving To You And What Is Merely Numbing?

A huge question was asked this past weekend at a dinner party. One of my good friends is exhausted from wrestling with multiple, lingering health issues in his family. Another friend asked him how he copes with the stress and frustration. He said that some of what he did was fun in the moment, but really wasn’t life giving. He specifically said was that what he was doing was merely numbing him from the difficulty of his life.

Happy Baby smaller

This all reminded me of another good friend, who just two days before this dinner, co-taught a workshop with me. He warned those leaders of the danger of the quick fix: the easy solution that didn’t actually solve the problem, but shifted the burden of the problem to someone else—creating another problem in the process.

Back at the dinner party, another friend asked the question: “So, instead of that numbing stuff, what could you do that would be life giving to you?”

Everyone at the table went silent for a moment. It was a big question and it invited a response from all of us. And we didn’t all have easy answers.

This might sound overly simplistic, but my goal is to figure out how to do more of what is life giving and do less of the other things. What’s hard knowing what is truly life giving—and what is merely numbing.

What are those people, places, and/or activities that fill your soul with deep gladness and sweet satisfaction? Don’t settle for merely fun. And don’t give the generic answers, like family or vacation. The more specific the better. My friend, in our discussion, realized that it wasn’t just time with friends that was his most life giving. He loved introducing great friends to each other—that group dinners with friends were even better. What is life giving can be very different from person to person, when you get specific enough.

Leaders, how full are the hearts of your people? Is their day-to-day work on their list of what’s life giving to them? If not, you’re probably not going to get remarkable results. And beware of trying to give life to your people through the methods that fill you. One of the keys to great leadership is learning the unique wiring of each of your people. We lead individuals, each wildly different, none of them “normal”.

Whatever it is, how could you do more life giving things in the next month? Next week?

And maybe the biggest question of all: What “numbing” activities are keeping you from doing more of the really life giving stuff? Tweet This How could you do less of those?

I don’t expect that I can solve this in a week or a month—or even a year. But year after year, I want to be able to say that I’m doing more life giving things and less of anything else.

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Scott WozniakWhat Is Life Giving To You And What Is Merely Numbing?

What Happened When Water Got In My Gas Tank

Every Christmas, my family loads up our minivan to drive thirteen hours to visit extended family. This year we almost made it. Around 1:00am, I exited the interstate to refuel our gas tank. The kids were still asleep, a minor miracle for my family. And as I drove away from the pump, the car died. Steering onto the shoulder next to the gas station, I rolled to a stop. Even with the help of a friendly stranger and jumper cables we couldn’t get the car started. It took until 3:30am to get our car to the shop and us to Grandpa’s house.

gas station at night

The repair shop confirmed what we feared: bad gas had damaged our engine. (I’m tempted to make a burrito joke here, but I’m way too mature for that.) I learned the hard way that the quality of your fuel determines the story of your journey. Tweet This

And a great life requires more than adding good ideas. We also have to filter out contaminants. Good fuel mixed with bad fuel equals bad fuel. I put the correct grade of petroleum in our gas tank, but the groundwater that snuck along drowned out the benefits of the good fuel.

What contaminants do you need to protect yourself from?

As an individual, it could be a TV show or music album with seductive lies or a bad relationship or junk food or even a particular place. As a leader, it might be your highly skilled, but bad attitude employee or even that toxic customer.

Maybe the key to your growth this year is not more good ideas, but stronger protections from the “groundwater” trying to get in.

photo credit: in the desert via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakWhat Happened When Water Got In My Gas Tank

Facing Our Fears with the De Minimus Test

Fear is a powerful motivation. And influencers today know it. We are bombarded with messages of danger, trouble, and risk all day long. The news tells stories of accident and assault. Commercials show what calamity will befall you, unless you buy their product. Even non-profit causes tug our hearts with the terrible danger we are in, explaining how taking action with their cause is the way out of our trouble.

So one of the keys to a healthy life is learning to filter all these fear messages. How do we know when it’s a legitimate danger? How do we know when to dismiss the message being sent to us?

One way: apply the de minimus test.

Based on the same latin root for the words “minimal” and “mini”, lawyers and doctors use this term for risks that are “too trivial or minor to merit consideration.” They refer to this as a “virtually safe” level.

Quick example, a tiny asteroid could fall from the sky and hit me on the head. But while the outcome would be terrible, the chances of that happening are so small that I would be foolish to stay inside for the rest of my life to avoid it. The risk of being killed by asteroid strike is de minimus.

When others want us to do something, they describe what could happen if we don’t act the way they suggest. They paint vivid pictures of how awful it will be and stir up as much fear as they can. But they rarely tell us how likely it to happen.

Shark attacks are a great example of this. (This part is for you, Rachel.) Imagining a shark biting your ankle is vivid and terrifying. It’s easy to get trapped in the fear of what could be while ignoring how likely it is—or isn’t. But actual risk levels of a shark attack are really, really low. In fact, twice as many people have died from hitting a deer while driving than from shark attacks.

shark attack from Feudal Tales

We should be more afraid of Bambi than Jaws. But Shark Week is much better TV than Deer Week. The stories are more dramatic and sharks have way uglier teeth.

After growing up on the beach and reading the reports, I can assure you that (unless you are swimming at certain beaches where certain types of sharks live) the risk of shark attack doesn’t pass the de minimus test. It’s too trivial to be worth considering when making decisions.

We could apply this rule to medicines that have “twice as much chance” of causing complications as their competitors (be wary of relative percentages given without absolute outcomes included). When you get the actual numbers, you discover one is 0.003% to cause a problem and one is 0.0015% likely to cause the same problem. Both risks are de minimus.

My favorite example, though, is from the movie Dumb and Dumber. Lloyd, a total idiot, has a crush on the girl he just saved.

He works up his nerve to ask, “What are my chances?”
“Not good,” she replies.
“Not good, like one out of a hundred?”
“I’d say more like one out of a million,” she declares.
His mouth drops open. Then he slowly nods. “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”

He clearly doesn’t know how to apply the de minimus test. But hopefully you do, now.

photo credit: Image taken from page 145 of ‘Feudal Tales, being a collection of romantic narratives and other poems. [With coloured plates.]’ via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakFacing Our Fears with the De Minimus Test

The Oldest Computer Teacher In the World

My team was talking about spending time with our extended families over the holidays and one of my colleagues told us about her remarkable grandmother. At 93 years old she is finally handing off baking responsibilities to other people in the family. But before you think she’s getting soft, you should know that she still walks on the treadmill and plays along with the TV quiz show Jeopardy—every single day.

But what impressed me most was that she teaches computer classes at the senior center. (She’s a big believer in the value of click and drag mouse movement as a way to keep hand-eye coordination sharp.) As far as I can tell, she is the oldest computer teacher in the world.

grandma on computer

Long past the age when most have settled into a comfortable rut, she is fully engaged with life. She has found ways to test her thinking, build her body, and invest in others. That sounds like a formula for a pretty amazing life to me. And its sounds like a great goal as well. I hope when I’m 93 that I will be living as fully.

At any age, we can choose to coast or we can make the most of what we’ve been given. Tweet This

photo credit, Mark Conklin (unfortunately, not actually of Betsy’s grandmother)

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Scott WozniakThe Oldest Computer Teacher In the World

How to Grow Your Character by Running A Race

I just signed up for the Savage Race. It’s one of those ridiculous mud runs with obstacles. Yes, I know, I’m crazy. 🙂 If anyone wants to run with me in race on April 18th, let me know. I’d love for you to join our team.
The Savage Race isn’t for everyone. My wife isn’t running because I married a wise woman. (One of us needed to have some caution.) However, while the Savage Race may or may not be your idea of a good experience, I think all Christians should consider signing up for an endurance event at least once in their life–maybe several times. If not a mud run, then a 1/2 marathon or long distance cycling event or any of the many other options.
I know, that’s a pretty bold statement–and I’m pretty cautious about making “everyone should” statements. And there are always situations where this won’t be true. For example, anyone with a physical disability probably doesn’t need extra training in endurance. They could probably teach the rest of us all about endurance. But for those with don’t deal with something like that day after day, training for and completing an endurance event might be one of the best ways to grow as a Christian.
Let me be very clear, I’m not suggesting this for the physical benefits. Sure, it will be good for your body to do long runs or rides. But the mental and emotional work required to complete a long, grueling experience is far more valuable–and longer lasting–than a better body.
Keep in mind that I’ve never enjoyed distance exercise. I always chose sprints or sports (when I bothered to exercise). I’m saying this as someone who is doing what is unnatural me–and growing tremendously because of it.
As you train for the endurance event, each exercise session gives you practice choosing to do uncomfortable things in hopes of a long-term reward. Each day your sore muscles complain, but you exercise anyway, strengthens your ability to make difficult choices in other areas of your life.
See, at the heart of Christian maturity is perseverance. If you want to be more godly, improve your ability to endure.
Hebrews 12.1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
James 1.2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Romans 5.3-4
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
There are a lot of verses like this, but I think you get the point.
Endurance training for you body can improve your emotional endurance, too. You don’t have to wait around for real life troubles to practice perseverance. You can grow that aspect of your character on purpose. You can increase your endurance so you’re ready when a hard relationship moment happens. Besides, having more physical energy makes all this easier, too!
What is your way of increasing your endurance ability this year? If you don’t have one planned yet, maybe you should come run with me! 🙂 But whatever you do, don’t just sit around and wait for endurance to come to you–go get it.

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Scott WozniakHow to Grow Your Character by Running A Race