The One Decision that Decreases Executive Performance by 300%

Sacrifice is what it takes to win. It is the essence of winning, and winning is not optional. Like the athlete, the executive must win. This means constantly working to maintain a competitive edge. When the executive is backed into a corner what they are most willing to sacrifice is rest.

The unhealthy executive fails to understand that sleep is a prerequisite for top performance. At some stage throughout their career, they have made the decision that sleep is negotiable. A cost of doing business. Tired becomes a way of life and many feel that the trade-off (professional success for physical well-being) is somehow worth it.

The executive has a hard time lying dormant. They fear their inactivity could lead to a missed opportunity, a mistake, or worse, that everything will not be perfect. The irony is that the time spent awake over-thinking every possibility makes their job even harder as the fog of fatigue clouds their judgment.

What the tired executive doesn’t realize is that their definition of success is short sighted. Without the adequate rest, the effort they put in today will be to the detriment of their performance tomorrow. Similar to how the feeling of thirst comes after you are already dehydrated, the feeling of exhaustion comes much after you are below your mental best. Executives are paid to make decisions but it’s their decision-making ability that is affected the most after a night of short sleep.

Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist, found that creativity and the ability to find novel solutions to complex problems drop by 300% after just one poor night’s rest. Complex problems do not just exist in an executive’s work arena. Complex problems exist in their personal relationships, their ability to make the time to exercise and every time they sit down to a meal.

Rest is the beginning of everything. It influences every element of an executive’s health.

The athlete and the executive see rest very differently. Strong protests have been heard from professional rugby league teams with only 5 days between matches with interstate travel. The coaches and athletes understand that rest is the prerequisite to success.

The executive doesn’t understand rest in the same way that an athlete is able to. This week pay attention to your energy levels. Note you how to feel when you possess the height of your problem-solving skills and creativity. Are you rested? Do you feel like you are thriving?

If you are not at your best, do you feel you can handle each problem with the uppermost limits of your talent and skill? How determined or resilient do you feel when you are not at your best?

If you decide that sleep is negotiable soon enough the four symptoms I discussed earlier will become part of who you are. If you decide that tired is your new normal, obesity can quite easily also become part of your normal experience. Half of those who sleep less than five hours each night are obese. This is not a coincidence.

This is a concept that I explore in my book. You can download a free chapter sample here at