The four symptoms of executive decline – fatigue, stress, physical pain, obesity – are all directly or indirectly related to the seven mistakes I will talk about in this series. You might see some of these and think, “Yes, I do that, but that’s not affecting my health”, or you might feel that the trade-off (professional success for physical wellbeing) is somehow worth it.
If the bad habit is an isolated one you may be correct, but when these mistakes become part of a weekly routine they’ll make you pay eventually. When that moment arrives, the consequences can fall on you like a load of bricks.
MISTAKE 1: THINKING SLEEP IS NEGOTIABLE
An athlete and an executive have polar opposite views on sleep. The athlete feels that the more sleep they get the better they will perform. The executive believes that sleep is something that they can and even should sacrifice to gain or maintain a competitive edge. Of all the unhealthy executives I have met, whether out of shape or obese, stressed out or exhausted, all of them see a good night’s rest as something that is entirely negotiable.
The reasons for this are many.
There is the executive who feels that 11 pm is a good time to email clients. There is the executive who stares at the ceiling, unable to switch off. There is another who goes to sleep early each night but wakes up like clockwork at 2 am with her to-do list running through her head.
The end result is the same: the executive is sleep deprived. Run on a sleep deficit for long enough and the four symptoms I discussed in the last chapter will become part of who you are. A lack of sleep is strongly linked to obesity.
Half of those who sleep less than five hours each night are obese. This isn’t a coincidence.
Every executive in the Executive Athlete program must wear a Fit Bit. This is not to track their steps, it’s to track their sleep. I can predict that poor exercise and nutrition weeks are linked to weeks where the executive gets less than 50 hours of sleep in the week.
Coaching executives around sleep are simple once you can give them a metric to improve. A Fit Bit or any other automatic sleep-tracking device is the first step to improving the health and performance of an executive.