Jim Collins’s Final Secret: How to Give Yourself Two Mornings in One
How sleep cycling may change your deep-work productivity forever
This is the final installment of my Jim Collins trilogy (he’s still very much alive, so it’s not his final bit of advice ever). Not only is his business research monumental, but his personal habits are priceless too. Collins keeps meticulous records on himself. Including his sleep tracking.
Most of us don’t have decades of personal data we can track and sort. Collins does. He personal research helps show us how a few metrics (sleep, work quality, time in deep work etc.) can have a huge impact in the quality of our days and the subsequent quality of our lives.
You can benefit from Collins’s findings in the sections ahead.
If you’re new to these three stories, here are links to the first two:
Jim Collins’s Secret Formula for High Productivity in Creative Work
How the author of Good to Great allocates his time for work that matters most
Sleep is cumulative
Collins found that we sleep in long cycles of approximately 10 days. He found he can add or subtract to his ten day sleep bank if he keeps his tracked sleep to seventy hours in every ten-day block.
He logs all his data into spreadsheets, for decades.
This means you can go on productive benders, working late into the night, occasionally, without doing much damage to your self, provided you make up for the sleep on the successive days to follow. Or even banking extra sleep in advance.
Your brain needs the metabolic effects of sleep to eliminate waste.
Not only is sleep critical for our cognitive work, but we need the 7–8 hours for our brains to eliminate metabolic waste accumulated during the day. Sleep is the only way to remove this waste. The process does not happen while we’re awake. The longer we operate on low sleep the more dangerous it i for our brains.
Collins paid to get himself tested in a sleep study.
He recommends we all do this to ensure we don’t have any sleep-related illness. It’s also important to know your optimal sleep time, which can vary person-to-person. The easiest way to do this is waking without an alarm clock for a week. Logging your exact sleep times and finding the average number of hours.
Naps are awesome
Collins is a huge fan of napping. He says he’s got a genetic predisposition to be able to sleep anywhere, but we can all benefit from a twenty minute recharge. His favorite times for naps are in the afternoon when he’s sluggish. And on airplanes, where he brings a napping kit on every flight.
Light effects your melatonin production.
Melatonin helps make us sleepy. If we expose ourselves to bright light (not just cell phone light) before bed, we can shut off melatoni production and have trouble falling asleep. Even if you close your eyes, we’ve got photo-sensitive cells in our skin that trigger melatonin to stop under bright light (tested with blind individuals). So, Collins avoids bright light before bed.
Collins gives us the twenty-minute rule.
He says if you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t fall asleep within twenty minutes, get out of bed and do some deep, quiet work until you get tired again.
He found this wakeful-dreamlike state to be a very productive working time. No one’s awake. You can perform deep work without interruption. The mental energy required will help you fall back asleep. Win all around.
This process leads us to Collins’s ultimate discovery.
How to get two mornings in one
Collins’s favorite sleep schedule is unconventional, but he says, gives you the power of dual mornings. Since mornings are our most-productive time for our brains, this dual morning secret is worth a try.
Collins takes a nap in the afternoon and goes to bed from 10PM to 3AM. He then performs his deep work from 3AM to 7AM. He works until he’s tired and goes back to sleep from 7AM to 10AM. Giving him eight hours of sleep total, but with two mornings.
At 10AM he starts his second day.
Collins says the second sleep session feels like “general anesthesia.” The second cycle appears to send him straight into deep sleep without cycling through the early phases.
Of course this schedule won’t work for everyone. Jobs and families have a tendency to keep us on a different schedule. Collins himself only follows this double-morning routine when his wife is away for longer stretches.
But there’s much potential in this idea of two mornings in one.
If we’ve got a sluggish day and we know we need the brain power to do our best work, combining a split sleep schedule with strategic napping may be just the thing for some creators.
We need you to be at your best
You’re a creator. We count on your innovation. If you’re not productive doing your required deep work we can’t benefit from your discoveries later.
It’s time to get enough sleep.
While you may not be able to keep a two-morning sleep schedule often, it’s worth experimenting to find the best sleep schedule for you. Sleep is just as important as the hard work you do while awake.
Deep work is our best work.
If we can’t be our best during our productive hours all the work may go to waste. It’s time to track our life’s data. This is the way we’ll find patterns — both the good and the bad.
We’re waiting for you.