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13. Exhausted? Take a nap

It sounds ridiculously simple. But, really, it’s not. I’ve been organising events since I was 16, and one thing that always seems to happen is that event-running leaves me crazy exhausted. Even if it’s a relatively peaceful and unproblematic, there’s always this feeling of needing to be on your toes. Often, it’s a really good idea, since you need to be ready if something goes wrong. At times, it’s pretty damn stupid, though.

You may have a team that allows people to take turns at being at the front lines. You may have an event with built in downtime. You may even be in a state where you’re not doing anything useful, and might as well rest. When we do big larp events, I’m incredibly bad at just letting go and grabbing some rest, even when I know the others have things well in hand.

I can be sitting at my keyboard, falling asleep, and when someone says “Claus, get some sleep! We got this.”, I have to stop myself from saying “No, no, it’s important that I’m here!”. Sure, sometimes I AM needed, but these aren’t the times I’m talking about. It’s the times when I’m not contributing at all, and would gain more by just resting my head.

The crazy thing is that I am quite good at doing it on other occasions. I regularly find myself at my desk at my office, feeling my eyelids droop and realising that I’m not really useful until I get some rest. Then I usually just let go of focus and take a nap in my chair (or on a sofa, if it’s really bad). It works like a charm, most of the time.

I also know that it’s something I’m capable of doing at times when most others wouldn’t (or couldn’t). For my final exams in high school, I had a four-hour exam in English (Written). We were a hundred students or so in a big room, each with our computer. Big computers, as this was the time before laptops were all over. Teachers walking up and down rows.

I spent some time looking through the written briefing. Something about choosing between three essays to write, I think. Then I stared at my screen for awhile, and decided that I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I laid my head on the desk and went to sleep. Half an hour later, I woke up, took a fresh look at the texts, and got to work. 90 minutes later, I printed out my work, signed it, and left the room. Job done.

Afterwards, I had both teachers and co-students who were both astounded and outraged. Not because I’d left after spending around half of the time allotted. I was a decent writer, so no one was really surprised at that. No, they thought it was completely off the charts that I’d chosen to just sleep for half an hour during my exams.

I didn’t really understand why. Naturally, I understood that it was unusual behaviour, but to me it was perfectly logical. I was tired. I wasn’t getting anywhere. Why not get some sleep and look at the problem later with fresh eyes?

The tricky thing was of course that I was looking at it in rather cold and analytical terms, while most of those I spoke to were looking at it from a perception standpoint. One doesn’t just sleep during exams, right? Well, no, not if there’s limited time, but I felt that I had all the time in the world. Even those who thought it was crazy acknowledged the fact that I probably had a lot more than half an hour to spare on the exam.

It’s the same thing when I do it at the office. I know it’ll make me more productive, not less, and I feel neither shame nor panic when letting myself drift off, even when I have deadlines ahead. Especially, if I’m alone at the office, so nobody present is dependent on coordinating efforts.

And yet, when it comes to events, I’m bad at sleeping, even when I could. Maybe it’s because being at an event is not a task (like an exam) or a reasonably stable situation (like being at the office). Maybe it’s because when I run events, there’s always the chance that something crazy will happen, and I feel that I need to be ready for that. I don’t know. I’m trying to get better at it, but it’s still not something I’m good enough at.

I’m trying to learn, though.

Because I know that if there’s one thing that’s effective, it’s getting sleep when you’re tired, and reminding yourself that your efficiency will probably be higher when you wake up.

And while writing this while bone-tired, it also feels kind of fitting.

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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