Forget Sleep: It's Unproductive

4 min read · Posted on: Feb 23, 2006 · Print this page

In my MBA days, sleep was considered a luxury. There were often too many group assignments and pre-reads to complete that 24 hours in a day seemed to too less (or rather unfair). In those days, you would find disheveled guys moving about the hostel hallways like zombies not in search of human blood but the nearest water cooler. The would either go back and bury their heads in a heavy tome-like textbook or sit in front of a PC and move the mouse pointer frantically about the computer screens. Some of us managed 4 hours of sleep while some had infrequent hour long (power-)naps. Most of us were quite convinced that there was a monumental amount of work unnecessarily piled up on us. So when there was a weekend or a party coming up, all the frustration seemed to be vented out there in the form of exaggerated expressions of celebrations. Indeed, anybody witnessing such an event would have misunderstood us as a bunch of gaol birds on a parole.

An Anomaly

But in the middle of all this, there was a guy whose waking hours shockingly resembled that of normal (non-MBA) people. Let’s call him Jeevi (loosely translated to Malayalam as creature). Jeevi has his dinner with everyone else at 8 pm in the evening. Nobody even notices him quietly slipping into his room after that. By 8:30, he is fast asleep. Jeevi is rarely seen in any of the birthday bumps celebrations that start appropriately at 12 midnight. In fact, everyone made most out of the opportunity when Jeevi’s roommate’s birthday came up. As it was customary, the roommate also receives the royal treatment at the rear end.

Everyone thought Jeevi was an oddity or some sort of anomaly. He seemed to finish all the assigned work to him like the rest of us. He was in fact having a very good academic record. He had a decent social life (despite being quite an introvert). All this felt somewhat weird and ridiculous to our minds. The question bothering us was - ‘Where did he get all that time?’ Harry Potter fans among us wondered if he processed a ‘Time-Turner’. Sci-Fi geeks propounded if he had a Time-Warp device. Whatever he had, Jeevi was always surrounded by an air of mystery around him.

Where Truth Lies

It is said that everyone loves a big fat lie. It often doesn’t matter whether it is the truth or a lie. It is just how often you hear it. Most of us lived in the myth that we never had enough time to work or study. While, in fact, we found ourselves mostly crippled by inaction because we were simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work. Some experts call this Procrastination. It often happens to the best of people such as celebrities. Perhaps by the time you reach a top-notch B-school you are a bit of a celebrity yourself. Your tolerance for failure becomes really low. You wouldn’t want to do a shoddy job or rather embark into a territory you are least comfortable with. So you try to dodge at best or lay low as much as possible. But that is only as long as the deadline is not close. When the D day arrives, the inevitability of the deadline strikes you. It is then that your apparent productivity soars and the actual work starts getting done.

Most of also believed in another myth that we wasted a lot of time which could have been utilized for academic work. People tried hard to break their gaming addition or outings to squeeze more time out of the 24 hour cycle. But sadly the fungibility of time was another myth . This excellent article by Aaron written like a HOWTO debunks this myth. In fact, most of the MBA assignments required some degree of creativity which one is not prepared to give at all times. Also it is extremely boring (if not depressing) to be with books all the time. Personally, I took studies as just “one of the things” I had to do at college. And trust me, it works.

It would be unfair to generalize this to all management graduates. Some of them manage the course and extra curricular activities quite well. But they still live the lie and never forget to complain about the lack of time. But, as examples like Jeevi shows us so clearly that after all Einstein was right. Time is always relative to the observer ;)

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Arun Ravindran

Arun is the author of "Django Design Patterns and Best Practices". Works as a Product Manager at Google. Avid open source enthusiast. Keen on Python. Loves to help people learn technology. Find out more about Arun on the about page.

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