As we go through stressful periods in life (hello COVID-19!), many of us struggle with insomnia, or the inability to truly switch off and give our brains and bodies a chance to recharge. And, if you’ve struggled with getting a good amount of sleep before, you’d certainly be familiar with how it affects job performance, as well as your overall well-being.

In an interview with Grow, Dr Shaan Patel, the CEO and founder of Prep Expert reveals that he owes much of his success to his productivity and time management skills, noting what a big role getting consistent “quality sleep” plays in this.

And the 31-year-old CEO probably knows what he’s talking about – having read for an MBA and a medical degree, while also running Prep Expert, a US-based SAT and ACT test preparation company, which he pitched, and closed a deal for, on popular ABC show ‘Shark Tank’ in 2016.

To do all this, getting a good night’s sleep was important, and he shares five “little optimizations” or sleep hacks he uses in his day-to-day life.

1. Prioritise your tasks with a ‘magic list’

 “I used to actually have a ton of trouble falling asleep, and I think a lot of it was because my mind would race,” Dr Patel tells Grow. So, in order to overcome this, he started making a ‘magic list’ to help him prioritise the next day’s tasks. “I write in my Apple Notes the top six things I want to accomplish for the next day. I think that’s really helpful. … It takes a lot of the stress out of sleep,” he says.

2. Meditation

If you’re still worrying about the next day’s tasks at bedtime, the next hack on Dr Patel’s list is meditation – but it’s got to be brief! “I’d love to get into meditation and mindfulness, but you know, being a busy professional who basically has two jobs, I don’t have a ton of time for meditation,” he says. “The way I get my mindfulness is to listen to a quick five-minute sleep meditation before I go to bed,” he says. Noting that meditation has actually helped sleep quality, he adds, “when I do listen to that quick five-minute meditation, my sleep is a lot deeper.”

3. Embrace a ‘power hour’

Next on Dr Patel’s list is making sure you get the right amount of hours of sleep – this will help you embrace your ‘power hour’ or that time of day when you’re most productive. “I’ve always made sure to get my ideal number of hours of sleep,” he says. “Seven hours is the sweet spot for me.” And if he knows the next day will be a busy one, he heads to bed an hour earlier – a technique he teaches students that use Prep Expert. “To be ultra-productive, for students, I would recommend waking up an hour earlier on your busiest days. Call it your morning ‘power hour’ and do the most important studying of the day,” he says. And if you’re not most productive in the morning, identify when you are, and plan your most challenging tasks accordingly.

4. Efficient naps

Dr Patel recommends short naps of 30 minutes to an hour to aid productivity on especially busy days. Detailing his three-part nap routine, the CEO says that at around 5:30pm, after his day at the dermatology clinic, he sleeps for 30 minutes, eats dinner and takes a shower. After that, he says, “I feel totally refreshed and reenergized to work for two or three hours.”

5. Track your sleep

 “To those people that are stuck, I would say that’s when you really need to start taking an inventory,” Dr Patel says, going on to recommend using an app or wearable device to analyse your sleep patterns. Doing this can help you figure out what’s gotten in the way on those day you struggle to sleep, and can be used as a good measure for other aspect of life too. “Tracking progress is really important for anyone trying to achieve a goal, even beyond just sleep,” he concludes.


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