Myths about “cold showers at 4am = success” exist because people want to sell you something. They want to promise the secrets of success, or claim that their success is based 100% on effort rather than any luck at all. However, it’d be very inconvenient if you could test this for yourself – so they claim that success is tied to doing incredibly unpleasant things that they’re confident you won’t be able to sustain for yourself.
Shockingly, I’ve found that I do better work when I’m fully rested. It’s almost as if the brain needs sleep to improve cognitive functioning or something. My success and mental state both shot up once I embraced rest and relaxation as PRODUCTIVE. Resting, relaxing, spending time with friends, playing games, having a soothing bath – these are PRODUCTIVE for two big reasons.
1. They recharge you. Sure you might be annoyed when you stop at a gas station because it ‘slows you down’ but you can’t drive with an empty tank.
2. You completely lose track of how exhausted you ACTUALLY are – it just feels normal. You are opperating at like 30% of your capacity but you think it’s 95%. You have less patience, you get angry more easily, you are less likely to judge something unnecessary as worth the effort, but it all just feels normal now because you don’t even realize how tired you are.
It also creates toxic norms that infect the rest of your team, particularly if you are considered a top performer. Of course others are going to stay late if they see you doing that and getting rewarded for it.
Now when I’m stressed over a deadlines at work, I actively take 1-2 hours to do something relaxing. I’ll go for a walk, go out to a breakfast place, watch a movie, etc. This helps reset me, lower my stress (because my brain is trained to know that if I’m doing this I can’t actually be under the gun right?) and lets the back of my brain slowly sift through the noise and think about the problem I’ve got to solve. It works great.
Whenever someone says they get up at 4am or keep working till midnight regularly, try responding “Wow, you must really need to work on your time management skills. I know a good book if you’re interested.”
In Conclusion: Pay attention to when YOU do your best work, when YOU feel the most focused and positive about your life. If that links up to cold showers at 4am, great. Go for it. If you feel exhausted after a week of that and have trouble focusing though, don’t keep doing it.
Focus on replicating what works for YOU. Don’t torture yourself trying to follow what someone else claims works for them.