I live in a lovely place. Fairhope is friendly blend of Southern charm and artsy intellect nestled along the shore of Mobile Bay.
Lurking underneath the surface, however, there is something evil here. You won’t find it on the website of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce. Alexander Shunnarah doesn’t advertise it on his billboards.
But, yes, our town has a dirty little secret. Everybody knows it, but no one dares to talk about it in public.
We have nighttime garbage pick-up.
When our family moved here fifteen years ago, our new “friends” conveniently forgot to tell us this little nugget of information. That would have been helpful.
Our first night in our rental house was—you guessed it—garbage pick-up. Exhausted from moving all day, Christy and I collapsed about midnight. We didn’t even put the bed together that night, we just slept on the mattresses. We had no idea what was about to happen.
At 3:00 a.m., the alien abduction began.
At least that is what we thought it was. Spinning and flashing yellow lights danced along our bedroom walls! Whooshing air brakes startled us. I thought I had sprung a leak (in actuality, I was so scared, I may have). The obnoxious beep, beep, beep as the truck backed up to navigate our corner lot.
I sat straight up in the bed, half expecting to see this guy in the room.
The next day at work I showed up with blood shot eyes and lots of questions. I found out that, yes, garbage pick-up in the middle of the night is the rule, not the exception.
For a couple of light sleepers, things went from bad to worse when we moved into our current house a couple of months later. As you can see from the red dot on the map below, our home sits right along the border that divides Fairhope into two halves for garbage pick-up.
That means the sanitation trucks rumble near or in our little slice of heaven four out of five weeknights.
In 2001 when we moved to the house, Christy and I feared we were the cause of our neighbors’ grumpiness. After two weeks, we blended in well. Over time, even our dogs harbored animosity towards our sanitation department. We can’t use the words “trash” and “garbage” anymore because this is what usually happens.
For now, our code word is “rubbish,” but I think they may be catching on.
After several years of sleep depravity, I noticed a significant drop in work productivity. At first, I attributed it to low-T. Then I noticed Christy was dragging too, so I looked elsewhere. Then it dawned on me.
Nighttime garbage had been a pebble in my shoe long enough! It was time to take action.
By then, I had been working with leaders to increase their productivity, so I studied and analyzed our problem like I would with a client. Here’s what I found.
A lack of productivity is always, ALWAYS caused by an unwanted pattern.
Usually the pattern manifests itself in one of three ways.
- You are engaged in a troublesome behavior
- A person/people are hampering your ability to get ‘er done.
- The environment is disruptive
We knew our productivity was suffering from a lack of sleep, but could I definitively say it was the noisy garbage trucks or was it something else??? We analyzed carefully.
Take the first one—a troublesome behavior. Christy and I have a good nighttime routine. We follow the experts’ advice: no computer or tablets an hour before bedtime; no caffeine late in the day; we cuddle and recite poetry to each other (some is borrowed, but most is original), and both of us wear cotton footy pajamas for comfort. So no problem here.
Now the second—a person/people hampering your ability. Was it actually the garbage men sneaking into our bedroom to remind us to separate garbage from recycling? No. Was Christy sleep talking about Chris Hemsworth again? She never admitted to that. Had I developed sleep apnea from a little too much belly fat because of my low-T? Again, had that checked out and it was fine. So no one person or people was causing us to wake.
Moving to the third possibility—a disruptive environment. Was our mattress worn out? No. Was the room too hot or cold? No. Was the room dark and quiet? Yes, until 3:00 a.m. when the trucks roared down our street. Aha! So the environment was the issue … but how to change? Solution: earplugs–$1.70 for an eight pack.
Every January, it seems every blog and article is trying to sell you:
- 7 steps to Becoming More Effective!
- Kill the Competition before 5 AM!
- 12 Steps to More Productivity!
- Blah, blah, blah …
Do NOT waste your time or money. Being productive is not that complicated. Just do these two steps to improve your personal productivity.
- Analyze your routine to discover your productivity-busting pattern. It will be one or more of these:
- A troublesome behavior
- A person/people who put you at risk.
- A disruptive environment
- Eliminate the pattern you discover in #1. (Don’t “eliminate” the people, just minimize their influence on you.)
If you have any questions, call me at 3:00 a.m. I’ll be up.