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Energy-efficiency is imperative to enable the deployment of sensor networks with satisfactory lifetime. Conventional power management in radio communication primarily focuses independently on the physical layer, medium access control (MAC) or routing and approaches differ depending on the levels of abstraction. At the physical layer, the fundamental trade-off that exists between transmission rate and energy is exploited. This leads to the lazy scheduling approach, which consists of transmitting with the lowest power over the longest feasible duration. At MAC level, power reduction techniques tend to keep the transmission as short as possible to maximize the radio's power-off interval. Those two approaches seem conflicting and it is not clear which one is the most appropriate for a given network scenario. In this paper, we propose a transmission strategy that combines both techniques optimally. We present a cross-layer solution to determine the best transmission strategy taking into account the transceiver power consumption characteristics, the system load and the scenario constraints. Based on this approach, we derive a low complexity, on-line scheduling algorithm that can be used to optimally organize the forwarding of the sensed information from cluster heads to the data sink (uplink) in a hierarchical sensor network. Results, considering Coded Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) modulation, show that depending on the scenario, a 50% extra power reduction is achieved in a realistic uplink data gathering context, compared to the case where only transmission rate scaling or shutdown is considered.