Being an entrepreneur takes equal portions of talent, focus, balance, and stamina. That’s how I’ve managed to handle hundreds of projects for dozens of clients over the past 15 years – mostly with 10-hour days.
When you’re running your own business, it can become easy to get so caught up in your pride and joy that you forget to take care of yourself. One of the first things to go is often sleep.
Despite all the daily deadlines, I’ve lived by a handful of best practices that help me sleep enough so I can run my business efficiently. Here’s how I do it, along with advice from medical professionals on how to get enough sleep when you’re running the show:
- Get some exercise – I jump-start my workdays with a vigorous two-mile hike accompanied by my two dogs. We all get some aerobics, strengthen our bodies, breathe some fresh air, and it clears my mind to meet each day’s challenges. I’m not sure what it does for the dog’s minds. Exercising helps me work longer hours when I need to and sleep better either way.
- Get plenty of sleep – Most adults need to sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Without enough shut-eye, your body goes into “sleep debt,” which can cause depression, lead to irrational thinking, create memory problems, and weaken your immune system. According to WebMD.com, the negative aspects of sleep debt, “the lingering effect of chronic sleep loss causes performance to deteriorate dramatically when individuals stay awake for an extended period of time.”
- Take frequent breaks – I try to take a break every few hours for just 5 to 10 minutes. It could be simply pushing away from your computer to stretch your legs, arms, and back; doing a word puzzle; playing a quick computer game; carousing with your pets; grabbing a healthy snack; or visiting the bathroom. All of these enable you to let go of your stress for a moment so you can focus on your work again.
- Nap – When I’ve been burning the candle a bit, I take a 20-minute catnap. This can work wonders to get your brain working better even if you’re still dog-tired.
- Eat right – Most entrepreneurs subsist on a steady diet of fast food, highly caffeinated drinks, and sweets. These may fill you up, but they don’t feed your brain. To that end, Cathy Cohn, a Certified Nutrition Consultant, says, “Fatigue is a common consequence of a diet characterized by sugar and ‘white’ refined grains as found in the Standard American Diet (SAD) that fuels a wild rollercoaster ride of blood sugar spikes and energy crashes.” I eat a non-caffeinated, well-balanced diet, which gives me more energy. Optimal nutrition, rather than pizzas and sodas, enables you to work with enhanced mental acuity.
- Delegate a project – If you don’t have enough time to do something, delegate it. Even if you’re paying someone extra to do it, hand it off, and focus on what you can accomplish without the overload.
- Get more sleep – This bears repeating. Sleep is the most important thing you can give your body when it’s craving it. After even just one good night’s sleep, especially if you’ve been working long days, you will begin to feel yourself again. From an alternative standpoint, Adam Wiscomb, a San Francisco acupuncturist, adds, “Insufficient sleep is viewed by Chinese medicine as detrimental to health because it does not allow for the body’s complete self repair from the previous day’s stresses. At night, the liver ‘cleans the blood.’ I translate this to the endocrine, immune, and nervous system’s recycling and manufacturing of new cells and molecules that we now know regulate immune function and pain signals, two areas of stress that can impede optimal brain function and productivity.”