- by Don
Several years ago, while attending a Book Yourself Solid® conference, I attended a session on growing your business and being more productive that was led by my friend and mentor, Walt Hampton. In the session, Walt asserted that you not only can sleep your way to the top, but you have to. He said it’s (almost) impossible to achieve great things without sleeping your way into them.
Just so there’s no confusion here, he went on to explain that by “sleeping your way to the top,” he meant getting enough sleep.
I left that session truly motivated to start getting more sleep. That evening, I excitedly called my wife and told her that Walt had spoken on “Sleeping Your Way to the Top” and went on to reiterate the idea that unless you get enough sleep, you can’t achieve maximum productivity. And without maximum productivity, your business will never achieve all it’s capable of.
The line was silent for a moment, and then my wife observed, “Walt doesn’t have small kids, does he?”As a matter of fact, his kids were grown. So, he had a different set of challenges than my wife and I do. But does that mean we can’t get enough sleep? I hope not, because there are numerous benefits of sleep. Not everyone is perfect, nor do I expect anyone to be perfect - I, too, need to check myself every once in a while so that I’m not sacrificing sleep for my business. Even the smallest amount of progress is still progress.
The problem between entrepreneurs and getting enough sleep
Most people—especially high performers and entrepreneurs—have more ideas than they can act on. No matter how many items are checked off of the ever-growing to-do list, it seems like it’s longer at the end of the day than it was at the beginning. (This is a callout post to myself, too, by the way).
Yet, many of us optimistically think we can “get it all done.” In our quest to get more done, we are notorious for finding ways to have more time to work. And, more often than not, the first place to “steal” extra time from is to cut into sleep hours.
As I write this, I remember many nights of little sleep, and even a few “all nighters” from my college days. I still have nights where I don’t get as much sleep as I need - but I like to think that’s not due to my business. As my wife pointed out, when raising a family, working full-time, AND having a side hustle to escape the current job, there’s a lot to balance. So naturally, it feels like the only way to cross off items on the ever-growing to-do list is to stay up late and work.
The pressure to give up sleep in exchange for more time to work is not completely intrinsic, however. Society plays a big factor in this issue. There’s this societal pressure to give up sleep. Have you ever listened to people brag about how late they stayed up, or pridefully claim that they need coffee due to the all nighter pulled the night before? Or maybe heard CEOs brag about how they have a cot in the office so they can grab a couple of hours of sleep without the need to go home? (Side note - this is really bad, having a work/life balance is essential for running a successful business, too.)
Due to the way others talk, there’s this constant pressure to undervalue sleep, almost to the point of considering sleep as worthless.
But is sleep truly worthless? Does it make sense to skip sleep in order to be more productive? Absolutely not!
The myth of giving up sleep in exchange for time for your business
Despite the misconception that sacrificing sleep increases time for work, the reality is that less work is done if adequate sleep is not in the equation.
One of my favorite quotes around productivity is from leadership guru Michael Hyatt, who frequently says, “You can’t manage time, but you can manage your energy.”Think about that a moment… time is time. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Those seconds tick off at the same rate, no matter what you do (barring time dilation with the Theory of Relativity, which isn’t a manageable productivity technique.) You can’t speed time up, slow time down, or otherwise control time. You can, however, manage how you use your time.
And what happens when exhaustion sets in from not getting enough sleep? Some key ones:
(Side note, Hyatt not only recommends getting enough sleep at night, he even recommends taking a nap every day!)
Efficient operation and checking more items off the to-do list sounds like a done deal in the argument for getting more sleep while owning a business, but the benefits of sleep go well beyond that: not sleeping enough can have disastrous effects on health, too!
The health risks of not sleeping enough
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend at least 7 hours of sleep each night for adults aged 18-60. The CDC also states that sleeping less than 7 hours a night brings increased risks of chronic health conditions, including:
Sleep is an essential part of being human, and not getting enough sleep while working on your business can drastically reduce your health, memory, and productivity.
How to sleep your way into success with your business
Once it’s established that more sleep is necessary to live healthier lives and accomplish more in your business, how can sleep be prioritized?
There are no “magic bullets” or “hard and fast” rules to getting an appropriate amount of sleep. However, that’s not an excuse for not trying to sleep more when owning your own business.
Sleeping for the CDC-recommended 7 hours must become a habit. Here are a few tips to help achieve better sleeping habits:
- 1Decide that sleep is a top priority. Put it at the top of your to-do list, and think about what needs to be done to achieve this goal. It’s extremely difficult to implement a new habit if there’s no commitment.
- 2Set a goal. Determine what time to go to bed and wake up.
- 3Create a “Shutdown System” to end the workday. This system can be as simple as a shutdown routine or a checklist of tasks you need to do. For example, my own shutdown routine includes:
Have food and water set out for the cats (This is not only good for the cats, but it also decreases the likelihood that they’ll wake me up early demanding to be fed).
Verify all external doors are locked
Turn off all the lights
Charge all electronic devices
Read a book
Set reading glasses on night table (after reading)
- 4Calculate how much time is needed to complete this routine. For example, the above shutdown routine requires an hour of my time, so I set a reminder for an hour before my bedtime.
- 5Create an environment that promotes sleep. This may include:
Reducing or eliminating light sources (Including that pesky thermostat in your RV!)
Setting a comfortable sleep temperature
- 6Cut out distractions. This may mean:
Putting down electronics at least an hour before bedtime (or at the start of your new shutdown routine)
Keeping electronics away from the bed, especially if you tend to stay awake playing on your electronics once you’re in bed. Or if you play with them instead of getting up when the alarm goes off in the morning.
- 7Get a proper amount of exercise, especially outdoor time during the day. Exerting energy levels during the day will ensure the body is ready to sleep come bedtime
- 8Reduce the consumption of foods that are high in sugar and/or caffeine. A good rule of thumb is to not drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages at least 7 hours before bedtime and not eat within 2 hours of bedtime.
- 9Track progress. Track how many nights you follow your new routine and reward yourself as milestones are reached.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it helps to focus on the benefits of getting enough sleep:
Getting enough sleep is not really an option; it’s a requirement for living a full, productive, and rewarding life.
Other ways to sleep to success with your business
Starting a business isn’t easy, but sleep should not be sacrificed in the process. If you are thinking of starting a business, be sure to prioritize sleeping as the first step towards success.
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