One of the most common complaints I hear from the IT business owners that I work with is that they have so much to do and so many things on their mind, that they struggle to get a good nights sleep.
They tell me that they are either worrying so much that they find it difficult to get to sleep in the first place or they wake at 3am with things on their mind, and by the time they’ve got back to sleep it’s time to get up to face the day – exhausted.
Then there are the business owners who work long hours late in to the night and yet still begin each day feeling overwhelmed the sheer volume of things they need to do.
If you recognise any of these common scenarios, then you are not alone. Most of us don’t get enough sleep and many more of us spend time sleep deprived – especially those of us who run our own businesses and find it difficult to turn our brains off at the end of the day.
Personally, I consistently sleep well. I rarely have trouble nodding off or waking up worrying about things. I’d say I’m lucky in that respect, but like most things, I find the harder I work at something the luckier I get – and sleep is no different. Put the right framework in place and the results are more likely to come.
With that in mind, here are my 3 ways to worry less and sleep better as a business owner.
1. Keep a notepad & pen by your bed
If you’ve ever gone to bed and struggled to drop off – or worse, woke in the early hours with things on your mind – then the most effective remedy I’ve found is also a simple one. Make sure you have a pen and paper by your bed and write things down.
The human brain isn’t meant to carry around “To Do” lists. When heading to bed, you might think that you’ll absolutely, definitely remember to buy that pint of milk the next day – but asking your brain to remember that and shut down for the night to regenerate isn’t conducive to sleeping well.
Instead, when you’re heading to bed for the night, write down anything you need to remember. Get it out of your head and down on paper, so you can relax knowing you don’t need to remember anything at all – the reminder is waiting for you in the morning.
Likewise if you wake at 3am with something on your mind, don’t think on it – just write it down. You’ll quickly drop back off to sleep, safe in the knowledge that you’ve taken the first step to dealing with whatever is on your mind.
Whether that reminder goes in to your electronic To-Do system the next day or not, getting stuff out of your head and down on to paper is the key. Empty your head and sleep better!
2. Write down 3 things you want to achieve the next day
The habit of writing down the 3 most important things I want to achieve the following day is a powerful one. It’s the practice I most often notice the absence of when I slip into bad habits – and quickly notice the benefits of when I adopt again.
In short, at the end of each working day and before you close down for the day, think about the things that you want to achieve the next day.
If you’re like an typical business owner, then you probably have between 90-150 things that you you would like to do the next day, but consider the 3 things that if you got them done you’d feel as though you’d had a really good day.
Be realistic with your expectations. “Win 3 new clients” might be a big ask, but telephoning a specific prospect is definitely achievable. Write down 3 things you would realistically want to achieve on a normal day – and that means a day when you receive the normal flood of telephone calls, emails and other interruptions.
I’ve found that the act of writing down these 3 things allows me to relax for the evening after finishing work and sleep better of a night. I also find I wake up the next day feeling less overwhelmed by everything I want to get done, and instead focus on the 3 things I’m going to get done.
3. Create a consistent bedtime routine
What time do you typically go to bed? What do you do typically do before hitting the hay? What do you do once you’re actually in bed?
For myself, I’m normally in bed by around 10pm each night, my Smartphone switched off and plugged in to charge in another room, and reading a book in bed before falling asleep around 10:30pm. Rock’n’Roll it may not be, but it does enable me to wake around 6am the next day without feeling shattered and going on to have a full and productive day.
Other people I know stay up late playing Xbox. Or drinking tea. Or watching TV. Sometimes they go to bed at 11pm, other times at 1pm. These are the folks who frequently tell me they’re exhausted. There is probably some link there.
The glow of an electronic gadget will not aid sleep. That means watching TV in bed won’t help you drop off (I don’t have a TV in my bedroom at all). Mindlessly browsing Facebook on a Smartphone won’t help. Playing Words with Friends on an iPad won’t help either – in fact, quite the opposite. They’ll all fill your mind with new things to think about.
The simplest solution I’ve found? Avoid drinking Tea and Coffee after 6pm. Go to bed around the same time each night. Read a paper book book in bed, and when you feel drowsy, go to sleep. Then wake the next day feeling good, rather than Zombiefied.
All of us who run a business would benefit from sleeping well and waking with more energy to tackle the most important things on our plate.
Getting things out of your head and down on to paper allows the mind to shut-down and relax. Keeping a pen and paper by your bedside helps you form this habit.
Being clear on what you want to work on the day next helps us to relax – writing down the 3 things you’ll be focusing on the next day helps you to sleep easy and wake with a purpose.
Having a consistent bedtime routine and avoiding TV and electronic gadgets in the bedroom reduces distractions, helps you drop off and sleep better too.
Debates over whether you are a “night owl” or a “morning person” aside, sleep is important and most of us need more of it. Try the above yourself and let me know how you get on.