If you’re just starting your own business — no, scratch that. If you’re any sort of business owner — whether you’re just starting out, in your first couple of years, or have been doing it for going on twenty years — you’re probably not getting enough sleep. THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO. SLEEPING WASTES PRECIOUS TIME.
Well, I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m a gibbering incompetent mess for pretty much the entire day. I will slowly get a very few easy, unimportant tasks done. But mostly I’ll just alternate between sitting around, staring at my computer screen, and making cups of tea.
I’ve always been pretty evangelical about getting enough sleep. I absolutely INSIST on waking up naturally every morning, because that way I know I’ve had enough sleep. When my new roommate first moved in, he offered to wake me up with a cup of tea in the mornings. NO, I shouted a little too abruptly. Do not, under any circumstances, even if it’s to do something nice, wake me up. EVER.
Sometimes, even if I do wake up naturally, if I see I’ve only had a mere seven hours, I will go back to sleep. I know I need a good solid eight hours to function like a super human being.
Alarms are the devil. Why the fuck anyone would ever decide that getting up at a specific time is more important than getting enough sleep is beyond me. IT MAKES NO SENSE. Seriously — what’s the point of getting up early if it means you’re going to function at 60% of your max? (Random number pulled out of my arse.)
I’ll only use an alarm if I have an early appointment, which, strangely enough, I almost never do, although I am having surgery at 7.30am next month, which is going to be interesting. (Great joy of working for yourself #1: get up whenever the hell you want.)
And I know I’m lucky, because I can pretty much sleep anyhow anywhere, and I’ll always sleep soundly through the night. Unless I wake up at 3am needing a piss. But usually I try not to drink too many cups of tea before bedtime.
Anyway, enough about me. Hopefully I’ve made my point: getting enough sleep is my number one priority every day, because I know it will make everything else, without exception, better.
Getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your business.
That the average amount of sleep people get is around six hours or something ASTOUNDS ME. You can’t possibly do your best work on that kind of sleep. I can barely work the kettle on that. ‘Water goes in top? Press button. Yay hot water. TEA.’ That’s me on less than eight hours.
And if you’re trying to get by on less than eight hours, because you think the more hours you’re awake, the more work you can do, the faster your business will grow, the more money you will make, etc, etc, blah blah blah. Well, you’re just stupid.
I reckon a lot of people don’t even notice how inefficient they are on a mere six hours because they’re so used to being an incompetent asshole all day long. Yeah, not only does it make you incompetent, it also makes you an asshole. Because everyone is crankier, more irritable, less capable of functioning like a normal, socially responsible adult, when they haven’t had enough sleep. Even you. Probably because you’re more likely to stub your toe.
The delights of waking up fully refreshed are many:
- Head does not feel full of cotton wool, white noise, or little mice poking your brain softly with their cute little pink fingers (huh?).
- Ability to concentrate for more than four minutes at a time.
- More ideas. Better ideas. ANY IDEAS AT ALL.
- Less Facebooking, more working.
- Getting real, important, difference-making work done.
- More likely to eat healthy foods, instead of shoving the nearest slice of stale pizza into your facehole.
- Not coincidentally, eating healthy foods also more likely to help you function better.
- More likely to exercise. (Please see #8 again.)
- Being politer to people.
- Smiling more.
- Less likely to stub toe.
- Lots of other good stuff.
I’m sure there are plenty of scientific studies that give real data about how much more efficient you are at everything if you get enough sleep. But we don’t need scientific studies, do we? This is just common sense.
How to Get Enough Sleep
If you actually have a sleeping disorder, the following advice may not be that useful to you. Go see a doctor if you haven’t already. But you probably don’t have a sleeping disorder at all. You’re probably just doing a whole bunch of stuff that fucks up your ability to get a good night’s kip.
To get enough sleep, you will need:
- Horizontal surface (preferably soft-ish)
- Duvet/sheets/cover of some sort
Those last two are optional, in-case-of-emergency goodies. They’re good to have on hand if you live in a building full of inconsiderate wankers who get drunk and stumble around in the stairwell in the middle of the night, or somewhere the sun rises at an ungodly hour. I guess the pyjamas are optional too, you saucy thing.
And here’s what you need to do (and not do):
- Go to bed early
OBVIOUS, RIGHT? So why don’t you do it? And this doesn’t even necessarily mean going to bed at 9pm. It just means making sure you’re in bed a good eight hours before you plan to get up. This is so simple, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it.
- Ditch the technology
If you routinely lie in bed with your laptop, or your smartphone, or your tablet, or watching the TV, you need to cut that shit out. Unless you’re doing it in the morning, like I am right now.
(Great joy of working for yourself #2: being able to work from bed. Though I only recommend doing this when you’re just feeling so inspired that you can’t possibly wait to get dressed and have breakfast before you start work. Not because you’re feeling lazy. After I’ve finished writing this, I will immediately get dressed and eat some bacon.)
Anyway: staring at bright, backlit screens will stop your brain from producing the nice sleep hormones that signal it’s time for beddy-byes. Meaning even after you’ve turned your laptop off, you’ll still lie awake staring at the ceiling, wondering why you just don’t feel tired, despite the fact you’ve been awake for eighteen hours.
- Take a shower before bed
I’m not sure if this will work for everyone — apparently taking a shower wakes some people up. But it certainly works for me. I started doing this around the time I started my business, mostly because I didn’t want to waste time showering in the morning. I just wanted to be able to get up, get dressed, and get to work. But now I’ve found it has the lovely side effect of relaxing me before bed. I’m guessing some sort of sleep/shower association has formed in my mind. It’s nice, I like it. Maybe you would too.
I always ALWAYS read when I get into bed. Annoyingly, I’ll often find I only manage half a page before I start reading the same bit over and over again. Anyway, reading helps clear your mind and relax you before sleeping. This is probably my number one super awesome best tip for getting to sleep easily. Just don’t read on your tablet, for Christ’s sake. Talk about defeating the object. This also works if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
- Stop using an alarm
Because it’s not just about making sure you get to sleep easily, is it? It’s also about making sure you stay asleep for long enough. Using an alarm… ugh, I have just never understood this. If you don’t HAVE to wake up at a certain time, why wake up before you’re ready? If you want to get up earlier, or at a certain time, just go to bed earlier. Common sense prevails!
- Clear your mind
Sometimes you can’t sleep because your brain just won’t shut off, right? Usually this is because something is bugging you. You have a problem you’re trying to solve, or you’re worried you will forget to do something. My advice here is to get all that shit out of your brain. WRITE IT DOWN. Honestly, this will make you feel 3000% percent better. Yes. THREE THOUSAND PERCENT. And I said ‘honestly’, so that means it’s true. Getting everything down on paper will help. Or on your computer. This is the one time I advocate screen-time before bed — if you can’t sleep, get out of bed, fire up your laptop, and type out everything that’s bothering you. You’ll probably find you resolve a few things. I do this on a pretty regular basis (usually during the day, but occasionally when the insomnia strikes too). It helps.
- Don’t drink anything an hour before bed
Getting up for a slash in the middle of the night is just the most annoying thing, ain’t it? Even more so if you can’t get back to sleep afterwards. So just don’t drink anything for an hour or so before bed. When I do this, I can easily sleep eight hours solid without waking up.
- Take a nap
I almost never take naps now, because I’m so damn good at getting a full night’s sleep that I can function properly for a full sixteen hours without issue. But sometimes I simply don’t get enough sleep. When this happens, I will usually take a lunchtime-ish nap to help me get back on track in the afternoon. Either that or remain zombified for the rest of the day (not fun). So if you find your brain’s spazzing out because you haven’t had enough sleep, give yourself permission to take a nap. My Dad used to sneak out of work and sleep in his car for a couple of hours. He understood the importance of sleep. Hopefully now you do too.
So, that’s it. My tips for getting enough sleep. If you’re trying to boost your productivity, which I know you are, because you’re a biz owner and that’s JUST WHAT WE DO, stop all your other methods. Forget about the Pareto Principle, setting specific working hours, working in 90 minute chunks, doing your most important task first, and all that other stuff. It’s all important, yes. You will get to it eventually. But first, you absolutely MUST get your sleeping shit together. Until you’ve nailed getting enough sleep, you can forget everything else. It won’t help. Or, at least, it won’t help anywhere near as much as it would if you were getting enough sleep.