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. 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 40% of your max?
Getting enough sleep is my number one priority every day, because I know it will make everything else, without exception, better.
That’s right. Getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your business. Plus, 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.
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.
Staring at bright, backlit screens will stop your brain from producing the nice sleep hormones that signal it’s time for zzzzzz. 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.
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. Reading helps clear your mind and relax you before sleeping. Oh, and make sure it’s fiction. No business books to get your mind whirring.
- 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.
- 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.
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 sleep in order. 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.