Chances are you’re not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. I know I’m not. It just comes with the entrepreneurial territory. How many business owners actually get a full night’s sleep?
So what’s keeping you up at night? Is it the still sorry state of the economy? Or the hunt for qualified employees? Perhaps it’s the fact that no matter how hard you work your budget, you can’t control some rising costs like health insurance? (Or, on a side note, has anyone noticed the skyrocketing price of gas lately? Where I live in southern California it’s about to go over $3 a gallon. The promised economic recovery is going to come later rather than sooner if consumers are once again spending all their money filling their tanks.)
Sometimes the reasons we can’t sleep are good ones, like trying to sort through the many great ideas running through our minds. There could be a dozen (or a hundred) more reasons you’re awake while the rest of the world’s snoozing away. But there are likely more people awake in the wee hours than you think. The other night, around 1:45 a.m., I was working and was surprised to get an e-mail from a friend of mine who was trying to navigate Twitter. She was equally shocked when I answered her, yet neither of us mentioned the fact we were up and working at that hour until two days later.
This is not a lecture about getting more sleep; that would be hypocritical. On the other hand, it’s not a good habit. Lack of sleep eventually catches up with you. It can dull your reflexes and slow your brain.
So since I’m as guilty of this as you are, let’s fix this problem together. First, it’s important to get to the core of what’s keeping us up at night. If lack of sleep is an occasional occurrence due to a big project, a looming decision, or a vexing challenge, don’t worry about it. We’re all going to have those kinds of nights. But if it’s a recurring problem, try to get to the source.
If you’re still in the startup stage (I count this as the first three years of business), there’s just so much to do and only so much time to do it. If you have kids, or are trying to keep up a semblance of a personal life, it’s often very hard to fit time for both into 24 hours. (As I’ve mentioned before, I hate the term work/life balance, since I think it’s just unachievable.) But, for lots of us, I think the problem is our time management, or more accurately, lack thereof.
I know that’s a big part of my problem. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to find new clients, fulfill existing obligations, keep up with my Twitter account (a business activity for me), plan our own Web sites, stay on top of industry and other news, attend conferences, make and return phone calls and e-mail, meet with my partners and, well, you get the picture. Notice none of that list included anything personal.
So what’s the solution? I’m not going to tell you to prioritize or not answer your e-mail in the morning. I hate those one-solution-fits-all suggestions that never really fit anybody. Instead here are a few ideas that I hadn’t really considered before:
- Stop trying to be perfect. This is tough since we obviously all want to get the job done exactly right. But in some cases (and you know which ones they are) good enough is, well, good enough. Just the other day one of my partners was questioning whether she should continue to work on a project, even though our client said it was perfect as is. She “just wanted to make sure.” It took three of us to convince her to move on.
- Just say no. This tip hits almost everyone’s time management tip list, but it’s just so hard for so many entrepreneurs to say “no” that it bears repeating. Make sure you do at least a quick ROI before you take on a new client or undertake any venture. Sometimes it is better to turn down the money. Really.
- Update your technology. Slow computers and sluggish Internet connections cost you money. Computers are at rock bottom prices right now, so if you need to buy a new one, do it. Or it might be as simple as updating your RAM. One of my partners was constantly complaining that her computer was excruciatingly slow. We finally asked our IT consultant to check it out and $100 dollars later, she’s no longer wasting time. Use mobile technology. I would never sleep if I didn’t have a BlackBerry.
- Stop worrying. Worry never solved anything. It saps your energy and takes brain power away from thinking about really critical things. And don’t try to control the uncontrollable. It’s an impossible and frustrating task.
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