It hits every entrepreneur, at some point -- that dreaded lying awake at night. Insomnia is a prime inconvenience, mostly because entrepreneurs like to be well-rested sorts so that they can attack the day with gusto, come morning.
Assuming the issue hasn't arisen because of fortifying themselves with too many espressos, people lie awake at night for four reasons: They are so full of excitement and ideas that they can’t sleep. They are thinking about all the things they need to do. A pressing business problem (such as one involving personnel or cash flow) has triggered fear and anxiety. They are future-tripping about the “what ifs” related to a business.
Over the long term taking control over this kind of ruminating is more helpful than calling a doctor for a sleeping aid. When lying awake at night, thinking about the business, try these techniques to turn thing around so to get the sleep that's needed:
To stop this form of entrepreneurial anxiety, deploy a workable system for capturing ideas throughout the day. By workable, I mean one that's makes it worthwhile to take the time to use. Some people use digital systems like Evernote or Basecamp, and others prefer good, old-fashioned note cards or Post-it notes tucked in appropriate places.
Whatever the system, chose one and be ruthless about using it, banishing forever the days of saying, “I’ll have to write that down, later.” Otherwise, later nearly always means those ideas come up at midnight, while lying in bed and staring at the ceiling.
Create a system for delegating at work. Entrepreneurs often build their companies with a bootstrapping mentality, and it's a challenge for them to hand over the reins to appropriate, qualified individuals who can help.
When someone mulls over a to-do list in bed, that’s a sign of a company tracking important tasks throughout the day or having a system for executing them (apart from letting it all rest on entrepreneurial shoulders). It's a surefire way for an entrepreneur to waste hours sifting through mental clutter that could be spent sleeping.
Poor cash flow, a tricky personnel issue, a nasty customer who posted a very bad review online of the business -- these are the irritations that can keep an entrepreneur up at night.
The antidote to this is three-pronged: First, request help from others, even if it’s just five minutes with a mentor or friend to vent about what happened. Second, differentiate between problems that can be controlled versus those that can't be. Cash flow is probably an issue where the best solution can be engineered, but someone's decision to post a negative review is not. Third, try to steer away from rumination by repeating the mantra: “I’m doing good by resting my body.” Keeping still, quiet and prone might not bring a state of sleep right away, but it at least the body's muscles and organs relax, and sleep could follow.
One downside of being a forward and future-thinking entrepreneur is going overboard in thinking about potential problems or things that might go wrong. After a hard day at work, the mind can wander at night to all the things that weren't immediately part of the day -- like the future.
The quickest way back to sleep? Recognize that if the mind is anticipating the future, it's possible to purposefully choose to imagine scenarios that are wholeheartedly positive. When lying there trying to get to sleep, notice when the brain wanders to a place of things going wrong and remember there’s also the possibility that things could go beautifully right. Imagine those possibilities and become excited by them. And after becoming a little too excited, see suggestion #1 and immediately start writing things down.
Sleeping is just as important as having a strategy. The days of glamorizing the stressed-out, overworked entrepreneurial lifestyle are as passé as the dot-com bubble's bursting. Take charge of sleep and get the rest needed for the business because there’s little point in doing work inspired by a passion while being a walking zombie who can’t connect to that passion.
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