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OWNER'S MANUAL

11 Ways to Sleep Better at Night
 

You're a 24-7 entrepreneur. But you need to get some shut-eye. Here's how to make the sleep you do get a whole lot better.

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Owning your own business has many cool outcomes. A good night's sleep may not be one of them, though, especially when you're overwhelmed or stressed--which could be most of the time.

(Old joke: Entrepreneurs sleep like babies: They wake up crying every two hours.)

If that's you, forget the Ambien and the warm milk. Take steps to fix the source of your stress or anxiety.

Try a few of these--or all of them:

1. Step back from one thing you care about but have no ability to impact.

For some people it's politics. For others it's family. For others it's global warming. You care--and you want others to care.

Fine. Do what you can: Vote. Lend a listening ear. Recycle, and reduce your carbon footprint. Do what you can do. Be your own change--but don't try to make everyone else change.

They won't.

2. Set up formal warning systems.

The larger your operation, the more you have to worry about. The list is endless. You're always on edge, especially at night. So you check your email. You call to make sure everything is OK. A lot.

The fear of the unknown drives you crazy.

Instead of worrying about what you don't know, make sure you do know. Decide what you need to know when, and set up systems to support it. Let your employees know what constitutes an emergency--and, just as important, what doesn't. Create automated systems that notify you of problems.

A friend runs a 1,200-employee manufacturing plant. He has a separate phone for emergencies: Employees call that phone or send emails to emergency@. He turns off his regular phone at night and sleeps soundly, because he knows if something comes up, he'll know. He doesn't have to check.

Determine what you need to know and create systems to ensure you will. Then you won't have to worry.

3. Be grateful for criticism.

At least someone cares enough to want you to improve: your product, your service, your work.

You only need to worry when no one cares enough to criticize you.

Criticism creates an opportunity. Embrace it.

4. Write it down.

David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, told me this:

Most people try to use their psyche as their systemic process, which means issues gain importance based on your emotions. I've never met anyone who said they didn't feel a little better if they sat down and made a list. Nothing changes when you write things down except how you engaged with your issues: Then you can be objective and also be creative and intuitive.

Your head is for having ideas, not holding ideas, and it's certainly not for filing them away. Without exception you will feel better if you get stuff out of your head.

Try it. Write down your challenges. List your problems or concerns.

I bet you'll start to feel better right away. You'll realize things aren't as bad as you think. You'll also start to figure out ways to make things better--because now you won't passively worry. You'll actively problem solve.

5. Lay off the conspiracy theories.

No one is out to get you. Even if someone is, they're really not the problem. Most of us do a better job sabotaging ourselves than someone else ever could.

Besides, you can't control what other people might do. But you can control what you will do.

6. Stay out of other people's business.

Help. Offer guidance. Encourage. Motivate.

But don't gossip. Don't get mixed up in politics. It always ends badly. Never put yourself in a position where you're worried that Phil will tell Allen you said something snarky about Stu and... *

7. Reduce the number of judgment calls.

The more prepared you are to handle a situation, the easier it is to be objective--and to avoid stressing out later over whether you made the wrong call.

Create price lists that take into account unusual requests. Set up guidelines for responding to customer complaints. Create employee policies for objective areas like attendance, quality, and performance.

Think about situations you struggle with, and decide what you will do before things get stressful or confrontational. Then you can make better decisions and greatly reduce your level of stress--and regret.

8. Create a cutoff time...

Yeah, I know, you're a 24-7 entrepreneur. But that's impossible. Decide when you'll stop working each day, no matter what.

And if stopping makes you feel guilty?

9. ...Then create a plan for tomorrow.

Write down what you need to do first thing tomorrow. You'll rest easier knowing you have a plan to take care of what didn't get done today.

10. Spend a few minutes every day getting better at something unrelated.

It doesn't matter what you pick. Just make sure it's not business. A musical instrument. A foreign language. A hobby. Whatever it is, spend a little time on it. Get a little better.

Step outside your daily grind and do something for yourself. In the process, you'll gain a little perspective.

Perspective soothes the soul.

11. Count your blessings.

Take a second before you turn out the light. In that moment, quit worrying about what you don't have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don't.

Think about what you do have. Thought so. You have a lot to be thankful for.

Feels pretty good, doesn't it?

Feeling better about yourself is the best sleeping pill of all.

* Bonus points if you get the (admittedly easy) reference

Last updated: Nov 15, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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