Time is fast becoming our most precious commodity but is our struggle to maximise productivity undermining one of our most important neurological processes – sleep?
Time seems to be an ever limited commodity in the busy, multi-faceted lives of small business owners. As a society, we are more connected than ever via devices which are getting ever smaller and more sophisticated. Clients’ expectations have also changed. They want immediate responses and the 9-5 working day is all but a distant memory in the evolution of workplace practices.
For many small business owners, this means an increased connectivity to their businesses – both day and night. This allows them to run busy lives by day and focus on important business matters after hours. This is a great short-term strategy for some. However, unsurprisingly habitual late-night working is not good news. It cuts out the ‘down time’ (such as relaxation with family and friends), which supports emotional and physical self-regulation. Often, it leads to fatigue which, as the neuroscience tells us, directly affects our capacity to focus, deal with stress, stay creative and work with complexity.
Though there may not be many quick-win answers for self-reliant, small business owners, the following tips can help modify some work practices to reach better work-life integration.
My top 5 tips for managing your time and fatigue
Work on important, non-urgent tasks which allow time to work at a pace that suits you and embeds reflection time. Ask yourself how urgent each task really is. Can it be delegated or subcontracted? I often practice the ‘in-tray’ exercise. For instance, ask yourself, “If this sat in my in-tray for a month and I did nothing about it, what would the impact and consequences be?” If the answer is “nothing or minimal” then it’s time to re-prioritise!
Take a 20-minute nap during the day
It’s easier for those who work from home because it helps spark creativity, refresh and focus you for the rest of the day. But beware that exceeding the 20-minute rule may mean that you fall into a deep sleep which will make it difficult to refocus for the rest of the day and sleep that night!
Running your own business tempts you to be available to your customers 7 days a week. I challenge you to give yourself one day a week to completely switch off. If your business does not allow you a 24-hour break, then set specific time segments where clients cannot contact you. Giving yourself permission to relax can be very powerful.
Find an activity
If you find it hard to switch off from work and lie in bed, find an activity which clearly delineates between your work day and evening. This could be a workout, a meditation, a walk, a hobby or any activity which, as it become habitual, will trigger you to relax.
Spend time on self-care activities
You can do some self-care activities during break time. These may relate to professional development, physical activity, as well as psychological, spiritual or relational pursuits. During that time, if work issues consistently pop into your mind, write them down on a list and then forget about them until you are
back at work. It’s amazing how regular time out can help gain new and fresh perspectives.