Entrepreneurial Insomnia

How well are you sleeping? I know many entrepreneurs who aren’t. The reasons are many. One particular friend of mine has been struggling with this for a while. He has started going to bed earlier each evening because he knows he is going to wake up around 3:30 or 4:00 and won’t be able to go back to sleep. So, he has resorted to getting up at that time and working for a few hours from home before heading to his office.

My friend explains that he is awakened because his mind starts churning. The frustrating thing for him is the fact that he knows he’s obsessing over small stuff – sometimes it’s infinitesimally small stuff. Most of the time the thoughts he is having are about things going on in his business that he shouldn’t even be worrying about. I certainly understand what he’s going through – I’ve been there many times myself. So what’s the solution?

For starters, my friend knows he needs to delegate. There are others in his organization who should be handling the issues that are keeping him awake. Thus, the first step in fixing his slumber problem is to make sure that he has people on his team who are responsible for handling the nitty-gritty items so that he can focus at working on his business rather than in it.

The next step in my friend’s process is physical activity. He is used to working out but there are days where he blows it off. Physical exercise produces endorphins which help reduce stress and generate positive feelings. A brisk walk or run along with lifting weights for 30 minutes or more each day will do the trick. If I miss a day due to travel I find myself actually craving my workout regimen. Generally I find that physical activity first thing in the morning gets my day started off right. My friend has re-committed to doing the same.

In addition to daily exercise it’s critical that we spend time becoming centered through meditation. This practice enables us to clear our minds of the clutter that tends to accumulate. My friend has attested to the benefits he enjoys when he meditates for 15 minutes each day. He finds that meditation lowers his blood pressure and pulse rate. He feels calmer as his anxiety melts away.

Journaling is another technique that has been helpful for my friend. He is working to become more disciplined at recording the various aspects of his day in a journal. Notes are made about the high points and the low points – he can then look for patterns that shed light on what might be working in his subconscious to keep him from sleeping.

Each of us has much for which to be grateful. My friend acknowledges this and is working on starting and ending each day in gratitude. I like to take this a step further. Before making any phone call or entering a meeting, I try to hold a thought of gratitude in my mind. It may just be an image of one of my daughters, my wife or my grandchildren. But whatever the thought or image, it sets the tone for my encounters with others, and it keeps a smile on my face throughout the day.

I gave my friend another piece of advice that works consistently for me. One way I avoid becoming too wrapped up in daily frustrations is to “get out of myself.” What does this mean? Very simply I find that when I am doing something for someone else I forget about my own troubles. There are so many ways to do this – large and small. Turning the focus away from ourselves and onto others can be a powerful sleeping pill. We go to sleep with the satisfaction that we helped make a difference in someone else’s life.

My friend is amazing at creating trust and building relationships with others. His whole face shone as he professed that the high point of his day is when he can make a sales presentation or interact with a prospective customer. I told him that he ought to program his schedule so that he can do this at least once a day. We should all make sure that we are doing what we love and enjoy every single day.

Entrepreneurial insomnia can be cured by a cocktail of physical activity, meditation, maintaining a journal, living in gratitude, getting out of ourselves and dose of doing something we love each day. I guarantee that if you follow this recipe you’ll sleep like a baby. Sweet dreams.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 2 – The When Affliction.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Sleepless in Seattle

I’m going to briefly describe a scenario to see if it sounds at all familiar to you. Here goes. Your day was particularly stressful and things didn’t go the way you wanted. A fairly major and troublesome issue is unresolved and needs fixing immediately. You go to bed with the weight of your day still front and center. While you toss and turn your mind churns with thoughts from the day. Twenty minutes go by. You stare at the ceiling. Fifty minutes have passed and you might have faded in and out but you don’t know for sure. At some point during the night you awaken, realizing your dreams are becoming beyond weird. Then that troublesome issue starts its nocturnal carousing. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of heads are nodding right now.

We all have obviously experienced what I described above. There are a number of emotions driving this response including anxiety, fear, frustration, anger and guilt. Isn’t it interesting that it’s usually the negative stuff that keeps us awake at night? Think about it. We generally don’t stay awake because we are feeling euphoria, happiness, joy, peace or gratitude. When we’re “Sleepless in Seattle” it’s a sure bet that we won’t get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning. So what to do?

I have self-developed a technique that works very well for me and perhaps it will be helpful for you as well. I call it the three Rs – Relax, Release and Replace. Relax may sound trite, but it’s absolutely necessary. OK, you say, how am I supposed to relax when I’m all balled up inside? Start with a bedtime routine. Try and go to bed at the same time every night. Watch what you eat and drink within two or three hours of going to bed. Practice meditating to clear your mind. When you go to bed, be very aware of your breathing. See that it becomes slow, measured and deep.

Now that you are in somewhat of a relaxed state it’s time to Release. Recently I woke up in the middle of the night as I usually do to take a pill and make the journey to the bathroom. Normally I go right back to sleep, but this particular night my mind went into overdrive. The issue stemmed from a nasty surprise in one of my businesses that could have proven to be very expensive. In the past I might have allowed my thoughts to spin out of control and ultimately begin envisioning the worst possible scenarios. But this time I said to myself, “Lee, you are not going to solve this tonight. It will still be there in the morning and you will need a fresh perspective which you won’t have if you stay awake for the next four hours.” Then I smiled and went back to sleep because I knew this to be the truth.

Finally it’s time for the last step . . . Replace. Once you’ve released the thoughts that are keeping you awake, replace them with positive thoughts. One of my favorite places in the whole world is on the side of a fairly steep hill on a Caribbean island overlooking the ocean with a clear blue sky and the sun’s light flooding every inch of the experience. It’s not hard for me to bring this vision into my consciousness which makes me feel very warm and safe. Falling asleep at that point is a breeze.

Lying awake and churning a problem – large or small – generally accomplishes nothing. Creative solutions are inspired by healthy sleep and a clear head. Consistently using the Three Rs technique puts us on a successful path toward accomplishing this.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.