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Small Business Owners: 3 Surprising Ways to Take Back Your Time and Decrease Your Stress

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More time less stress small – relaxed woman with clock and laptop

A paradox of small business success is that time seems to evaporate as demands exponentially increase; the idea of getting sufficient down time becomes almost laughable when you’re in the success spiral. As a business coach, my first job is to help business owners take back their lives: it’s essential to strategically unplug, work less, and rest more.

Lack of Sleep Will Cost You

In “The Economics of Sleep1, Stephen Dubner examines the impact of sleep on health, efficiency, effectiveness and income. Until recently, there was a prevailing perspective – especially in the US – that sleep is simply wasted time. At this point, the data is in; sleep deficiencies:

  • contribute to many health issues (e.g., cardiovascular disease and obesity),
  • cause cognitive deficits (decreased attention, focus, processing speed, and short-term memory), and
  • result in delayed and impulsive decision making.

Heed this warning from one high quality study, as well: “Our main result is that sleeping one extra hour per night on average increases wages by 16%, highlighting the importance of restedness to human productivity.”2. While this study focused on workers rather than business owners, it’s safe to assume the results will hold for you.

Too Much Tech Will Cost You

In a recent article in Forbes3, Alice Walton makes the case that unplugging from technology is essential for recuperating from stress, feeling connected with others, avoiding mental health issues and – notably – improving sleep. A brain deprived of down time has difficulty regulating emotions and generating pro-social behavior, often causing friction with clients or employees. In addition, regularly using a computer late at night is associated with sleep disorders, stress and depressive symptoms. The blue light from our screens (including tablets, laptops, computers and televisions) interferes with the brain’s hormonal sleep/wake signals, decreasing both quality and quantity of sleep.

Improve Sleep and Decrease Tech Overload to Increase Your Business Success

If you try the following changes for a few weeks, you’ll begin to see increases in your well-being with no negative hit on your business.

  1. If you’re sleep deprived, sleep more! You’ll become more efficient and effective, make better decisions more rapidly, and improve your memory. That means your work will require less time.
  2. Put away your toys: Ideally, we’d all be unplugged a couple of hours before bedtime but that’s probably a pipe dream. Instead, commit to shutting off the screens 30 minutes before bed. Try it for a week and then revel in the results.
  3. Try a ‘Tech Shabbat:’ Filmmaker Tiffany Schlain recommends a weekly tech sabbath to relax, renew, and reconnect. Reminding ourselves that there’s more to life than tech – like actual people – is a worthy endeavor. You can hear more about it here.

Take the Tech Challenge: 

For 1 month, sleep and disconnect frequently enough to test the research claims; you’ll wind up getting more done in less time and being a happier, healthier business owner.

Dr. Lyssa Menard is a Business Coach, Clinical Health Psychologist, and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Northwestern University. She specializes in empowering motivated business owners, executives, and other high-achievers to work, live, love, feel, and look better by taking charge of their stressors, anxiety, weight, and mood. Under her care, overwhelmed, overcommitted, or overweight high achievers learn to get unstuck, take control, and regain “flow.”

1 The Economics of Sleep, Part 2 by Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics Podcast, March 30, 2016.

2  Gibson & Shrader. Time Use and Productivity: The Wage Returns to Sleep. National Science Foundation, July 10, 2014.

3 Alice Walton. Feeling Overconnected? 5 Reasons To Unplug From Technology After Work. Forbes.com, February 6, 2013.

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