Running a business sounds like a thrilling adventure on paper but often comes with struggles around balance. Even the most seasoned entrepreneurs deal with challenges around balancing their life and goals with the traditional “more is better” entrepreneurial mindset. Although online business gurus often preach about pushing through to make progress, it’s easy to end up working too hard, burning out, and feeling like you’re always ON with your business. Instead of reclaiming the freedom you so deeply craved when you started your online business in the first place, you’re left exhausted.
Online business owners don’t talk much about rest as a healthy entrepreneur, but it’s actually an essential element to health and success. Studies show that U.S. workers experienced “significantly worse productivity, performance, and safety outcomes” among those who slept less and estimated a $1,967 loss in productivity per worker due to poor sleep. The other extreme is work overload, which can also lead to burnout, lack of motivation, and poor focus.
The problem is most budding entrepreneurs don’t think they have the time to sleep more, but the truth is, you can’t afford not to carve out room for rest. After all, our time and our health are our most precious resources and, to be a healthy entrepreneur, you need to make getting enough sleep a priority, just like finding your perfect niche or finding your first clients. Whether you’re still working too hard at your day job, trying to travel more, at a corporate job, or on Mom duty, there are ways to get more sleep without compromising your entrepreneurial dream. Here are 12 ways to get started.
1) Set Boundaries
It’s tempting to think you can get to bed when you’re tired and leave the day behind you, but setting firm boundaries is imperative to make getting enough sleep a priority. Those boundaries include letting family and friends (and clients!) know that short of an emergency, you’re not available after a set time in the evening and sticking to it.
However, setting boundaries with yourself is just as important. Instead of working too much into the night with no end in sight, you’ll need to set working and non-working hours (and days), as well as working and non-working spaces. This can be tough if you’re working from a different timezone than your clients, but you have to achieve a balance – for instance, I always block off 4:30 pm-7:30 pm on my calendar, because that’s when my baby girl gets home from daycare, and I want to be present with her for playtime, dinner time, bath time and our bedtime routine. Afterward, I occasionally take an evening meeting if absolutely necessary.
Still, sneaking in some work from bed comes with negative consequences, including decreased sleep quality, productivity, energy, and quality of life. It’s also boundary-crushing when you’re in a relationship or trying to respect your quest for more balance in your life. I personally don’t allow any electronics in the bedroom and would prefer to spend the time hanging out with my husband.
2) Focus on Results, Not the Level of Effort
If you’re a parent to a human or fur baby, you’ll know that praising effort and work is often encouraged over results. After all, a kid working too hard who earns a B in a challenging subject may show more determination than a classmate who got an A without trying.
That may be a good rule of thumb when you’re young but can be detrimental to your mindset as an entrepreneur. When it comes to online business building, effort does not equal health and success; results do. Your goal should be to work efficiently to get the results you want and the success you strive for in the least amount of time. Whether that’s outsourcing more tasks or exploring time management hacks, you can be successful without spending hours slaving away over spreadsheets and marketing pitch decks.
3) Understand the Risks of Not Sleeping
There are many risks of not sleeping; some people equate it to the perils of smoking. Chronic sleep deprivation often leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, depression, immunity issues. Entrepreneurs should heed the warning: It can even lead to a lower sex drive. The next time you want to stay up to work on your content marketing game, remember it could mean you’re compromising your health and libido.
4) Embrace Being More Productive in Less Time
Beyond the health risks of not making sleep a priority, you’re also risking a loss in work productivity, focus, and momentum. Squeezing in more work means you’re likely to get less done or make more mistakes. When you’re rested, you can get more work done in less time and nurture that balance you’re looking for. A survey by Microsoft says we lose an entire month a year on lack of productivity. Instead of wasting time trying to work when we’re exhausted, we could be taking breaks, sleeping well, and working less to make us more productive.
5) Set Reasonable Goals and Timelines for Yourself
I’m no stranger to setting ambitious goals for myself, but they’re also realistic ones. When I set out to start my own online business and ended up earning multiple six-figures in the first year, I was still being practical. I relied on my previous experience and connections and outsourced anything I could. Plus, batched my work to optimize my time, reinvested in my business, and set reasonable timelines for projects. I also protected my rest and was determined to leave behind my days of working too much in my corporate career.
You can be ambitious and realistic at the same time. The only caveat here is not to compare your business and progress to everyone else. Your competitor may be in a place to outsource more than you can or run their business full-time. The goal isn’t to overwork yourself to get it all done and keep up with everyone else. Instead, focus on actionable progress and momentum while prioritizing rest.
6) Schedule in a Nap
There’s a reason so many cultures around the world normalize napping as a part of the everyday routine: It’s effective. Sure, many Spaniards take an afternoon siesta and then head out at night for a late dinner or socializing. Yet naps also make you more productive and better rested. Short naps under an hour are also shown to boost your alertness, mood, and performance and fight chronic sleep deprivation. Try scheduling a 20 or 30-minute nap with an alarm set to recharge your mind and reclaim the day.
7) Don’t Try to Monetize Everything
There’s tons of noise out there about monetizing your hobbies and talents. I’m all for turning passion into profit if that’s the right online business model for you. However, that doesn’t mean you need to monetize everything in sight. Leave room for relaxation and art, reading, or writing for fun without letting your mind wander to dollar signs every time you take up a hobby. When you indulge in passions for fun, you reduce your stress, enjoy life, and fall asleep faster.
8) Delegate and Automate
Delegating tasks and automating systems and processes frees up your time, energy, and focus. I quit working too much and started outsourcing small tasks to Virtual Assistants and slowly built up teams with marketing pros and copywriters. The idea is to outsource areas that take up valuable time so you can focus on higher-paying responsibilities and strategies in your business. Remember, you can also outsource tasks at home. From cleaning to meal prep delivery, you can free up your time, so you have more opportunity for focused work and much-needed rest.
Automation is also an integral part of running an efficient online business. If you run a business that relies on social media marketing, you can plan posts in advance with tools like Later to deploy your batched work for months. Receiving invoice reminders, putting your payroll on autopilot, and sending new clients to an onboarding portal (Dubsado works well for this!) to collect valuable information are also ways to automate more in your business.
If you’re unsure what to delegate or automate, try this: Set aside tasks you dislike and decide not to do them. Next, hire someone to do it for you. Start with what you can afford now, and add more as your business scales. It’s that easy.
9) You Can Work Hard, But You Don’t Have to Play Hard, Too
We all know people who love to play as hard as they work, but you don’t have to be one of them. You can head home, relax, and go to bed without burning the midnight oil. There’s something invaluable about giving yourself time to reflect and find your quiet center instead of overloading yourself with social commitments. Personally, these days my life is pretty simple, and I like it: work, exercise, mama duty, and mocktails.
Just be sure to schedule time to meet up with friends at least a few times a month and enjoy yourself – it’s important to fill that cup, too! Then devote the rest of your evenings to taking care of yourself and getting the rest you deserve.
10) Consciously Do Things to Unwind
Building an online business takes deliberate focus to gain momentum, but can also lead to feeling wound up well past bedtime. If you need permission to relax and unwind, listen to the science. Yale University reports that relaxing more helps you cut stress, reduce muscle tension, improve memory, avoid depression, and battle anxiety.
The trick is consciously doing things to unwind in the first place. Bingeing on Netflix might be a fun way to unwind, but you should have a few techniques in your repertoire to keep your mind refreshed. Scheduling a regular massage, joining a yoga class, taking a walk, or connecting with friends allows for more purposeful relaxation on your journey towards health and success.
11) Learn to Let Go
If you’re up at night thinking about everything you can’t control, you’re robbing yourself of precious rest time. It’s time to let go of the things you can’t control or the things you can’t work on right now. Otherwise, they’ll end up owning you.
Whether you’re stressed about a personal situation or obsessing over your online traffic, letting go is key to leading a more relaxed and stress-free life. Of course, there’s still the question of how to let go in the first place. Different techniques work for different people, but there are some universal favorites to try. Practicing mindfulness, meditating, and observing negative emotions without obsessing over them are a few places to start.
A digital detox or sabbath with no phones, computers, or anything digital one day per week is also a way to let go and focus on self-care. It’s also a fun (and challenging) exercise to do with friends or family.
12) Make Getting Enough Sleep a Priority with a Bedtime Routine
Contrary to what some people believe, the vast majority of human beings need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and very few can get by with less. Focus your mindset around the idea that rest is a sacred necessity and just as important as the profit in your business.
To make room for rest as a healthy entrepreneur, you need to prioritize sleep with a plan and stick to it. It all starts with a rock-solid nighttime routine that helps you wind down and get ready for a rewarding night of rest. Plan to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, so your body is working on consistent rest. Adding in a walk in the evening or first thing in the morning also helps you destress and soak up more sunshine in your life. And, if you’re a mama like me who’s waking up to pump or to feed your scrumptious LO in the middle of the night, then just remember this is a season and this too shall pass (and you may even miss it!).
A healthy bedtime routine also requires good sleep hygiene. That means no screens in bed, skipping caffeine after 2 pm, and getting rid of red lights in the bedroom. Treat your bedroom like a sanctuary where screens aren’t allowed and light some soft candles. Instead of reading on a tablet, grab an old-fashioned book with real pages to turn. And if you’re working too hard during evening hours, stop all tasks one to two hours before bed to give yourself time to unwind from your day. A bubble bath and soothing music can also set the mood to crawl into bed and let the evening light lull you to sleep.
The Bottom Line?
The key is to reframe how you think about work and rest and where your priorities lie. If you’re too tired to function or are running on enough sleep to achieve the status quo, you’re not much closer to your online business goals than before. You’re also likely to damage your health, burn out, and lose your momentum before you really get started. Set firm boundaries to protect sacred sleep and let it fuel the way you approach building your business. Your health and success depend on it.