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Tips 116-120: It's Friday. Stop Working, Already!

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116.

Set Stop Times

Entrepreneurs have more work than they can get done in a given day, so it's easy to fall prey to the "just one more thing"syndrome. One more e-mail. One more call. Before you know it, it's 9 p.m. Keep yourself in check with stop times. Pick a day--say, Tuesday--and choose a time when you will put the day's work to bed no matter what. At 6:30 p.m., you're done. Choose your stop times, and you can avoid defaulting to the "one more thing" syndrome and burnout.

117.

Get At Least Four Hours Of Exercise Every Week

It's a vicious cycle. You're exhausted by the end of the workday, so you go home and crash on the couch, which only makes you feel more sluggish. Resist the urge to vegetate; instead, get energized with a regular exercise routine. After an hour of the gym, Pilates, yoga, or whatever is your preferred activity, your body and mind are revitalized and refueled for more life and the job tomorrow. Studies show that aerobic exercise doesn't just do wonders for your cardiovascular system and reduce your stress, but it also enhances brain function and memory.

118.

Set Realistic Deadlines

If you think you can get things done faster than you can--and Type As, I'm talking to you--make sure to stop and reassess before you promise a delivery date you can't meet without imploding. Things always take longer than you think, and chronic over-promising is a huge and needless stressor. Build in time for scope creep, an extra 25 percent or more, and visitations of Murphy's Law. Realistic deadlines mean saying no sometimes and proposing alternative scenarios. Your goal should be a time frame that is feasible for effective performance.

119.

Tell Yourself A Different Story

It's not the boss or the deadline that's stressing you out. It's you--or rather, your reaction to it. It's the story you tell yourself about the stress that makes it stressful. Work stress is not a matter of life and limb, but your caveman brain interprets it that way. The first thought after a stressful event is a distortion by the panicked brain, the amygdala. It's a false alarm. When the stress goes off and the emotions rage, step back, take a breath, and reframe the event with a different attitude. Tell yourself you're not buying the panic of an ancient brain default. You're going to stay neutral in this situation, not let emotions run you, and dispute the stress with the facts of the situation.

120.

Get More Sleep

High performers in any field need to be fully rested to be at the top of their game. Sleep is a critical engine of productivity that's often overlooked in the bravado of the workplace. If you don't get enough shut-eye--seven to nine hours a night for adults--the key tool in the knowledge economy, your brain, will be compromised. Sleep is essential to remember things, to connect data, and to help restore the body. In one study, lab rats deprived of sleep couldn't remember the routes through mazes they'd taken before. Some people can get by on seven hours of sleep, but others may need up to nine quality hours to reach their basal sleep need. When you're not getting enough sleep, you build up a sleep deficit that has to be caught up to restore peak alertness. To improve your chances, try removing the stimulants from your bedroom--TVs, computers, video games, and Red Bull.
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