You’ve heard the story before -- the one about the entrepreneur who stays up all night, sleeps less than four hours, then gets up at the crack of dawn to crush another 80-hour workweek.
We respect this entrepreneur and love the grit. We admire the determination, work ethic and no quit attitude. This entrepreneur is a warrior, unfazed by time or physical and mental needs. At times, we wish we could be more like this entrepreneur -- but deep inside, we know we can’t be that way, and we shouldn’t. The good news is that this legendary entrepreneur is more myth than reality.
It’s time that we put an end to the idealized notion that successful entrepreneurs are super humans who don’t need to eat, sleep, relax or have a little fun once in awhile. In order to take care of business, we first have to take care of ourselves. What follows is a set of tips I use to hack my productivity by putting a focus on the management and enhancement of my energy and mood so I can maximize my effectiveness and productivity, both in business and personally.
1. Sleep as late as you need to (when you can!).
Sleep is the most important factor that influences your effectiveness during the day, including your body’s ability to fight sickness. A sleep deficit, especially a chronic one, will ruin your decision-making ability, short-term memory and ability to focus. If you’re an entrepreneur like me, you may have the ability to control your own schedule to some degree. This is a luxury you wouldn’t have in a traditional career path as an employee -- so take advantage of it. Get enough sleep every single day. If that means sleeping until 10:30 a.m. during the workweek because you stayed up to finish a project the night before, do it. The goal is wake up each day without an alarm clock and feel ready to rock and roll in business and life all the time. Who likes the sound of their alarm clock anyway?
2. Have a post-work routine.
Setting up a routine allows you to relax and flush the cortisol (stress hormone) out of your system. Do something physical to finish off each day; I’ll either hit the gym, play basketball, go to yoga or do something as simple as playing darts in my apartment. The important thing is that the activity must demand some level of physical exertion and mental focus. By temporarily taking the mind’s focus away from the day-to-day of business, you give it a chance to refocus and become even sharper the next day.
3. After 10 p.m., hide your cell phone.
The cell phone is perhaps our greatest asset and enemy of peak performance in the modern era. Emails, texts, Facebook, dog videos, news, you name it -- all of this keeps the mind occupied and the brain overstimulated, preventing you from ever really relaxing. Cell phones emit blue light, which negatively affects the secretion of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and prohibits a good night’s sleep. While the new iPhones have accounted for this with the Night Shift feature, it’s still important to keep in mind that an alert from your phone, or aimless scrolling, is a dangerous way to curtail your relaxation and future performance. Literally get your phone out of your sight so you aren’t tempted to use it, and don’t pick it up again until 30 minutes after waking up. Give yourself a chance to wake up, think mindfully about your day and set goals and intentions or think about what you’re excited about today. Your phone will still be there when you’ve had a moment to yourself.
4. Take a cold shower.
When we begin to fall asleep, our body temperature naturally drops by 1-2 degrees. A cold shower can help stimulate this process and conversely, a warm shower can hinder it. If you are new to cold showers, take a warm shower at first and then turn the water colder for the last 30-60 seconds. It will feel both refreshing and relaxing at the same time. Cold showers have been shown to improve immune function, reduce stress and relieve symptoms of mild depression. These effects are largely caused by increased blood flow to our internal organs and stimulation of our body’s mitochondria, which happens when the nerve endings in our skin are initially shocked from the cold water.
5. Get in bed and read fiction.
Fiction engages the imagination and demands present state attention. When the imagination is engaged, the logical mind is not, helping you to "chill out." My key piece of advice for this is to read fiction before bed, never non-fiction. Non-fiction tends to encourage projection into the future, which will lead to an increase in stress hormones with the ability to deter sleep and affecting your ability to be successful the next day. If you incorporate each of the previous tips, you’ll probably only get through a couple pages, anyway, since you’ll be so relaxed and already on your way to dozing off. That’s what happens to me most nights.