How to feel less tired while running a business

Don't succumb to the 3pm slump.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 10 Oct 2016

Tiredness is a commonly cited problem for those running their own business, and little wonder. When you have to be the boss, the HR manager, the marketing whiz and the master of payroll there’s often little time left for relaxing and getting some kip. When you’re not in the office your mind is packed with a million work problems that need sorting out – and that’s before you have to deal with the school run, the leaky tap and visiting the in-laws. It can all leave you feeling so drained.

Many gurus have come up with radical ways to cope with being drowsy, but there’s no need to start putting yak butter in your morning brew or become a master of Ashtanga yoga. There are some simple things you can do to keep your mind and body energised. There’s nothing radical here, it’s mainly about sleep, diet and exercise, but the real challenge is keeping it up - and not denying yourself rest on the grounds you are too busy. If you burn yourself out then your business will be in big trouble.

1. Get enough quality sleep

It’s an obvious one but you need to get the right amount of high quality sleep if you don’t want to go to work feeling exhausted. You might want to invest in blackout blinds or ear plugs, suggests business coach Gemma McCrae, and keep your bedroom’s temperature below 21 degrees. ‘Don’t look at electronics before you go to sleep and avoid alcohol.’

There’s much contention as to what constitutes the perfect amount of sleep, and when you should take it. But ‘don’t torture yourself,’ says health coach Dominica Roszko. ‘Try to identify the number of hours you need to sleep in order to feel good when you wake up. You need to listen to your body.’ And if you have to fit it around your work or events then so be it – a 10pm bedtime isn’t always viable. Just make sure you get enough.

And don’t be afraid to go into the office late if you need to catch up on dozing – you’re the boss after all. ‘If you’re lucky enough to have the flexibility [when you’ve missed out on sleep] then take an extra hour or two to catch up on your energy levels,’ says Lee Biggins, MD and founder of CV-Library. ‘If I can do a six or seven hour day completely refreshed and in the right frame of mind I can deliver a lot more than if I drag myself in and do ten hours absolutely shattered.’

2. Eat the right kinds of energy

Your diet can leave you feeling lethargic or give you a welcome kick of energy. Try to eat quality fats and proteins like nuts, oily fish, spinach and eggs, suggests McCrae. And ditch the big portions of stodgy carbs. ‘I avoid big heavy meals at lunchtime in particular, because they make me feel sluggish and tired in the afternoon,’ says Biggins.

And try to have a healthy relationship with caffeine. You don’t have to ditch coffee altogether (perish the thought) but try to keep your consumption below 400mg per day – roughly two Costa lattes. ‘I drink caffeine, but in sensible amounts – a tea in the morning then maybe one in the afternoon to pick me up,’ says Biggins. If you’re cutting down then start slowly, says Roszko, perhaps by swapping one of your daily cups for a green smoothie.

3. Get moving

Exercise gets your blood pumping and also helps you get to sleep. McCrae suggests it’s best to get active before work. ‘Richard Branson says it’s the most important thing he does to keep his energy levels up. It wakes you up, it gets your endorphins going and will give you energy for the rest of the day.'

‘I go to the gym five days a week – it helps me clear my mind, calm down and focus,’ says Biggins. ‘I tend to do it after work – that way my body recovers overnight rather than first thing in the morning, which leaves me already aching ahead of the day.’ If you don’t fancy going for a run first thing or pounding the treadmill on your way home then exercise can be as simple as a few stretches, says Roszko.

4. Make your work less draining

There are many things at work that can drain your energy away – try to minimise these if you can't get rid of them altogether. ‘Anything that stresses you is going to drain you of energy,’ says McCrae. ‘Identify what causes you to be stressed out and establish what you can do to manage that stress level – like delegating that job to somebody else, or not seeing a particular person.’ Outsource difficult tasks that leave you in despair and, if you can afford it, then hiring someone to manage your diary and other tasks can make a big difference. 

Take regular breaks: the general consensus is 5 minutes every 40 minutes or so, but even if that seems like a stretch then don’t go your whole day without getting up, going outside and thinking about something else. Avoid scheduling important meetings for just after lunch and get your most important bits of work done first thing when you’ve still got bags of energy.

And make sure your work environment itself isn’t an energy drain. Get your hands on a comfy chair, says McCrae, and try to sit next to a window. ‘I’ve luckily got access to windows in my office – there’s nothing worse than being in a stuffy room and having the heating blasting out,’ says Biggins. ‘Fresh air does make a difference.’

Image source: Daisuke Tashiro/Flickr


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