I write this post from under luxurious white bedding that is pure bliss. Pillows nestle my head gently as morning light streams softly through a window. It’s the best kind of magic… and then I’m reminded of someone.
Earlier this week I had lunch with Michelle, an entrepreneur I advise. She is the CEO/Co-Founder of a SaaS startup. She had just launched the beta of her platform with a well-known retailer. The launch had gone well, yet she looked more exhausted than excited. I asked her how she was doing and, not surprisingly, she said, “I’m tired!”
She is not alone. As part of a team of four working round the clock to accomplish the herculean task of a product launch, she has had to accomplish an incredible, a near-impossible task. And due to the company’s small size and scrappy funding, she’s had time for nothing else. The strain is apparent throughout the team. The technical co-founder’s new bride complains about the lack of quality time with her new husband. The sales co-founder’s girlfriend has even threatened to move out. And let’s not forget the basics, like eating and sleeping—or lack thereof. These functions tend to go out the door when a start-up’s ramping up.
Poor sleep is a common problem among entrepreneurs; trust me, I know! Even if lights go out by 10pm, I’ll often wake up in the middle of the night, roused by some problem, and proceed to answer emails till 4am. I can relate to what Michelle is going through, yet experience (I’m now on my fourth startup) has taught me if you work all the time, don’t eat well and don’t exercise, both you and your startup will pay the price!
That means you have to fight to gain some “me” time, with the same vigor as you fight for your business. So go on a date! Spend time with your family. Go cycling or hiking or out to dinner or play with your dogs--do something completely unrelated to your startup. Splitting your time between work and your life will result in higher productivity. And don’t assume leaving the office won’t benefit the work, either. There is always going to be a mountain of tasks to do, 24-hrs/day 7 days/week. Taking a couple of hours for yourself and your family can actually help you tackle it. Distance from business issues can help you gain clarity; you’ll likely get a new perspective on a problem, all while recharging your batteries. Both you and your team will be happier for it.
So at your next party or function, ask an entrepreneur to describe the best sleep they ever had. And you'll see. They’ll readily recount—in almost lascivious detail—how amazing it was! The pillow’s plaint softness, the mattress’ comfortable support, the blanket’s enfolding warmth… they’ll probably wax poetic on air quality and location, too.
That’s right, to the ambitious entrepreneur, sleep is the new sex. So go get some.