The time before going to bed is critical to ensure that one closes out the day that has passed, plans for the day ahead, but it is also critical that the mind is calmed so that one has a restful sleep. Too many successful business owners get this wrong. One can only burn the candle at both ends for so long before it will mean that they are not as productive as they should be at work, and not as happy as they should be overall. Based on research and conversation with successful executives on the topic, here are the five things that successful people do before they go to sleep:
Spend Time with Family
Successful executives often have a difficult time drawing the line between work and personal life, simply picking work back up upon arrival at home. The time to decompress with family is essential. As David Brooks points out, a happy marriage (and by extension a happy family) is more important than a good job to one’s well being. I must admit that I was also struck by Alex Blumberg’s thoughts during episode four of the excellent Startup podcast entitled, “Startups are Risky Business“, in which he describes how he was overcome with emotion in reading Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, and learning for the first time the lesson intended for parents: you only have so much time before your children will be independent of you. Make the most of your time with them.
Successful people read prodigiously. The reading should not always be about topics related to work, mind you. Reading fiction or non-fiction in fields not directly related to your own may also have the added benefit of providing unusual and less obvious insights to take to work, as so much innovation happens at the intersection of disciplines. Ultimately, though, simply reading for enjoyment is a key way to relax. A study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that reading tablets or eReaders may be disruptive to sleep because of the light that is emitted by such platforms. Old fashioned books and magazines are the better option before going to bed.
Plan in Order to Relax the Mind
It may seem counter-intuitive that thinking about one’s plans will help calm the mind, but having a well documented plan means that you can rest knowing that the plan will be there when you awaken. Here is how it is done:
- Create a list of what was accomplished in the prior day
- Note what was not accomplished, and what should be to dos for the day ahead
- Note new to dos for the day ahead
Many people have difficulty drifting off to sleep at night because the still have the day’s events playing in their heads, and they are concerned about the day ahead. Reduce these concerns with some well timed planning. According to Business Insider, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault “likes to write down the top three things he wants to accomplish the next day. This helps him prioritize first thing the next morning.
Turn Off the Cellphone and Other Computing
The sounds emitted by mobile phones, computers, and tablets are needless distractions when you are drifting off to sleep. Quell that issue by turning them all off. This will allow you to focus on one thing at a time, whether it is your family, reading, or planning. In fact, it is during these times of relative quiet when new ideas may come. Barry Gordon, who is a professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine noted in Scientific American that “Although thoughts appear to “pop” into awareness before bedtime, their cognitive precursors have probably been simmering for a while. Once those preconscious thoughts gather sufficient strength, the full spotlight of consciousness beams down on them. The mind’s freewheeling friskiness is only partly under our control, so shutting our mind off before we sleep is not possible.” By having fewer distractions at the end of the day, these ideas may surface. It is useful to have a notepad and a pen on your night stand (as opposed to your phone or tablet) to note these ideas when they occur to you.
Get Seven Hours of Sleep
There has been new sleep research that suggests that seven hours sleep may be better than the eight that your mother condoned. Whatever the number, though, getting enough sleep is crucial to ensure maximum memory and brain performance in the day ahead.
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy, has just been released by Wiley Press/Jossey-Bass. Peter will provide a free video or teleconference lecture on the book for any team that purchases copies of it for the IT leadership team. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.
This article was written by Peter High from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.