The 7 Sleep Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

 

Sleep

We all know lack of sleep is harmful to our health — sleep affects mood, increases risk of psychiatric disorders and depression, cardiovascular disease and lowers immune system health. Yet the stress of running a company and long working hours means entrepreneurs often find themselves functioning on little sleep.

Evanston, Ill.-based sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shives says getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is a critical component of entrepreneurs’ business success. “Sleep affects our executive function; the area of the brain responsible for decision making, creative thinking, memory and reaction time,” says Shives.

Follow these seven sleep habits and dream your way to business success:

1. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. 
While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it will affect the quality of your slumber. “Sleep is lighter, you have less REM (the deepest stage of sleep),” says Shives. Alcohol can also wake you up in the middle of the night. “Many people wake up after about four hours, because that’s how long it takes to metabolize alcohol, then they have trouble getting back to sleep,” says Shives. Although studies have shown a glass of wine at dinner can have positive effects on cardiovascular health, Shives says to avoid drinking any alcohol within three hours before bedtime.

2. Turn off electronics before bedtime.
Shives recommends shutting off gadgets an hour before bedtime. “The light that’s emitted [from the screens] slips your neurotransmitters into an awake position,” says Shives. Our gadgets also force our brains to stay active when they really need relaxation time to distress before bedtime. Shives recommends using the hour before bed to do something relaxing and enjoyable like reading a book or having a chat with your partner.

3. Write your worries away. 
If you find yourself lying in bed stressing about the events of the day, Shives recommends keeping a worry journal to write down the issues that are bothering you. For those who find their heads swimming with to-do-lists, Shives says putting the list on paper rather than thinking about it can help to clear your head and shut off your mind before bedtime.

4. Create the perfect sleep ambience.
The optimal sleep environment is one that’s cool, dark and quiet. “Part of becoming drowsy in the evening is that your core body temperature starts to drop,” says Shives. Eliminate noise and light distractions by charging smartphones outside the bedroom door to avoid the glow, the ding and the temptation to get up and check on something.

5. Exercise. 
Exercise promotes healthy sleep patterns by releasing serotonin and dopamine. These are the same neurotransmitters that are important for regulating our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.

 
6. Avoid sugary snacks before bedtime.
If you have a hankering for a snack, Shives recommends grabbing a bite containing protein and fat such as yogurt rather than one containing starch or sugar. “[Protein and fat] have very low glycemic levels which means they will give a steady release of energy throughout the night,” says Shives. Simple carbs or sugary snacks give you a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash which can disturb the quality of your sleep.

7. Wake up to the light. 
The morning is just as important to your sleep habits as the evening. Getting sunlight when you wake up re-sets your body’s circadian rhythm, helping to ensure you’re more tired at night. Enjoy your morning coffee sitting next to a large window is a great way to start your day right.

Entrepreneur Magazine Sept. 2013

A Social-Media Marketing Primer Even Your Mom Can Handle

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Digital touch points are going to be a central part of almost any brand’s media plan. It’s important to understand how to navigate the digital world, particularly social media.
The problem is that keeping up with technology is a full-time job in and of itself. So don’t even try, just focus on the marketing part. Digital marketing is a small-business owner’s best friend, so while it’s hard to stay on the tech curve, you can still keep abreast of how to use digital marketing vehicles to your advantage.

 

In many cases, social media has become the brand experience where customers truly expect to connect. Because there are so many outlets available, don’t try to do it all at once. Start with the big sites first, see if they make sense for your brand, and then expand from there.

Get friendly on Facebook. With over a billion profiles it’s hard to neglect thinking about how to create a brand presence there. This is where friends, family, and your biggest “fans” come to listen to what you have to brag about. There is a cap to how many friends you can amass, so consider creating a public page that is limitless. Facebook is all about loyalty, so use it as a place to post pictures, give updates, promote new initiatives, or simply interact with your biggest fans. It’s one of the best outlets if you want to keep up with your most loyal customers with regular information they will be interested in. That is, of course, if your regular customers use Facebook, which is a simple question you should ask yourself before you begin any social media program.

Show your business savvy on LinkedIn. You will want to create a professional profile on LinkedIn to connect with all the people you’ve professionally come into contact with over the years. You can network with each other, share professional advice, and even recruit new talent. LinkedIn is all about work and working your network of colleagues.

Speak up on Twitter. Twitter is the place where you can exhibit thought-leadership in your field with others who share similar interests, whether you know them or not. It’s about having a voice in what you do, and paying attention to others who you admire. You can learn a lot about how to advance in your field of choice via Twitter.

Engage viewers on YouTube. For me, YouTube is all about pop culture. I use it to keep up with what’s going on in entertainment, which happens to be important in my line of work. If video content is something that works in your field, then consider starting a YouTube channel to create content for your customers. You can then feature this video content in your other marketing as well.

Give Customers a place to be on Foursquare. Foursquare is location-based, allowing users to “check in” to share their whereabouts or to collect special offers from local businesses. If your business relies on traffic to thrive, then Foursquare could be a good vehicle to build it.

Look pretty on Pinterest. Many brands are now just wrapping their heads around how to use Pinterest. If your customers are visually oriented and if your business can be captured in images, then consider using Pinterest to represent what your brand is all about. You can also learn a lot about your customers by viewing their Pinterest boards as well.

This is just a sampling of the bigger social media sites, and there are certainly others without a doubt. I recommend that you start with these, and then move on to others as you expand your social media presence. It’s important to use a few wisely and consistently, rather than racking up profiles that you don’t really leverage with your customers.

Also remember that any of these sites can be an effective tool to learn about what motivates your customers and about what your competitors are doing to connect with them. All of them provide “free” market research 24/7, because they are where your customers are living their lives and sharing what moves them. Learn from them!

By Jim Joseph, Author of The Experience Effect (AMACOM, 2010) and The Experience Effect for Small Business (Happy About, 2012)

The Popular Advice That Could Kill Your Business

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Run, don’t walk, away from these all-too-common words of advice.
Small-business owners get unsolicited advice everyday. Some of it can be very helpful, some of it is better off ignored. If you hear any of the “words of wisdom” listed below, our advice to you is to smile, say thank you, and move on.
Good things come to those who wait.
If you follow this advice, you may be waiting a very long time for success.
Better advice: Small-business owners need to be aggressive and go out and grab opportunities as they happen. You are responsible for initiating your success.

Failure is not an option.
Unfortunately, it is the most likely outcome in any small business venture.
Better advice: Accept failure, learn what you can, let go of it, and look for another opportunity to succeed.

Do what you love and the money will follow.
In the ideal world, this would always be true.
Better advice: The money will follow if you find something you are passionate aboutand you’re selling a product or service your customers need or want.

The customer is always right.
If the customer was always right then it would be too expensive for any company to stay in business.
Better advice: Listen to the customer’s concerns and show empathy in proposing solutions to their problems.

Think outside the box.
Sometimes ideas so far outside the box will make a small-business owner go broke because customers won’t pay for it.
Better advice: Look inside the box for constant problems customers still pay to solve.

Never give up.
This hard fast rule can lead to bankruptcy. Don’t go down with the ship!
Better advice: Follow Kenny Rogers’ advice and “know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em”.  Successful entrepreneurs know when it’s time to close down their business and look for a new start.

If you are not hiring, you are not growing.
Successful businesses are not measured in the number of employees, but in the profit (cash flow) they generate for their owners.
Better advice: Get the right resources (employees, freelancers, vendors) to get the job done most effectively.

Separate out your business and personal life.
In the world of the Internet-enabled smartphone, it is nearly impossible to separate these two worlds. Better advice: Merge your business and personal aspects into one happy life. But establish business free zones (like the gym, dinner table, bedroom or vacation) so you are able to recharge.

Never leave money on the table. This strategy is greedy and shows short term thinking. It can also blind the small-business owner to additional objectives, or big-picture thinking and planning.
Better advice: Emphasize long term relationships so annuities with vendors and customers can be built to maximize their lifetime value.

Always be innovating.
While it is important to evolve and change with the market, innovation should not be done for its own sake.
Better advice: Consistently ask customers and survey competitors on new ways to solve problems.

If you want it done right, do it yourself.
If you follow this strategy, you will always be working. You will have built a job, but not a company.
Better advice: Find leverage in your business by training employees to do tasks that will leverage your time. Later, bring in a team that is better at these tasks than you are.

If you build a great product (or service), customers will come.
While this may work in the movies, it never is effective in business. If your product can’t get found, it will never be chosen.
Better advice:  Set up a consistent system of sales and marketing so customers can find your product when they are looking.

Business is about taking big risks.
This is a surefire way to go out of business and never have the financial resources to recover.
Better advice: Take small risks and analyze the results. Business is ultimately a series of small decisions and incremental steps.

Don’t quit your day job.
Many entrepreneurs are told to keep their start up as a hobby and don’t risk doing it full time.
Better advice: When you have enough customers to support your minimum overhead, jump to doing the business on an exclusive basis. Only with complete focus will you be able to grow the business to its full potential.

Everything is fair in business.
You will be surprised what people have the audacity to do in business, and no not everything is “fair” in business, and what may be considered “fair”, it isn’t always right.
Better advice: Think about the code of conduct with which you want to conduct your business. Train your staff to stick to it.

You can’t change the world.
You are told you will never have enough resources to really make a difference.
Better advice: You actually can change the world. As a small-business owner, focus on doing it one customer at a time.

You must first write a detailed business plan.
Business plans are totally overrated. They typically are a series of assumptions that never come true.
Better advice: After writing the initial business plan, get customers to validate assumptions or help morph to a more profitable path.

Business is about having a great idea.
Many entrepreneurs think they have to protect their innovative idea or sometimes even want to sell it.
Better advice: Business ideas are meaningless if you can’t back it up. Success is really about taking action and finding the right team to work with to build a company.

Quit while you are ahead.
This is a fearful and fatalistic approach to business.
Better advice: Find out how you can build on the success that you have already achieved that can minimize some of your risks going forward. If you feel comfortable, take some money out of the business as financial insurance.

You have to spend money to make money.
Many vendors say you have to invest a lot of money to build a business.
Better advice: Having too much money will make you frivolous with it. Most businesses are started with less than $10,000. As a small-business owner, it’s your money so be cheap. Only spend money on things that are testable, trackable and repeatable.    —-Barry Moltz