As a business owner, I think about my business around the clock. Like a child, it has become a demanding, anxiety-inducing, joy-evoking family member who I have welcomed with open arms into my life as a permanent fixture. Day in and day out I feed it, tend to its ever-growing needs and lose sleep worrying about its future. And I don't mind. After all, it's my baby.
It was only recently that I began to question the implications of my 24/7 work schedule. Previously, I believed that in the name of my success, it was perfectly acceptable and also necessary to sleep only three to four hours a night, to skip workouts and to put myself and my needs second (or even third) to the demands of my company. However, in doing so, have I compromised my ability to be my very best and thereby do my very best for the well-being of not only me, but also my family, team and business? Yes, I have.
The catalyst responsible for my newfound awareness came about a month ago, when my media company, The Women's Book, held one of our annual release parties in Columbus, Ohio. Our keynote speaker and guest of honor was Arianna Huffington, who captured the attention of our 1,000 guests with her unparalleled stage presence, humor and thought-provoking message about The Third Metric, or redefining success beyond money and power. She discussed our tendencies as career-oriented individuals to neglect ourselves and dedicate every fiber of our being to our careers and businesses. She explained that one of the most beneficial things that we can do for ourselves and for our companies is to simply get more sleep.
Arianna's message resonated deeply with me, and I resolved to work harder to take better care of myself. I vowed to make more time for running, something that I have always loved and that I know does wonders for my psyche, physical wellness and problem solving skills. I also decided to commit to my unconscious self -- i.e., sleeping more.
Getting more sleep is easier said than done. It turns out that for me, getting to bed isn't the tough part. It's staying there that presents a challenge. Night after night, after exhaustedly climbing into bed around 10 p.m., I found myself wide-awake at 2 a.m. after a measly four hours of sleep. I'd shut my eyes, tossing and turning while melodies of worries and to-dos began to play on repeat through my mind. I'd attempt a few more minutes of trying to go back to sleep before giving up and turning on my iPhone to check emails in addition to sending quite a few myself.
It has taken more than a few rounds of this irritating cycle to get myself to stay asleep for more than four hours at a time. Now, nearly a month in, I have noticed my body beginning to adjust to getting more sleep. By sleeping more, I suddenly have more energy to exercise, which in turn is giving me more time to think and problem solve, which is helping me expand on new ideas and solutions for my company. It's interesting how these "third metrics" all impact each other in such a cyclical way. While I realize that I still have quite a way to go in order to get to where I want to be (my goal is to sleep for seven hours a night,) I am trying and it's paying off.
What is my advice to other entrepreneurs? Don't tackle every piece of this at once. Choose one or two tangible goals and work on them with intent. Living your best life while growing your business is more than possible, it's necessary. As business leaders, it's up to us to set the expectation for "juggling it all" and to redefine the paradigm of what success looks like. So, don't be afraid. Go to the gym, walk the dog between meetings, send some emails after dinner if you need to and when the sun goes down, go ahead and get some sleep.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
Follow TaKeysha Cheney on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@TheWomensBook