20 June 2011, by A. Cedilla
Let’s say you have a big project. A big project and a tight deadline. You get this thing done, it’ll mean big change for you and your business. If you get this thing nailed…wow. But then there are the dozen other things you have to juggle in your role as a business owner.
There are also your other roles: mom or dad, civic leader or writer-on-the-side, working student, etc. You have so much to do, and not enough hours in the day. Something has to give, and usually one of the first things to go is enough sleep.
When you cut down on things like sleep to squeeze more time into your day, eventually it will catch up. It isn’t always the sudden big stresses that beat us down, but the constant little stresses that we go through that wear us out enough that when we crash, we can crash hard.
One way to deal with those constant stresses is establishing the habit of a wind-down hour.
Just as you need to have a system in place to get you up and going in the morning, you need another to park your stress and leave it before it drains you even more. Otherwise, you’d be running your mind all night and going nowhere but zombie-land the next day.
If it helps, think of yourself as a car: If you’re parking your car for the night, you’re not going to leave the engine running, right? In your actual case, to have time enough to get real rest, you have to switch off. Disconnect the negative charges running in your head before it drains your batteries.
A wind down hour helps disconnect the stressful events in your day and stops them from draining you. It acts as a buffer, giving you a stretch of time to unwind, un-kink , unload and get into home-safe mode. Winding down makes time to signify the end of your work-day, and not just your work day coming in from the office, but the time of your day you work.
“Easy for you to say, you don’t have the workload I do.”
Then build buffers, build good habits so you have a reasonable workload. If you’re not doing anything BUT staying on top of things, sooner or later, an avalanche is going to happen, and chances are you’ll end up …not on top. Have a handle on things, and don’t push to take on more than you can reasonably attend to. That’s how good management skill is built, in both time, labor and people.
“Just give me some space, man!”
Knowing you have a wind down hour helps place you in the right mind-set to ease up and pull your shoulders down. Think about it. Ever realize that the most common body parts to hold stress are the lower back and the neck and shoulders? Have you ever caught yourself feeling like the weight of the world was on you, that a sword was being held over your head, that it was more than you can bear to stick your neck out again at work? That’s why.
“There’s always a plan B.”
Just the idea of having a choice can be enough to ease your stress to an acceptable level, and help you get in the right mode for sleep. Have a note pad and pen by your bedside. Write your worries out to excise them from your head, and maybe you can even jot down a few possible solutions right there. The next morning, you’ll have had enough time for the emotions to drain away, and you can read about these issues without being sucked in or catastrophizing.
Did you ever have one of your parents (usually Mom) tell you to leave the other one (usually Dad) alone for a while when they come in from work?
That’s because in many cases people need some time to themselves to disconnect from office-mode to home-mode. By this time you probably experienced this reality yourself. You come in tired from the commute, still thinking about the paperwork undone, the meeting tomorrow, the meetings you had today, the action items you still have to accomplish…and the first thing you here coming in the door is, “We’re out of milk. Can you go down to the store to get some? Oh, and the Parent -Teacher meet-and-greet was moved to tomorrow. I can’t go.”
A wind-down ritual can start with having a physical space to offload physical things, like a landing pad to dump your keys, empty you pockets, hang your bag and jacket, and place your laptop bag.
It can mean a temporal space – a time out. It can start with a time-out in the garage, where you park the car and stay for a few minutes to breathe and decompress. Or it can be held in the car on the ride home. If you finish what needed to be done at the office, take the commute time to pre-plan tomorrow’s work priorities, and write those down
A wind down hour also needs mental space , so you need time to clear out your head. Need time ? Make time.
Ease out those little time-sucks of constant email-checking, Facebook-poking, Solitaire-playing noodling around. When you’ve attended to the urgent, pay attention to the important. Prepare your stuff for tomorrow. Plan your actions and priorities for the next day. Do something that will make launching into tomorrow morning easier on you.
A system works only if the people it’s supposed to serve respect it and support it in return. If you live alone, it can be easy to start practicing a wind down ritual (YMMV) but if you live with other people, the difficulty lies in your responsibilities to or with these people. A room-mate, a spouse, you can talk with. Kids, on the other hand, demand care and attention that can often come at cross-purposes with your plans. (For starters, they don’t get sick on purpose. They also need you help to understand stuff they don’t know yet – like manners, no touching the stove, holding hands while crossing the street, etc. ) So for your wind-down hour to flourish, it really helps if you have a healthy support system in place.
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