It started out like any other show.
Wendy Williams, daytime TV presenter, was hosting her annual costume contest. Incostume herself, she was bedeckedin green foil from head to toe while dressedas the Statue of Liberty, in an outfit thatincludeda large headdress.
All went well until it was time to read the winners of the contest. Visibly distressed, she confused her words, then suddenly stopped talking. Witha stricken expression on her face, she collapsed to the ground. The live show immediately went to black.
When the show returned to air after an extended commercial break, Williams was smiling and announced that it was unplanned. “I’m overheated in my costume and did pass out. But you know what? I’m a champ and I’m back.”
At the end of the show, she was once again confused, saying “Is that the end of the show? Was I passed out that long?!”
In a statement, her publicist said Wendy was “dehydrated” and hadreturned home for a “night of sleep.”After stating that amedical examination deemed her fit, theyfurthermentioned that “She is okayand will continueshows as planned… She has never missed a day of work and is looking forward on November 13th to her 1,500th show.”
As entrepreneurs, it is often seen as a badge of honor to be overcommitted.
These are the common traps of a workaholic:
I’m not immune to this behavior.
In March of 2013, I broke my foot — simply by walking into my office. I was in my mid-30s, and no matter now clumsy you are, a healthy 30-something should not break bones by tripping on a cobblestone.
Over the next few months, even after the bone healed at a slower rate than expected, I started losing weight. While not immediately noticeable, coworkers eventually started asking me “Are you tired?” and “Are you stressed?” and the worst one of all — “Are you sick?”
It honestly hadn’t occurred to me.
Why not? I was busy working. While my foot was healing, I was so busy with an “important” project that I refused to take the pain medication prescribed — and I was able to finish the project in half the time, giving us more time to test it.
Once I was able to travel for work again, I was off and running as if the accident never happened. I didn’t spend any time to think about me — only the company. I thought that I needed to make up the time I’d taken away from them.
In the spring of 2014 I finally got around to going to the doctor to find out why I had lost so much weight. After a series of tests, it turned out I had tumors blocking my intestinal track — with a quick surgery they were removed, but if we had waited any longer it could have been a different story.
Here are some things I’ve learned to help you be not toocommitted:
One of the first things I ask people when I start working with them is: What’s your own measure of success? So many people haven’t stopped to think about this, which can keep them working forever with no end in sight.
Once you have a measurable goal to reach, you will start to come up with ways to achieve it.Tony Robbins is a huge proponent of using aday planner to track your overall categories for progress, which you then chunk down into months, weeks and days of things to do. This reduces stress by making each thing more manageable.
Once you have your goals set, check in frequently and simply ask “How am I doing?” Pay attention to both your successes and failures. With this one simple thing, you’ll notice that you are actually making progress toward your goals, making them more achievable.
The average employee has only taken 54 percentof their vacation days, and 55 percentof Americansdon’t take their vacation days because they feel they will be replaced if they do.If you’re acting out of fear, that will only increase your stress levels, whereas taking vacation will increase productivity overall.
A recent study has shownthat just having your technology around you, even if you aren’t using it, the worseoff you are in brain power and sleep cycles.
Having a true technology-free day a week allows you to rest and recharge, which in turn has been shown to increase productivity and lower stress levels.
Stop wearing your workaholicism as a badge of honor — it’s not. The real mark of success is a laser-sharp focus on what is truly essential and a sustainable work-life balance, rather than working for the sake of work.
You may realize thatsleep is key toproductivity, but research also points to its importance for leaders.
Your sleep routine may be downright essential to your work and the success of your business. Eti Ben Simon, a neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, points to several studies that track sleep’s impact on productivity, including one by Christopher M. Barnes and Nathaniel F. Watsonpublished in February 2019that looked at how sleep can help maximize employee effectiveness.
Team leaders’ lack of sleepcould even diminish their perceived charisma in the eyes of their employees, according to another study by Barnes, along with Cristiano L. Guarana, Shazia Nauman, and Dejun Tony Kong,published in May 2016.
“A good night’s sleep is important for every system in our bodies from our brains to how we’re motivated, to how we deal with stress, all the way down to our immune response–which is very relevant right now,” says Ben Simon.
Sleep “istied to optimal functioning,” saysAric Prather, an associate professor at UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, who has studied the subject for 15 years. Sleep plays arole in emotional health and physical health andis critical for a strong immune system, he says.
So, how can you get your best sleep? The experts have some suggestions:
Prather and Ben Simon each cite the importance of a more or less fixed sleep schedule, sevendays a week. That means going to bed at the same time every night, especially when your body begins to signal that you’re tired,and waking at the same time every morning.
To ensure you have a good transition into sleep, create a wind-down routine,Prather suggests. “Cue your body that night is here,” he says.That may mean turning off your devices, stopping your intake of news and information, and taking a shower or bath to ramp up your parasympathetic nervous system and bring on sleep.
“The goal is to let your body let go of all the engaging and angsty things that happened throughout the day,” he says.
“It’s important to keep regularity in the hours you go to sleep and wake up,” says Ben Simon. “When sleep corresponds to a rhythm, I like to give the analogy of riding your bike with the wind at your back: When you’re in sync with your rhythm, the quality of sleep is better.”
Waking up in the night is normal–especially when worries may intrude on good sleep–but tossing and turning in bed as you try to fall back to sleep hinders restfulness.
“If you’re not able to sleep, and you’re awake for 20 or 30 minutes, you want to get out of bed,” says Prather. Tossing and turning have the potential to counter the conditioned arousal that lets your brain and body associate your bed with sleep. To reset yourself, Prather suggests getting out of your bed. “Try to wind yourself down again. Read, watch a little TV. Something until you begin to feel sleepy again and then get back in bed,” he says.
And try not to worry too much. Anxiety and sleep are bidirectional,Ben Simon notes.”If you’ve had a bad night, you’re likely to have a worse day,” she says. “If you have a bad day, you’re likely to have bad sleep. If you get better sleep, that’s enough to reduce anxiety the next day.”
This is a big one for founders and company leaders to keep in mind: The way you help structure your employees’days can set the tone for their nights.
“I would recommend that employers let employees know sleep is valued here,” says Ben Simon. She suggests not sending your team emails late in the evening with the expectation that they will respond immediately and not setting meeting times so early in the morningthat they might cause your team to losesleep. “The most important thing is to prioritize sleep,” she says.
Supporting your team’s ability to get good sleep canhave a huge impact on your company’s culture and bottom line.
“I do a lot of work on sleep and the immune system, and we really have shown fairly conclusively that when people get, say, less than less than six hours of sleep per night on average, they are significantly more likely to get a cold,” Prather says. “It’s very, very clear that sleep is a crucial piece to protecting you from infectious disease.”
That has been important for long time, but now it’s even more essential–and potentially lifesaving.
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