30 Minutes To A Better Day… AKA Go To Bed Stupid

* I’m sending a ton of love to everyone affected by the bombing in Boston yesterday… I don’t know what to say other than that.

I want to be that girl that can work all day and stay up all night working towards my goals. I really, really want to be one of those people. In fact I was one of those people in college… I routinely stayed up until 2am studying playing Final Fantasy online, got back up at 6:30, worked all day, drove an hour to school, and got back home at 10pm. I’m a little tired just typing that out.

I sometimes still wish I was that way, I want to work my day job, do my afternoon chores, then spend the night working on my business. I’d stay up late and churn out designs and blog posts, thrive on very little sleep and wake up with my morning coffee, ready to do it all over again. Like a caffeinated robot. I know some of that goes back to my college days as a software programmer. That’s just what geeks do, we stay up late and live on Jolt cola. At least that’s what I thought back then.

Even today though, I constantly hear entrepreneurs and other people who do generally awesome things talk about working late nights, getting up two hours before the crack of dawn, working themselves to the bone while building a business and living their dreams. I have to ask, how in the hell do they function like that? Is that why those nasty energy drinks are so popular? What kind of health are these people going to be in here in a few years? Or do I just require an inordinate amount of maintenance?

Nowadays, I stay up till 10:45 one night and spend the whole next day exhausted, struggling to get even menial tasks done. I stay up late again that night because now I’m tired and bummed and starting to think very negatively about my whole situation, I obviously need to work harder. The next day, after two nights of staying up into the wee hours of nearly 11pm, I’m clinically depressed.

The day after two nights of this I’m convinced that a) I’m a talentless hack, b) I’m stuck in a desk job forever, because I don’t have the skills or motivation to improve my position, and c) my entire life is crumbling around me, plus I probably smell funny. I wish I were exaggerating… ask my husband. He strongly encourages me to go to sleep on time.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize what was happening at first. I honestly thought these horrible feelings were real, and that just made it worse. I would stay grumpy, negative, and just generally bummed out for several days, then finally wear myself out and have to go to bed earlier on night 3 or 4, and the weirdest thing would happen. The next day would be great. I would get stuff done, the design I’d been working on for days would just fall into place, and several times I even made a sale or gained some kind of acknowledgement that I really didn’t have any control over. I have to lay that last one off on karma… you get back what you put out there, I take care of myself and the universe rewards me.

It took me too long to realize this cycle, as is the usual trend with me realizing things about myself. But now that I know how I function I can work with it.

I know that if I stay up past 10:30 I’m trading an entire days worth of productivity for an extra 30 minutes that night. Some nights I still make that trade, but I do it consciously, and I try not to do it often. I also know how to recognize the signs of self-neglect… if I’m feeling really negative or whiny I stop and think about what I may have done to cause it, then I give myself a pass that day – I get done what I can but I don’t push myself to do amazing things, because it’s not happening. That’s the hardest part for me still, realizing that my mood isn’t a direct reflection of external problems, but instead is a result of pissing of my body.

I also know that I feel better if I go for a run, a long walk, or do something equally active, at least 3 days a week. This usually takes me an hour or so, between stretching, warming up, cooling down, showering, and the actual activity.

I started out feeling a lot of guilt about taking the time to do that for myself instead of working… I have clients waiting on their projects, I should be focusing all my available time on that. I have things I should be doing for the business or around the house. Those things should take priority shouldn’t they?

Not quite.

It’s like the oxygen mask speech. You’re no good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. That sounds so obvious and I’ve heard it a million times, but it’s not as easy to actually implement. It’s not easy to do something for yourself or feel like you’re putting yourself first, because in turn you have to put someone else last when you do that. But I can tell you from first hand experience: it’s very necessary.

Learn what your body needs to function at a higher level, take the time to take care of yourself, and you’ll be more efficient, happier, and turn out better widgets. Your widgets might not have anything to do with work but instead be how you take care of your family, it doesn’t matter. Whatever your widget is you’ll actually make up for the time you lost by functioning better.

I personally am able to work better, faster, and more efficiently when I’m clear headed and awake. Getting a good nights sleep and going for a run helps me be that way. Things go 100 times better for me when I do the things I know I should and listen to my own body. Not to mention that some of my biggest stumbling blocks have been worked out while running down a quiet road letting my mind roam.

I’m not perfect, this is something I’m still working on and I probably always will be to some extent, but I’m learning to recognize it and I’ve seen the rewards of doing the right thing.

Your thing might not be running, and you may function fine on 5 hours of sleep, but I bet there’s something you’re putting aside that you shouldn’t be. You may not even realize it… I didn’t.

I want to challenge you to pay attention to your moods and your patterns. Find what’s lacking, and make it a point to start being more intentional about including it in your day. I promise it won’t hurt a thing.


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