If you’re reading this, you’re busy. So I’ll be quick.

A little while ago I was participating in an Entrepreneurs Roundtable. Suzi Dafnis, CEO of Her Business (of Dragon’s Den fame) asked what one thing we wanted help with or were struggling with. Most at the table cited technical issues or people management. I felt like a square peg at that moment- mine was much more internal.

I was struggling to spread my energy. Three small kids, working mostly from home with a start up business, maintaining established consulting clients, and managing the household… splitting my time was manageable but I needed more headspace! There was no prep time in between intensive, ‘on now’ critical moments.

I was capable of doing every task ahead of me, but with so many balls in the air at once my brain was overwhelmed and foggy. I didn’t feel I was giving any of my priorities the attention they needed.

Suzi’s priceless advice? There were two things: one of them was sleep. It seemed so counter-intuitive. I wanted MORE time, and Suzi was suggesting I cut into those precious quiet hours of the night to sleep?!

Despite the protest voice within, I took her advice. I trust this highly accomplished, well balanced woman. If Suzi advocates sleep as a business management tool, I was going to give it a try.

There have been a great many lessons I’ve had to learn throughout my career. The difference between encouraging and patronising, the red flags to look for in financial reports, how to code!!! But none were as instantly transformational as this one.

The hours between 9am and midnight are said to be worth double any hour after midnight. Ok so I hear your protest. Your day isn’t finished by 9pm so you can’t possibly get into bed then?

But what if there’s a possibility that you too could actually get MORE done in less time. What if fewer hours away actually led to fewer mistakes, higher quality work in less time with significantly less frustration? Wouldn’t it be worth trying?

Watch these FOUR MINUTES of Ariana Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution, on how to succeed via more sleep.

Here’s what I found. I knew that what I was doing was flawed. I was prepared to give this new approach a try, at least short term. But how to switch off the brain at 9am to let sleep in?

No one strategy worked a miracle for my busy brain, but being ok with that made a big difference. One of the guided meditations I now listen to reminds me that it’s ok not to be sleeping, that your body is still getting benefit from the rest.

Here’s the list of strategies my research turned up.

Guided meditations ( I like a couple of apps, iSleepFree and Relaxation, but a quick search of the app store will reveal many others too)
Remove LED clocks from the bedroom
Fresh air
Feel-good crisp linen
Lavender in the room
Lots of water through the day, but not too much at night
Reduced caffeine (including chocolate!)
Stretching. Even the most basic stretching before bed seems to settle the body hugely.
I needed some strategies to GET to sleep but once I was there, banking my 7 – 9 hours a night, other things just started falling into place. My decisions were sharper, my frustrations lower. The incidence of external complicating factors like IT issues simply dropped.

Do I get 7-9 hours every night? Nope. But when I have a few 1am finishes in a row I’m aware of the difference in my performance. Now I know the remedy and how instant is the impact. It’s one more resource in the toolkit.

May it be equally useful to you too!

Oh and Suzi Dafnis’ second piece of advice, for managing the overwhelm of a big workload and busy home life? Outsource all you can and don’t feel bad about it.

Sensational isn’t it, how mentors can provide the right piece of advice at just the right time? Even if it’s advice you’ve heard before, from an intuitive mentor it resonates.

Cath Nolan

Managing Director, Gender Gap Gone

Gender Gap Gone deliver Women’s Leadership Programs, Career Wellness and Corporate Diversity. Our Brave Leadership program kicks off on July 25th. You can see our upcoming events, HERE, including Brave Leadership and The Diversity Collective.