How To Get Better Sleep

If you sleep like a baby — meaning you wake up crying every two hours — forget the Ambien and warm milk. Take steps to eliminate the stress and anxiety that keeps you awake.

Try a few of these:

1. Step back from one thing you really care about… but have no ability to impact.

For some people it’s politics. For others it’s family. For others it’s global warming. You care — and you desperately want others to care.

Fine. Do what you can: Vote. Lend a listening ear. Recycle and reduce your carbon footprint. Do what you can do. Be your own change… but don’t try to make everyone else change.

They won’t — unless they decide to on their own.

2. Stay out of other people’s business.

Help. Offer guidance. Encourage. Motivate.

But don’t gossip. Don’t get mixed up in politics. It always ends badly. Never put yourself in a position where you’re worried that Phil will tell Allen you said something snarky about Stu and… (yeah, it’s a “Hangover” reference.)

3. Set up automatic warning systems.

The larger your scope of responsibility — professional or personal — the more you have to worry about. Your list of concerns is endless. You’re always on edge, especially at night. So you check your email. You text and call to make sure everything is OK.

The fear of the unknown drives you crazy.

Instead of worrying about what you don’t know, make sure you do know. Decide what you need to know when and set up systems to support you. Let your employees know what constitutes an emergency — and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. Create automated systems that notify you of problems.

A friend runs a 1,200-employee manufacturing plant. He has a separate phone for emergencies: Employees call that phone or send emails to emergency@. He turns off his regular phone at night and sleeps soundly, because he knows if something happens, he’ll know. He won’t have to check.

Determine what you need to know and create systems to ensure you will know. Then you won’t have to waste time and energy worrying about the unknown.

4. Be grateful for criticism.

When you get feedback, at least someone cares enough to want you to improve: your product, your service, your work, your life…. You only need to worry when no one cares enough to criticize you.

Criticism creates an opportunity. Embrace that opportunity.

5. Write it all down.

David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, told me this:

Most people try to use their psyche as their systemic process, which means issues gain importance based on your emotions. I’ve never met anyone who said they didn’t feel a little better if they sat down and made a list. Nothing changes when you write things down except how you engage with your issues: You can be objective and also be creative and intuitive.

Your head is for having ideas, not holding ideas, and it’s certainly not for filing things away. Without exception you will feel better if you get stuff out of your head.

Try it. Write down your challenges. List your problems or concerns.

I bet you’ll start to feel better right away. You’ll realize things aren’t as bad as you think. You’ll also start to figure out ways to make things better — because now you won’t worry passively. You’ll actively solve your problems.

6. Lay off the conspiracy theories.

No one is out to get you. Even if people are, they’re really not the problem — most of us do a better job sabotaging ourselves than someone else ever could. Besides, you can’t control what other people might do.

But you can control what you will do.

7. Reduce the number of judgment calls.

The more prepared you are to handle a situation, the easier it is to be objective — and to avoid stressing out later over whether or not you made the wrong call.

Create price lists that take into account unusual requests. Set up guidelines for responding to customer complaints. Create employee policies for objective areas like attendance, quality, and performance. Decide what you will and will not allow your kids to do before they start asking.

Think about situations you struggle with and decide what you will do before those situations get stressful or confrontational. Then you can make better decisions and greatly reduce your level of stress… and regret.

8. Create a cutoff time…

Yeah, I know, you consider yourself a 24/7 go-getter. But that’s impossible. Decide what time you’ll stop working each day, no matter what.

And if stopping makes you feel guilty?

9. …Then create a plan for tomorrow.

Write down what you need to do first thing tomorrow. You’ll rest easier knowing you have a plan to take care of what you didn’t get done today.

10. Spend a few minutes every day getting better at something else.

It doesn’t matter what you pick. Just make sure it’s not business: A musical instrument. A foreign language. A hobby. Whatever it is, spend a little time on it. Get a little better.

Step outside your daily grind and do something for yourself.

In the process, you’ll gain a little perspective. Perspective soothes the soul.

11. Count your blessings.

Take a second before you turn out the light. In that moment, quit worrying about what you don’t have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don’t.

Think about what you do have.

Thought so. You have a lot to be thankful for.

Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? Feeling better about yourself is the best sleeping pill of all.