Ever since January, I’ve been seeing post after post about how the most successful people (read: leaders and CEO’s) get up very early in the morning. As if the only way to be a successful CEO, you have to be up at the crack of dawn to exercise or begin working or what have you. It might be true for small business owners and executives…and it might not.

The last straw

Margaret Heffernan’ s post was the last straw. Her  point was that leaders get up early because they are excited about what they do. They are fully engaged and not lazy. They use the early hours to exercise, think, plan or just enjoy some quiet time before their day starts. Now, you might wonder why I would ever want to rant about that?!

My rant is really simple…there isn’t one way to be successful. The posts that say that getting up early make it sound like that is the only way to build a successful company and career. However, the way you schedule your day may not even be indicative of laziness or lack of engagement.

Self-care is an essential piece of leading a small business

It is well documented that sleep deprivation is not just a few hours lost. Immediate effects include poor memory, trouble concentrating, appetite disturbance (higher tendencies to eat too much) and difficulty tolerating even garden-variety stress. Continued sleep deprivation is correlated to depression and mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, drug and/or alcohol abuse, increased likelihood of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke plus cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation and ignoring other parts of self-care can lead to burn out and/ or feeling trapped or resentful of your business. Not exactly the best recipe for building a sustainable business.

Use caution when reading advice

Yes, even my blog.

Normally I’m a big fan of Margaret Heffernan but I do wonder about her supposition that a leader might be lazy or disengaged. As small business owners, we have to be careful about what we read and how general the application might be. Some of us chose to start our business to maximize the quality of our lives. It does seem strange when you are working long days or worrying about finances that this is a better quality of life. On the other hand, control over our income, time and autonomy is in our hands most of the time. Some of us are parents, volunteers in our communities or simply want to create another way to do business and be successful. While we may want to be develop ourselves so we are better leaders and managers, it is important to remember that different things work for different people.

Working mega-hours doesn’t make you successful by itself

All those posts that got me riled up aren’t really about who gets up early or stays up late. It’s about what we do with that time. There are ways our time gets used up that make a work day seem far too short. Between making sure we engage with social media, do things that increase our visibility, network, do the work our clients hire us for and so much more, productivity can get away from us without a plan.

Some suggestions to keep yourself healthy:

  • Even experts don’t have the answers that will fit you 100% of the time- We need inspiration, new ideas, fresh perspectives and education. However, notice how you feel about the advice you are reading. If it feels like something  you would never do, trust yourself.
  • Remember you have physical limitations – No matter how much you love what you do, your body will let you know when it has had enough. Make an effort to eat well, sleep and take time away from the office.
  • Create a schedule that suits you – If you are an early riser, a late night person or something in between, make the time work for you. Use the Pomodoro method for specific tasks and schedule specific days for overall activities.

Do you need to get up early?

Only you can really answer that. Use the early morning if it provides you with time to think, get moving or do a little work before the rush of the day. Conversely, if working at night allows you that necessary time for concentration, use that. When you read blog posts that tell you that the only way you are a “real” leader is if you do X, ask yourself if this is true for you. If you are not sure, try an experiment with the recommendations you read about.

There are many ways to be successful…design your own!

 About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.