As an entrepreneur and investor, the highs and lows of building a business have forced me to the brink. I’ve pushed myself to limits that I didn’t even know existed–physically, mentally, and emotionally. At the end of the day, I’ve felt the weight of having everything on the line, from reputation to capital, even friends’ and family’s capital.
I’ve also felt the power that comes with overcoming the many challenges involved in building a startup and achieving success. How did I do it? I’ll explain. But first, I’m going to share what not to do.
A lot of entrepreneurs decide to work until they drop. Then they get up, and do it all again. While sometimes relentless persistence is absolutely necessary to get to where you want to be, most can’t afford to operate in that way consistently. Performance will suffer. Your body will suffer.
Just ask Elon Musk. He’s been known to log 80, 100, even 120-hour work weeks, and what did he have to say about it? “It’s not been great, actually,” in typical Musk fashion. His grueling schedule and lack of sleep took a toll on his well being. In other words, don’t work until you drop, it’s not sustainable long-term.
Instead, try to think and act as if you were an elite athlete. Focus on performance. Doing so will guide you away from burnout and towards optimal physical and mental health.
When your body and mind are in ‘performance mode,’ you’re in an optimal state. You’re making smart decisions at the right time on the things that really matter–something all too important when running a business. This becomes even more crucial when you have a team supporting you, because your performance ultimately guides and influences your team’s performance too.
How do I know this works? Because I live it daily. I’ve focused on and improved my performance to become as efficient as possible. I even have the data to prove it, thanks to WHOOP.
It all began because I was data curious. I knew collecting data on lifestyle habits and performance would help me to analyze and improve my work efficiency. In my quest for seeking the optimal solution to get the data I needed, I tested a LOT of apps and wearables. When I found WHOOP, I knew I had a winner.
I wasn’t alone. WHOOP is on the forefront of providing intelligence to the most elite athletes in the world (examples A, B, C, D, etc, the list goes on and on…). Learning this made me even more confident that it would help me get the edge I wanted.
While entrepreneurs don’t train like elite athletes, our ability to perform is driven by the same factors that impact athletic performance. But unlike athletes who typically compete only a few times a week and have off-seasons, entrepreneurs need to be game-ready every day. By using data to analyze stress levels and initiate recovery, entrepreneurs can ensure top performance on a daily basis.
To provide some personal evidence, I took a look at the strain on my body from a hiking trip where I climbed four mountain passes wearing a 50-pound backpack. Then, I compared that data to my work week prior to the trip:
Although the total strain on my body from hiking was greater than during my work week, the strain from a high-stress workday that included no physical activity (represented in blue in the chart) was surprisingly comparable to climbing up, over, and down a single mountain.
The Friday before my hiking trip I had a board meeting, which demands a ton of energy and creates mental and physical strain. As a result, my strain score was high, reaching 14.9 (on a 0-21 scale), just slightly lower than the last day of my trip when I hiked 9 hours and summited Buckskin Mountain. Insane!
It’s a small sample, but it does provide reasoning to reinforce the importance of recovery after a stressful work week. While I don’t believe in the need to achieve a perfect balance, I do believe recovery is necessary to ensure top performance.
On that note, let’s talk about sleep. WHOOP has been instrumental in helping me optimize recovery, improve sleep habits, and create a more efficient working style.
After reviewing my sleep performance data, I realized that days I was sleep deprived regularly correlated with days I made more mistakes and took longer to complete my work. It became clear to me that a lack of sleep hurt my ability to effectively connect and communicate with my team, clients, and partners. I got into more arguments at home and with friends, and also felt more stress in general, which carried over to affect my performance level at work. My head wasn’t in the game, and I felt so tired that I was often operating at half speed.
As you might imagine, there is a lot of evidence to support my experience. In a recent UCLA sleep study, researchers found that starving the body of sleep robs brain neurons of the ability to function properly and, in turn, leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us. So while a person can look awake and alert, their brain is not as energetic as it should (or could) be.
What does this all mean? Activity on little sleep does NOT enable productivity. Just because work is being done, that doesn’t mean it is being done well. And, in my opinion, work done poorly is a complete waste of time management and energy, you might as well be sleeping.
That is why the WHOOP Sleep Coach is such a game changer. By shedding light on real sleep data, and encouraging sleep, it can ultimately be used to max out work efficiency and productivity. I also love that it allows the user to adjust their schedule to the type of day ahead of them:
Big client meeting where peak performance is required? WHOOP will provide your optimal time to get to bed. If the next day is just the standard, tell the Sleep Coach, and it will give you a new recommended bedtime. And finally, if you need to finish up a project and skimp on sleep, it tells you how much sleep you need to get by without feeling completely crushed.
Upon waking, WHOOP provides insights on the previous night’s sleep performance, factoring in a variety of physiological elements that help determine how recovered you are for the day ahead:
WHOOP has helped me understand that sleep provides the mental and physical recharge required to make better decisions, focus on what matters, and perform at my best. With adequate sleep and a focus on performance, entrepreneurs can get the edge they need to sustain and, ultimately, succeed.
This story originally appeared in WHOOP The Locker on April 26, 2019.