Internet Marketing is how I, my wife and my younger sister earn a living. Narcolepsy, which I developed at the age of 18, does its best to negatively impact on my Internet Marketing career but, ultimately, it’s responsible for teaching me to perform my work more effectively.
How? Well first of all you need to understand the effect that narcolepsy has on those who suffer from it. Most people – probably due to the way it’s portrayed in the media – hear the word “narcolepsy”, and imagine someone unexpectedly, and suddenly, falling asleep. This phenomenon is not actually experienced by all narcoleptics and, in fact, those that do experience the irresistible urge to fall asleep, usually have some warning that this is about to happen.
The most common symptom that plagues narcoleptics is something called Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). What does this feel like? Think back to a time when you had cause to stay awake for 24 hours. Remember the burning eyes, the slowness of movement, the mental fog, the feeling that your head was three times heavier than usual? That’s EDS and it’s what I experience, to a greater or lesser degree, every day of my life.
I can only think of one occasion where the urge to fall asleep was physically irresistible. The rest of the time, I simply fight the urge to fall asleep until I have the time and appropriate circumstances to take a nap. Fighting the desire to sleep is physically painful and often results in headaches, stomach cramps, and an insatiable appetite for sugar.
I also experience some of the other common symptoms of narcolepsy, including sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, and frequent nightmares. Then, of course, there are the related effects of these symptoms that include things like anxiety attacks, depression, weight gain and flu-like symptoms.
But I consider myself to be a mild narcoleptic. I don’t experience cataplexy (loss of muscle function), the vast majority of the time I can control when and where I fall asleep, and unlike many narcoleptics I’ve managed to remain in work.
That said, being a mild narcoleptic is like having a mild broken leg. Just because it doesn’t involve multiple compound fractures, doesn’t mean it isn’t still severely debilitating.
Which brings us back to my earlier assertion that narcolepsy has actually IMPROVED my work productivity.
You see, for most of my life I’ve been something of a perfectionist micro-manager. My work output was good but I would spend too much time on unnecessary details and insist on personally working on every aspect of a project.
Then I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss and began to see the error of my ways. I needed to work fewer hours so I would be forced to spend my time on the important stuff, rather than wasting hours and days on the minutiae. I also needed to learn to outsource.
I successfully implemented some of the suggestions, but struggled to find the courage to make sweeping changes. Until my worsening narcolepsy forced me to take these steps. I could no longer maintain the long days of work to which I had become accustomed. If I was going to continue to be a narcoleptic Internet marketer, then something I had to change.
First of all, I began outsourcing some of my work to other people. Outsourcing the work in which I was unskilled was easy, outsourcing the work that I do well was much more difficult. As a writer, I prided myself on writing every last piece of content for my projects. But this was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and other parts of my work were suffering. Now, I work with a hand-picked team of writers, copyeditors, and proofreaders. I still do plenty of writing, and I still edit everything that passes through my business, but I no longer try and do everything on my own.
Next I began adjusting my work schedule. I discovered, through much trial and error, that my EDS levels where unaffected by the time that I got out of bed, that my most productive part of the day is between 7am and 11am, and that working half-days instead of full-days results in fewer sick days. As a result, I now rise early (usually about 6am), and work no later than midday (unless I have a deadline to meet).
The cumulative effect of these changes has resulted in an overall improvement in the quality of the work, as well as an increase in output.
I firmly believe that, regardless of whether you suffer from an illness, outsourcing more and working shorter days will, in the long run, improve your work performance.
Strange but true.
Of course, given the choice, I would rather be well. But Internet Marketing and narcolepsy has proven to be an interesting, and curiously compatible mix. If nothing else, it’s given me plenty more to write about.
About the AuthorDavid Congreave began working online in 2001. He is now an SEO and Internet marketing consultant, a writer, and an editor. He lives and works in Leeds, UK with his wife, Leanne.
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