Close Your Eyes or Open Your Mind: Effects of Sleep and Mindfulness Exercises on Entrepreneurs’ Exhaustion

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Author Information : J. Michael Haynie (Syracuse University, Whitman School of Management)
Melissa Cardon (University of Tennessee)
Jonathan Arthurs, Nusrat Farah and Jason Stornelli (Oregon State University)

Year of Publication : Journal of Business Venturing (2019)

Summary of Findings : After conducting two studies, where a combined total of 434 entrepreneurs from around the U.S. were surveyed on their exhaustion levels, amount of sleep and engagement in mindfulness practices, we found that entrepreneurs may experience higher levels of exhaustion than non-entrepreneurs. In addition, using mindfulness practices specifically helps entrepreneurs cognitively appraise stressful events in a way that mitigates their energy depletion. We also found that the increased usage of mindfulness exercises decreases the efficacy of sleep exercises and vice versa.

Research Questions : How much perceived exhaustion do entrepreneurs experience?

How might these feelings be mitigated by mindfulness activities and sleep?

What we know : Although entrepreneurship can be an exhilarating experience, it is often a stressful and tiring one (Schindehutte et al., 2006; Uy et al., 2013). Faced with unpredictable revenue streams, resource deficits, and intense competition (Barringer and Ireland, 2016), entrepreneurs typically work extremely hard for long hours to overcome the challenges associated with launching ventures (Aldrich and Martinez, 2001; Boyd and Gumpert, 1983). Few empirical studies explore the effects of long hours and stress on entrepreneurs and mindfulness exercises in working context are only beginning to be examined.

Critical functions in entrepreneurship, such as opportunity identification, evaluation and decision-making, require cognitive and motivational energy. However, cognitive functions can be inhibited in entrepreneurs due to perceived exhaustion. In addition, perceived exhaustion can decrease an entrepreneurs desire to complete tasks or strive for achievements.

Novel Findings : Through conducting the two studies, we discovered that mindfulness exercises can help entrepreneurs combat feelings of exhaustion by cognitively appraising stressful events in a way that mitigates their energy depletion. Mindfulness and sleep practices also compensate for one another, fighting perceived exhaustion if used but the two practices are limited in their joint efficacy; the more one practice is used, the less the other helps.

Implications for Practice : Perceived exhaustion can lead to a decrease in creativity for entrepreneurs. Perceived exhaustion can also lead entrepreneurs to feel unable to psychologically detach from their work and decreases their desire to make achievements. However, our research can help entrepreneurs combat this issue by providing practices that alleviates energy depletion.

Implications on Research: Work surrounding the efficacy of mindfulness is surging (Good et al., 2016; Segal et al., 2013), but this research tends to focus on the benefits provided and explores the specific mechanisms through which mindfulness operates on cognition and behavior (Gu et al., 2015). Less is known about the boundary conditions and what other practices might compensate for mindfulness benefits. However, this research extends the understanding of mindfulness practices in a working context and adds to the body of knowledge concerning the experience of exhaustion among entrepreneurs.

Full Citations : Murnieks, C. Y., Authrs, J. D., Cardon, M. S., Farah, N., Stornellie, J., & Haynie, J. M. (2019). Close your eyes or open your mind: Effects of sleep and mindfulness exercises on entrepreneurs' exhaustion [Abstract]. Journal of Business Venturing. Retrieved February 20, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883902617305281?via=ihub.

Abstract : Exhaustion is a prominent problem in entrepreneurship because it inhibits cognitive functioning, opportunity identification and evaluation, decision-making, and perseverance. We examine the possible benefits of sleep and mindfulness exercises in reducing the exhaustion experienced by entrepreneurs in the course of launching and growing ventures. Across two studies, we find that both sleep and mindfulness exercises provide avenues for entrepreneurs to combat exhaustion. More interestingly, we find that these two factors compensate for one another; as the usage of one increases, the efficacy of the other decreases. This has important implications for reducing exhaustion and improving cognitive functioning and motivational energy among entrepreneurs.

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Through conducting the two studies, we discovered that mindfulness exercises can help entrepreneurs combat feelings of exhaustion by cognitively appraising stressful events in a way that mitigates their energy depletion. Mindfulness and sleep practices also compensate for one another, fighting perceived exhaustion if used but the two practices are limited in their joint efficacy; the more one practice is used, the less the other helps.

J. Michael Haynie

Professor Haynie's research is focused on investigating entrepreneurial decision-making, identity, and cognition. His research has been presented at the top entrepreneurship conferences and published in prestigious academic and industry journals.
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