Bi-polar startup nature
The startup game is amazing. There’s nothing I’d rather do than build a successful company, but you need to know that it’s a marathon (with hurdles no less) and not a sprint. There’s a lot of different advice out there about running a startup, but much of it ignores one of the major elements: startup stress.
Dealing with stress is part of the game. It’s something you should be aware of and it’s something you can and will get better at over time.
For a while it would take me at least an hour or two to fall asleep every night. My mind would be on hyperactive mode and no matter what, I wouldn’t be able to turn it off.
Over time I’ve gotten better at stepping away from the startup stress and turning my mind off when I need to.
To be successful at building a company you need to make it your life. The problem with this is, when you make it your life, it makes the down times that much harder.
The items below relieve stress for me, most of them are obvious, but they need to be practiced to work, which really is the hard part.
1. Focus On the Present
Most of the worry and stress with startups comes from future concerns. If you take this away, then all you have in front of you is what needs to be done right now, which is all that matters. If you’re staying up at night thinking about things that need to be done, they either: a) Really do need to be done that night since it’s an emergency or b) are things that can be dealt with when you actually need to work on them.
2. Take A Break
It’s easy for me to get wrapped up with my business and spend every waking hour working.
This can actually be detrimental to making your business succeed. Time away will help you reset and work harder and smarter during the hours you are working. I’m not saying work 9-5; I’m saying work 14 hours instead of 16 hours a day. Take some time each day to power down and reset, even if it’s just an hour a day. Items 3-6 help me reset.
I go for a run or do some other cardio workout to relieve stress. Get your heart rate up. It works.
4. Play a sport
Playing a sport gets both your body and mind involved, making it basically impossible for you to focus on other things. This is a great way to completely clear your mind.
When I’m playing tennis I can not only get my heart rate up but also let my mind focus on the aspects of the game rather than the game of business.
5. Watch a Movie, Read a Book or Play a Game
Do any activity that distracts your mind from your business. Texas hold ‘em is a great game that a lot of entrepreneurs tend to enjoy. This has been a good outlet for me, just don’t take it too seriously.
6. Write About It
Sit down and just start writing. Write freely and get out all your emotions. This helps you take them off your mind and either think through them more clearly or forget them.
7. Talk About It
Find other people who are working on startups. They’ll know what you’re going through and be a good sounding board for you to vent to.
8. Keep a Notepad Handy
Sometimes I’ll just start having a bunch of ideas when I’m trying to go to sleep. These aren’t a bad thing, but will still keep me awake. Having a notepad handy helps so I can write my ideas down quickly and then get them out of my mind.
9. Does it really matter?
Will what you’re worrying about matter in 6 months, a year, 5 years? I can guarantee you it won’t! Solve the problem; work your ass off, and know that worry is wasteful.
10. Do What You Can
Realize that you’re only one person and that you can only do so much each day. Tackle what needs to get done with a passion each day; prioritize your list each day; do what you can each day and then call it a good day.
11. Stay Organized
To be able to run a startup you need to be organized! If you’re not organized in your personal and business life it will only add stress. Even if you have a million things to do, take some time each day to prioritize what needs to be done and make sure you are staying on top of all aspects of your life.
12. Don’t Put Things Off
Tackle the most important and nagging items first. You know what needs to get done, now do it. Stop doing the “fun” things on your list and get those have-to items out of the way. This will not only help with stress, but is how you should be running your business. In the startup world you need to prioritize your to-do items each day. Putting off the important things will only leave them nagging at you.
13. Cutting Extras
It’s good to have some outlets, but you need to know what to cut out of your life as well. You’re not going to cut your startup, but maybe you need to cut something else that isn’t an outlet or helpful for your business. I tend to have too much going on. This blog for instance, is an extra item in my life. I’ve decided it’s worth it for me to keep writing, but that’s a choice I’ve had to make and know that it’ll take up some of my time.
14. Plan Trips With Friends
At the beginning of each year plan some trips with friends. Plan your trips early and stick to them. If you know for months you’ll be busy at a certain time then you can’t make the excuse that you’re too busy when the trip comes up. The trips don’t have to be long, they can just be a weekend away here and there. When I go away with my friends I completely forget about everything going on back home and let loose. It also gives me something to look forward to during long weeks.
15. Separate Work From Home
After reading a post from Jason Calacanis I was reminded of working out of my house during my last startup. He mentions Michael Arrington working out of his house as the TechCrunch office. Getting an office costs money and it’s not always possible in the early stages of a startup, but I think it’s worth it to get some separation, both mental and physical, from work. I tend to work normal hours at the office, then go home and take a short but needed break. Then I’ll work another 5 or 6 more hours from home, but in a more relaxed fashion.
You can also find other ways to get around this without having to get an office. Try segmenting off a certain portion of your house or apartment as office space. When i worked from my apartment before, I basically “lived” and slept at my girlfriends house every night just to get some separation from my “office”.
Life’s too damn short right? Be proud that you’ve taken the plunge to create something great and enjoy the journey.