As we start to re-open offices and get back to normal (or find a new normal), there's going to be a lot of new pressure applied here and there. Everyone in an early stage startup is already constantly busy. We bounce between so many different roles.
We have what seems like thousands of things going on in life and work. We have to get sales and marketing running. We have to get that new feature committed. We have to raise money to keep the lights on. We have to get a better process to merge code. We have to… Ugh. It just never ends. On top of that maybe we have to pick up the kids from school or visit our parents or have dinner with friends after work. It really never ends.
We can easily forget to take care of ourselves. The signs creep up. We get sick, we performing poorly when fatigue sets in, and the busier we get - sometimes the busier we make ourselves because of a craptastic performance at the things we choose to take on.
Getting sick doesn’t do anyone any good. And going without sleep and running on fumes (aka long-term fatigue) can have devastating results on health, friendships and family. But we can’t always control the work life balance in a startup. There are immutable pressures being put on us by cofounders, investors, family, friends. So what are some things we can do to stay well, both mentally and physically?
Time tracking. There are courses and methodologies and books and systems. We don’t have to buy one, but you can. It’s never a bad idea to get some form of time tracking and organization going though, even if we just start simple - like blocking out time in our calendars for each task (even if it’s one we do alone) or creating a list of the things we need to do in a place we can drag them up and down on a priority board. Pro tip: Start as simple as you can!
Exercise. When we get busy, one of the easiest things to let go of is our exercise routine. Maybe others see the time we spend at the gym as an indulgence, or maybe 8 hours on a flight isn’t conducive to a quick run. But not letting our bodies go without the exercise they need gives us better self esteem, makes us more resilient, and gives us time to let our brains relax away from it all, so those creative juices can get to flowing!
Eat healthily. Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle but eating properly is critical as well. We all need plenty of calories, and a health mix of foods. Stay away from fast food, and enjoy the art of cooking whenever possible. We think caffeine makes us get moving but remember that eating healthy is about everything we put in our bodies.
Get help from others. When you’re spinning your wheels, reach out to others for help. No one expects us to be perfect, so we can admit it when we aren’t and accept help when we need it! This might also include a coach or even a therapist to help us address some of the bigger issues that come up throughout the long and hard days.
Automate more. If we have to touch a piece of paper or perform a manual task, we should search an App Store to see if that task can be moved to an automation on a device. And if we have a bunch of apps that we have to manually move data between, let’s look for whether or not we can automate that process as well! And if we can’t, maybe we have our next startup idea!
Hire more people. We can all get to a point where we just feel overworked all the time. If that goes on for too long we have to accept the fact that being overburdened isn’t going anywhere and we need to bring in more humans. If we can’t due to budgetary reasons then we just have to try and do less because burning out is not going to help anyone.
Spend time with friends and on hobbies. Sure, it may seem silly to add yet more stuff. But don't let the things you love slip too far. They often align well with career choices, and they give us joy.
Be diligent about building a better mousetrap. Is there waste in our days? Are there processes that, with a small tweak, would be more efficient? Can we remove steps without removing quality? Set a quarterly or monthly task to think about how we can do better at all the things! We may find a revolutionary new paradigm. ‘Cause that’s where most of those came out of!
Learn to say no. Early on in our careers, we tend to say yes to way more things than we need to. But as we progress, and grow as people, there are a number of things that we no longer enjoy or take benefit from. We still want to help our communities and stay involved in a lot of things, but ultimately we have to learn to say no here and there in order to maintain our own sanity.
If we’re so busy we can’t take care of ourself, we have to stop being so busy. Otherwise, we will burn out. It’s never too early to get started doing so. Life is just way too short. I hope one or more of these tips help to spark an idea that saves time (or money) or maybe just makes a life just a teeny bit better.