Entrepreneur

Staying sane in a startup

(Editor’s note: Shawn Hessinger is the community manager of BizSugar. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

Running a startup is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of the entrepreneurial gate, or if you have a few years’ experience under your belt – it’s grueling. The hours are long, the peaks and valleys come in extremes, and it doesn’t help that your friends and family often have a difficult time relating to your roller coaster of emotions or why you’re always strapped to your desk. It’s enough to drive anyone a little batty.
But if you want to continue to grow your business, while still functioning in normal society, you have to hang onto that sanity. Here are a few tips to help.Stay focused on your mission – It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos, but you started this business for a reason. There was something you thought you could provide, or something you wanted to do. Take time each week to remember what that was instead of becoming consumed in the meetings, the details, the projects – all of it.

Your mission is what matters and it’s what everything else in your day should be working to build. Ask yourself: Who do you want to be? Where are you trying to go? How are you working toward getting there?
If sometimes you find yourself pulling away from your core mission, reach out to people who can help you get it back. By commiserating, people are able to stay focused on why they’re doing this, and put everything else into perspective.

Set core work hours – When you’re an entrepreneur, your business becomes your life. It’s your passion, and where you spend the bulk of your time. And while it’s okay to go on the occasional 14-hour (or more) bender, don’t make it a habit. Set core working hours like you’d have if you were working for The Man in some corner office.

It’s okay if your hours are longer than someone else’s, but set that time for when you are working and, at the same time, when you’re NOT working. To do that, it may mean you need to become more disciplined with how you’re spending time. I’ve found that often just using a timer allows me to stay focused and work inside a shorter day. And that’s important because consecutive weeks where you never see the sun isn’t good for your mental state and it’s really no good for your work either.

Give time to your business, but also give time to yourself.

Learn to manage communication – The length of your day is determined by your ability to get tasks done quickly and efficiently. And a lot of that will fall on your ability to manage communication, both with the people related to your business and outsiders.

If you’re working alongside others, then you need to find an effective way for everyone to communicate – a way that helps you to be productive without being too disruptive. This may be different for different people, so make sure you know how everyone wants to be reached.
Of course, managing communications also means controlling distractions and shutting off low-value conversations. For example, that friend who calls when she’s bored. Your mother who calls to see if you’d had lunch. Twitter!

Finding a way to nip these focus-killers in the bug will help you get more done in your day, so that you’re able to grow your business without resorting to sleeping in the office.

Stay Healthy – Ever check in on someone about a year after they’ve started a new business? You barely recognize them. Suddenly the person you once knew looks tired, pudgy, and like they haven’t seen daylight in months. Working in a startup is stressful enough without handing over your health too. Set aside time to take care of yourself and stay healthy by eating right and getting regular exercise.

Running a startup will zap your energy. You need to replenish it with daily workouts that will help keep a spring in your step, your brain firing, and your mind calm. This will allow you to focus better, to think more clearly, and to get more done.

Take time off – The same way you need to find time to exercise, you need to find time to get away from your business. Obviously, your business needs you there to grow, but you also need to take care of yourself. You’re not doing your business or anyone else any good by becoming a recluse who’s over-tired and never leaves the house.

Taking time to recharge, let your brain disengage and enjoying some new sights maintains your passion over the long haul. A hermit never inspired anyone.


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