Three Rounds in the Ring of Business: Surviving Your Startup Phase
The media likes to sensationalize the perks and fun of working at a startup, but startup life can be painstakingly exhausting. I like to look at the startup phase as a really long three around boxing match against multiple opponents!
Here are seven tips I’ve learned over the years to help you not only survive, but thrive during your time in the ring:
- Embrace the mission.
The most successful entrepreneurs are incredibly passionate about their work. It’s the fire in their bellies that drives them to succeed. Similarly, if you’re going to commit to working at a startup, you have to believe in its mission. Just like in boxing, if it’s not your absolute passion then you won’t last-you won’t make it at a business if you’re not genuinely excited about the work.
- Acknowledge the long hours — and accept them.
If you’re going to make it in the startup world, you first need to acknowledge that the hours will be long- just like a fight is not won in the ring, but in the long hours put in at training- in your first three years there will be long and thankless hours away from the spotlight when everyone else is sleeping.
- Set expectations with loved ones and boundaries with yourself
Not everyone in your circle of friends will understand or appreciate the commitment a startup demands. It’s very important to set expectations with your loved ones. Nothing is worse than having your family call at 5:30 p.m. to ask how your day went when your work day is far from over. At the same time, you will regret not making time for them in the long run. Set clear goals and expectations on yourself and with them and stick them at all costs.
- Strive for balance.
I won’t lie and say that it’s easy to strike the right balance between work and play, but thanks to mobile technology, it’s easier than ever before. Identify what matters most to you and look for creative ways to make time for those priorities. For instance, find out if you can work from home on certain evenings so you can eat dinner with your loved ones and still make the standing 8 p.m. conference call with your colleagues. Alternatively, take advantage of mobile apps like FaceTime that allow you to remain connected to your family while putting in long hours at the office.
- Schedule (All) Of Your Time
In the same way you schedule business activities, it’s important to schedule time to both be with loved ones and to engage in pursuits outside of work. It’s all too easy to begin bailing on activities and people unrelated to business tasks that can quickly consume your time. But the practical reality is that you’re shortchanging others and yourself by doing so. Through scheduling recurring date night with your spouse, an hour of each day that your kids know you’re available to them (particularly if you work from home) and other commitments that add dimension and depth to your life.
- …And Stick to That Schedule
Hold to each part of your schedule as diligently as you would for work commitments. Treat loved ones like clients and extracurricular pursuits like business meetings. Don’t cancel because you think they’ll understand, or because you’re willing to give up pleasure for business. In the short- and long-term, you’ll benefit from setting clear boundaries between designated times.
- Protect Your Time
If you’re not running your day, then your day is running you! And the result is burnout and missed opportunities for meaningful engagement. It may be tempting to give your all to the business both professionally and personally, but being less than diligent about protecting your time will cost you.
- And Your Energy
On any given day, we all only have a finite amount of energy to devote to a multitude of activities. Replenish your personal energy with exercise and other healthy habits and routines that work for you. For me, I found great pleasure in boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Whatever you choose, find time for letting off steam and encouraging the release of endorphins.
- Learn to Say No
The powerful two-letter word “no” is the most important thing for protecting both your time and energy. This can be a challenge if you work outside of a traditional office setting, which often leads to less clear boundaries about your availability.
So if your business is overtaking all areas of your life, the message here once more is to devote yourself fully to the moment, to be intentional about your time -all of it – and in doing so to experience both freedom and fulfillment.