Running a startup can be crazy and chaotic at times. I meet with founders everyday that come in bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and after a few years with their nose to the grindstone, they look worn out, tired, and unhealthy (physically and mentally).
Here are a few tips on how to keep it together when you're in startup mode:
1. Keep perspective.
It never fails: I get pitched at least once a day by a startup who compares itself to a unicorn. While we all strive to build great companies, unicorns are just that: one in a million.
Comparing yourself to a unicorn, knowingly or unknowingly, puts your perspective out of whack on how much you should actually be achieving at your current stage.
I've noticed this especially when it comes to growth and fundraising. Many founders will justify their customer acquisition strategy based on what worked for another company rather than what's actually working for them.
While it's cool to get inspiration from unicorns keep perspective and know that your growth or fundraising trajectory is likely not going to follow the same pattern.
It also might make sense to limit how much tech press you are reading, I usually encourage my companies to do this. It's great to keep your finger on the pulse but not necessarily the best tool to use to apply specific tactics to your own company.
It can make you feel like you aren't progressing in your business or that you're doing something wrong because what's reported is usually based on what's "trending" in the ecosystem. It can be unproductive and cause you to lose focus.
2. Take your cues from your own data.
In the startup space everyone talks about how key data is and to be honest... it really is. Paying attention to your data is crucial in the early stages because it will help you make some of your most important business decisions.
Early on set data points that make sense for you and your company to track. For example, this might be tracking retention rather than revenue at the outset. Tracking as many data points as possible (and as it makes sense for your business) is key because often times there are hidden insights you might otherwise overlook.
Also, make it a habit to look at your data regularly.
Personally, sometimes when I'm in the day to day and it seems like things aren't going my way taking a quick data driven look at the business gives me perspective and reminds me just how great we are doing. And you know what they say: Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don't.
3. It's a Marathon.
Okay, I know everyone uses this saying, but I've experienced this first hand. Everyone is so concerned with who's working the hardest instead of who's working the smartest. Part of working smart is creating some balance for yourself. It's not realistic to work 16+ hours a day indefinitely. You will burn out, I repeat, you will burn out. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.
If you're really in it for the long haul, you'll need to set some boundaries. Something as simple as defining times when you will and won't answer email, or even being deliberate about scheduling downtime.
I've noticed that the latter is especially important when networking, it's easier to make connections with people and find commonalities when you have more to talk about than your startup. Not to mention your brain gets a much need rest allowing you to think more clearly find solutions easier.