Running a startup can be very stressful. I recently signed up for a gym membership after feeling really burned out. The interesting thing about burnout is that I felt really tired, but I wasn't even that productive. I was working all the time but I hardly got anything done. I decided I should put aside all the tasks that were piling up and focused on getting my productivity back. I switched off my phone and laptop and took one afternoon off to exercise, soak in the hot tub and simply vegetate. I felt refreshed afterwards and was able to get a lot more done the next few days. I asked 6 founders how they cope with stress and avoid burnout. Here are their pro tips.
1. "Focus on the long term."
Adam D'Angelo, Co-Founder/CEO, Quora
"I actually like high pressure situations. They motivate me to do my best. But if pressure stays too high for too long it can be counterproductive. Here's my advice:
- Think through the worst case scenario for whatever you're worried about. Have a plan and get psychologically comfortable with it. If you don't do that you'll have fear instead of seeing it rationally.
- Focus on the long term. As an early stage startup you'll have wild swings day-to-day but if you stay focused on your longer term goals, you won't get too worked up about whatever just happened.
- Stay grounded in metrics. Usually things are not as good as you think or as bad as you think and watching metrics or other objective indicators will help you stay grounded in that reality. This also forces prioritization and helps you ignore stuff that doesn't matter.
I also try to have one day per weekend where I don't do work. That helps give me perspective and recharge."
2. Have a strong support system.
Perry Tam, Co-Founder/CEO, Storm8
"Founding a company can be a daunting task for almost everyone, especially a first-time entrepreneur like me. Having strong support systems, both inside and outside the startup, is the most effective way to alleviate the stress of founding a company. A support system inside the startup would be most likely coming from your co-founders and early employees whom you can talk about almost any issues in the company with. A support system outside the startup can be anyone who are great listeners and are willing to serve an as outlet for you to whine about everything and anything. Believe it or not, I found that raising a dog while growing your startup is super helpful when it comes to having a (cute) buddy whom you can count on all the time!"
3. "I just don't let the little bad news bother me anymore."
Aihui Ong, Founder/CEO, LoveWithFood
"Launching and growing a startup is extremely hard. There are only 2 modes of operation, very stressful or stressful. At any given minute, there's always some sort of stress. Learning to cope with stress is something I had to learn. I also think a lot of my stress was caused by being a perfectionist, which is also the root of all evil. I've learned to launch products or features when they are not perfect. Getting feedback from customers is more important than perfection. Most daily stress is caused by bad news. Most news for a startup is bad, the question is--how bad. I just don't let the little bad news bother me anymore. On days when I have to deal with the really bad news, I'll step away from my computer, go for a swim, run, or just bake lots of cookies!"
4. "I spend a lot of time alone."
Chris Bennett, Co-Founder/CEO, Soldsie
"I have a group of friends that are unrelated to Soldsie. I don't actively try to avoid talking about work with them, but I tend to not talk about work. We go cycling, hiking, throw parties, play board games, and travel together and it allows for down time.
I spend a lot of time alone. On weekends, I spend 80% of my time away from folks and even though I do work then, I also watch videos, movies, read things I've been meaning to catch up on and just use that time for downtime to recharge.
I tend to talk through things about work with friends, my co-founder, and others on the Soldsie team and they help put things I'm worrying into perspective and make me realize the stress isn't necessary."
5. "The first hour a day of exercise gives you back more than an hour of productivity."
Tim Berry, Founder, Palo Alto Software
"The managing stress topic for me is a matter of "do as I say, not as I did."
The right way to manage stress is exercise and real life: eat at least one meal a day with the people you care about most, outside of the business. If you have family and kids, coach kids' sports. Make sure you take vacations. The first hour a day of exercise gives you back more than an hour of productivity.
The way I managed stress was to really love what I was doing, to really believe what I was doing, and to have my spouse insist on family meals and family activities and vacations. I blew it on regular exercise, I let that go, and I really regret it. It took me a lot to get back to regular exercise later.
Extra credit tip: A few years ago I discovered meditation. That's a huge help."
6. "Being a parent provides a healthy dose of perspective."
Sandra Oh Lin, Co-Founder/CEO. Kiwi Crate
"Today, I got home from work to a handwritten card from my kindergartner. It said, "I love you Mommy." Being a parent provides a healthy dose of perspective. My kids ground me and moderate the ups and downs."