All businesses take a tremendous amount of time and energy, but startups can be totally consuming. Determined for success, eager entrepreneurs don a "whatever it takes" attitude and enthusiastically pledge their unending commitment to their new ventures. But they often exhaust themselves in the process of building their business - sometimes until they are totally burned-out. While this obviously has huge consequences for the business and the entrepreneur, most entrepreneurs are more concerned with the business's success than their own health and productivity. What they don't always realize is just how interrelated they are.
Here are 10 ways to help ensure business success by preventing startup exhaustion:
1. Get in the Right Mindset. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Long-term success depends on your ability to maintain your stamina. You won't get as far if you sprint out of the gate. Instead pace yourself, respect your limits, and keep the whole "race" in mind.
2. Establish Fair Expectations. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Good things take time, plenty of research, and lots of tweaking. Be generous when you do forecasting, project planning and goal setting. Remember that things always take longer than you anticipate. When you hit a goal, celebrate. When you don't, shake it off, consider it a lesson learned, and readjust your expectations for the next round.
3. Make Progress with Small Steps. As exciting as the big vision may be, it's easy to be overwhelmed by it especially when the path from here to there is unclear. Progress comes from moving forward everyday with small, persistent steps. When you feel stuck, break down your tasks into smaller chunks to make them even more actionable. Moving forward always feels good, even if it's a tiny bit at a time.
4. Keep Your Goals in Mind. It's easy to get off track and distracted, taking your business in a direction that doesn't work for you. Remember WHY you became an entrepreneur and be sure to prioritize these motivations as you build your business. That way it will always be rewarding for you, both now and in the long run.
5. Prioritize What You Do Best. Everyone has to do a little bit of everything in the early days. But, in order to end up with a job you love you need to focus on your talents from the get go. Don't hoard bad tasks or give yourself a job you don't like. Instead leverage others and deliberately plan for the job you want. I guarantee that's the only way you'll ever get it.
6. Create a Support Team. Your network is one of your greatest assets. Not only do they offer support but they provide a wealth of information, wisdom, experience, and resources. They will help lighten your work load and prevent you from reinventing the wheel. You don't need to learn all your lessons the hard way.
7. Set Strong Boundaries. The transition from startup to established business isn't a discreet event. So the habits and routines you have in the beginning establish a precedent for years to come. A chief complaint of many entrepreneurs is that they are "always working." Avoid this from the get go by setting and honoring clear boundaries. Off means off. On means on.
8. Shake Up Your Routine. Nothing's more exhausting than monotony. Sure you'll be multi-tasking and trying your hand at all sorts of new things. But if the work looks the same, for example every day in front of a computer or on the phone, you're sure to tire quickly. Change it up with some rejuvenating work-related tasks such as time out to read, take a field trip or meet a colleague. The list and the laptop can wait until later.
9. Indulge Guilty Pleasures - Daily. It's easy to get caught up in the 'what must be done next?' mode. It's great to be efficient and productive but an all work and no play attitude can only last so long. Instead create a sustainable routine by integrating small mental or physical breaks into your daily grind. Whether it's a quick episode of The Daily Show, some perusing of your favorite blogs, or a trip to the gym a shift in focus and some levity will do you good.
10. Take Time Off. Aside from regular, short daily breaks plan to take some legitimate time off too. Maybe it's just weekends or perhaps you can afford a longer trip. Either way, time away from the business is actually quite productive. A break allows you to get out of the weeds and gain perspective on the business - even if you don't explicitly think about work. Besides taking time off forces you to put systems in place so the business can continuing running in your absence, which is a critical component of a successful and sustainable business.
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a columnist for The Daily Muse and writes The Big Enough Company blog for Forbes.com. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter. You can follow her on twitter here and here and on Facebook too.
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