The media hypes up the perks of entrepreneurship, especially building a startup. Thanks to the likes of famous international business “gurus” Gary Vaunerchuk, Sophia Amaruso and Steven Bartlett, it’s seems so exhilarating to run a business.
But startup life can be painstakingly exhausting, and we are often far too hard on ourselves when things aren’t going as well as they seem to be for the “reality stars” of entrepreneurship.
I like to look at the startup phase as a really long three round boxing match (a round a year) against multiple opponents.
Here are 9 lessons I’ve learned over the years as an entrepreneur to not only survive in the startup ring, but to also win:
1. 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 business if you’re not genuinely excited about the work.
2. 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. Similiarly, 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 spent out of the spotlight, while everyone else is sleeping.
3. Set expectations for loved ones and boundaries for yourself
Not everyone in your circle of friends will understand or appreciate the commitment a startup demands. It’s very important to set expectations for 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 and stick to them at all costs.
If you’re not running your day, then your day is running you
4. 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.
5. 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, but the reality is that you’re shortchanging others and yourself by doing so. Schedule recurring date nights with your spouse, or an hour everyday when 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.
6. … And Stick to That Schedule
Commit 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.
7. 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, however being less than diligent about protecting your time will cost you.
8. … 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 to let off steam and to release endorphins.
9. Learn to Say No
The powerful two-letter word “no” is the most important one for protecting both your time and energy. This can be a challenge if you work outside a traditional office setting, which often leads to a lack of clarity about your availability.
So, if your business is overtaking all areas of your life, the message once more is to devote yourself fully to the moment, to be intentional about your time – all of it – and in doing so, experience both freedom and fulfillment.
About the Author: Jess Mouneimne is an accomplished entrepreneur and author. She has a thorough understanding of the media marketing landscape both locally and internationally. She founded the 360-degree communications agency, Jam Media in 2013.