How To Stay Healthy While Hustlin’ A Startup

January 13, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

Next week is kind of a big deal for everyone here at Outspoken Media. On January 19th, Outspoken Media will turn two years old. Like any parent, part of me wants to know where the time went, while the other part marvels at how far we’ve come and all the lessons we’ve stuffed into just 24 months. It’s a weird feeling to think that one decision, the decision to jump toward an internet marketing company, changed an entire course. It’s a weirder feeling to look at your To Do list and realize just how not finished you are.

In conjunction with my partnership with the Nike Women: Make Yourself Movement I’ve been asked to share my one secret tip for staying healthy in the New Year. And while I’m sure you’re all as fascinated by my recent entrance into the world of kickboxing, I thought, instead, I’d take the business angle. Essentially, how to stay healthy (and sane) while growing a bustling startup. It’s something I know a lot of us struggle with.

Stay Focused On Your Mission

There’s a lot involved in not only running a business, but actively trying to grow it. There are so many details, meetings, relationships, projects, accountants and more meetings to worry about that, on some days, it’s a little overwhelming. [I call that day “Monday”. And sometimes “Tuesday”. ] And it’s easy to get stuck there. To lose total track of your mission, the reason you started the company, and where you wanted to go. Pretty soon your startup isn’t about what you set out to create, it’s about putting out fires and dealing with the day’s Must Dos. It’s not a healthy or optimal course. Don’t get me wrong, you may be able to sustain that way, but you’re definitely not going to be able to go forward. To grow healthy, focus on tomorrow. Focus on where you want to go, what you want to be and how today’s actions are building that. And if today’s actions aren’t building that, then it’s time to change the course. If something doesn’t have a purpose, drop it.

It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos that comes with growing a company, but have that mission statement front and center. It’ll help guide you when you’re not sure.

Get Organized

On any given day at Outspoken Media I can expect my schedule to be filled with client projects, client calls, internal projects, training employees, meetings, blogging, and squeezing in time to eat lunch. All of these things must find a way to work together and fit into the same 10-12 hour day. And to do that, you need to get organized. You need to find the tools and the resources that you’ll need to help you accomplish them as efficiently as possible. We use a lot of tools to keep us organized at Outspoken. As a company, tools like Skype, Google Calendar, and Basecamp allow us to seamlessly (well, maybe not “seamlessly” when Basecamp is sucking) coordinate projects, share links and keep each other in the loop of what we’re working on. On a personal level, tools like Google Docs, desk calendars (I need physical, written deadlines) and the almighty egg timer keep me organized and always on task. Those are the tools we rely on, but you may need to create your own toolbox for your startup. What is going to break down the bottlenecks in your process?

Be Awesome At Customer Service

If you want to grow a startup, you need to excel at customer service. We live or die by how we treat our customers. Everyone does, but it’s even more important as a smaller company because it becomes how you identify yourself to your clients and how you’ll start to build a strong referral database. Often, it’s the customer service aspect that caused an entrepreneur to go rogue in the first place – they wanted to create a better experience and left a company to do it. Make sure you’re keeping true to that. Forging strong relationships with your clients will keep you sane when the nights get hard and when you’re wondering if this is all worth it. It’s very similar to building a strong team. You’ll learn to rely on it.

Get Up Earlier

Dude, you want to improve your mental health, your physical health and the health of your business? Get up earlier. Just because you can roll into the office (or the coffee shop) at whatever time you want, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to delay the start of your day until 10:30am. When you wake up at 10:30am, you wake up already in the hustle and the bustle of the day. You don’t give yourself time to think, to reflect or to plan. Instead, you’re forced to jump right into the day. Wake up while it’s still quiet, while the roads are still empty and when the office is still dark. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you’ll be and the effect that “quiet” time has on your day and your mind. Getting the Troy, NY office saved my sanity. It gave me a place to wake up early and run to every day. Peter Shankman wrote a standout post earlier this week on why you NEED to get up earlier and I’m pleading with you to go read it. For your mind, your body, all of it. It’s not whether you’re a morning person or a night owl. It’s whether you have the discipline to roll your ass out of bed when the alarm goes off, no matter how dark or cold it is. I’ve never looked back on a day and wished I had gotten up later. I have wished I woke up earlier.

Stop Hustlin’ & Find The Balance

Thank you, Amber Naslund.

It makes me really nervous when I see the tweets roll in from entrepreneurs talking about working constant 16 hour days on no sleep in the name of “hustling”, “getting some”, or “making things happen”. You’re no good to your business unless you’re taking care of yourself. And you’re not taking care of yourself if you’re always burning the candle at both ends and running ragged. In 2011, more of us need to stop listening to that “keep going until we stop” mentality that Scott Stratten warned us about. Because it’s destructive.

I’m no stranger to digging in, having a working weekend or a really late night at the office, but I’m also getting a hell of a lot better at finding the balance. In 2010 I learned how to be both an entrepreneur and just Lisa. It’s one of the reasons I also like getting up early because it means I can work a 12 hour day and still have time to make myself dinner and hit a kickboxing class. By giving myself more hours in the day, I give myself the opportunity for balance. One where I can leave the office at 7pm and go ice skating. Or attend my writing class. Or go home and snuggle with one of my cats if it’s that kind of night.

Just because you own a startup doesn’t mean you’re exempt from living a healthy lifestyle. It just means you might have to work harder to be able to attain it. Those are five things that have helped me stay sane while growing a business. Will you share your own struggles and triumphs in the comments?

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