I know that stress management may seem like the least important thing on your list right now. But stress management is exactly what you, your family, your staff and your company need. It’s how we rally the troops, keep our relationships intact, maintain perspective, and make sound business decisions.
No point for me to say how stressful it is right now to be a startup founder, you already know. But what you may not know is that how you manage your stress means all the difference to how well your company weathers the storm.
Startup health is intimately tied to founder stress.
I’ll make my recommendations for stress management short because I know you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands for reading right now….Here are a few things to try:
- Reduce decision fatigue. I can’t emphasize this one enough. In stressful times it’s imperative that you reduce decision fatigue. Now is the time to adopt a uniform, eat the same thing every day, and follow a set routine.
- Meditate. Don’t roll your eyes. I used to think meditation was for the birds. Then I went through a super stressful time at work, tried it and never looked back. Just 10 minutes a day is enough. Meditation helps you gain perspective, make better decisions, control anxiety and more. Just do it, it can’t hurt.
- Break the news cycle. I have news for you. If you spend all day reading doom-and-gloom headlines it will mess with your head. And if you are doing it, your staff is probably doing it too. Stop talking about what’s going on in the world at work. You have to focus on your business, and if you take up all your brain cells focused on what is happening outside of your business…well, you get the drift. I am not saying to set aside empathy and concern for what the world is going through, I am just saying you have to focus on running the business.
- Put down your phone. As long as you are avoiding headlines, you can avoid social media and relentlessly staring at your phone too. We all know the brain fog feeling we get after a phone binge. It’s not helping you do your best work, think your best thoughts or stay connected to your staff and your family.
- Take a walking meeting. You are probably stuck at home right now, trying to avoid Covid-19. Why not put in your headphones and take your next conference call on a walk. Encourage your staff to walk along with you. Take a deep breath. It will help.
- Take inspiration from others. If your business is feeling the impact of Covid-19 there is no getting around that this absolutely sucks. Try to listen to the stories of founders who have overcome incredible obstacles. Learn from their experiences.
- Plan, plan and then plan some more. Build models for what this looks like if your business takes an X% haircut. Look for ways to conserve cash where you can. Get creative with how your product can serve the market right now. Talk to your advisors, your board, your investors and other founders. The better prepared you are, the better the outcomes will be.
Why is managing your stress important?
- When you have your stress under control you make better decisions.
- Your staff picks up on your energy and your emotions. Really. You need to keep everyone’s head in the game and when you are in a foul mood or preoccupied it distracts and worries them. They are worried enough right now, you don’t need to add to it.
- You will come out of the other side of the tunnel with your relationships intact because you kept yourself in check and stayed present for those around you.
I’ve written before about how I lived through one particularly stressful time at work, but the truth is, there have been many stressful times. Sweating if we would make payroll. Skipping paying myself (too many times to count). Consumed with fixing declining ARPU. Picking up the pieces after the departure of a key executive. Crunching numbers to avoid staff layoffs after the churn of an outsized large customer. Planning to deal with an aging codebase and outdated platform architecture. Laying people off. The dotcom bubble. You get the picture. All stressful, and all relative.
This is certainly a unique time to be running any business. Take care of yourself, so you can take of your company.