February 12, 2021
Over the last few years, the topic of managing energy and time comes up with most founders with whom I work. It’s something that is very individual and very important. Especially this time of year, and this past year in particular, it’s even more crucial.
I discuss this with founders because of potential burnout, because of feeling swamped because of juggling multiple priorities and wearing multiple hats; like a CEO selling full time, raising full time, overseeing strategy, managing a team and operations and ensuring cash flow.
When you’re in the early stages of a startup, wearing multiple hats is normal. So is working on your business every waking hour of the day; a Tuesday feels like a Saturday feels like a Monday. It’s all true and happens most of the time. But it’s not sustainable if you want to play the long game. Starting and growing a startup is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
So, in order to be the most effective you can be as a founder, what are the things you can do to ensure you can keep that marathon going without running out of steam (or cash)?
My approach when starting and growing my startup was to manage my energy instead of my time. Instead of being a slave to a daily calendar, where time is finite at 24 hours in a day, managing my energy helped me stay focused. It helped me prioritize my day and my activities, and helped me feel better about saying no to things. For example, before I changed my approach, when I got asked to meet someone for coffee for 15 minutes and had the time in my calendar, I would most likely accept.
However, what if I had an important customer or investor presentation that was taking place an hour after that coffee meeting? I would want to have my focus and energy ready for that meeting. Therefore, where I might have said yes from a time perspective, by prioritizing my energy, my answer would be no. I knew I would need to prepare for that important meeting, and need the energy to do so. No hard feelings, and no guilt about saying no to that request.
What might be some examples of managing energy? Think about the things that energize you - like eating healthy, getting enough rest and exercise, staying hydrated, spending time away from the screen and social media, spending quality time with family and friends, engaging in hobbies… the list can go on…
In my case, I chose to focus on three activities that kept me going as a founder - eating healthy, regularly getting 7 hours of rest (including 10 minute bean bag naps at the office), and getting exercise. I know I could have done more or different things, but being consistent with healthy habits is better than doing everything perfectly. Those were my three, and still are.
If you had to choose one, or two or maximum three things that you think might help you prioritize your energy, what would they be?
What would you need to do or change to incorporate these into your life more regularly?
Who might you want to engage with to help you stay motivated?