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Why mental well-being can be key to startup success

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by Startacus Admin

Bettina Pickering is the founder of Aronagh a leadership and behavioural change consultancy, that helps entrepreneurs create and adopt the mindset and behaviours, they need for success.

Wtih previous posts on Startacus on Quitting Your Startup? 5 Key Considerations and Dealing with Rejection when running a Startup, she returns with another mindset themed post (and a fab one at that) on why mental well-being can be key to startup success. Over to Bettina to explain all...

startup success and mental well being

"Do you recognise this mindset? 

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It defines you. Forget about vacations, about going home at 6pm – last thing at night you’ll send emails, first thing in the morning you’ll read emails, and you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. But it’s hugely rewarding as you’re fulfilling something for yourself.” - Niklas Zennstrom, founder Skype and Kazaa

It is a well-known phenomenon that entrepreneurs and start-up founders tend to burn the candle at all ends for a variety of reasons.

They know they have to make it happen, they feel 150% committed to their idea’s success and they are willing to do whatever it takes. They also accept that at the beginning stages of any company a lot of hard work is required to get it into a startup successsustainably successful state.

Yet, this workaholic lifestyle can become a habit. Founders often sacrifice sleep for long periods. They work through their holidays and find ways of multitasking wherever they are. Their minds are working overtime with hardly any downtime. 

Entrepreneur burn-out is the consequence. Even if this lifestyle does not lead to burn-out it will lead to mental exhaustion.

We all know the effects of when we are not on top of our game. We can’t focus. We make avoidable mistakes. We cannot get our creative juices going and become a lot less productive. In a significant number of cases, start-ups fail or fall short of their projections because their founders and leaders are mentally overextended or burnt out.

If you want to give your start-up a best chances of success take care of your mind – it is after all what makes you who you are as an entrepreneur. Without your idea(s) and your ability think outside the box you would not be where you are now.

startup mindset

Here are 5 Power Tips to keep your entrepreneurial mind in top form during start-up and expansion phases of your company:

Power Tip 1: Work smarter not harder

Easier said than done, I know. I have been there myself. Sometimes you do just have to knuckle down and get the workload done.

However, most of the time we fall into the habit of just working through our pile of tasks instead of taking a breather to evaluate how we could get this work done quicker.

Challenge yourself. Get a mentor or friend to challenge your assumptions. We often overlook the obvious, those things that we are very good at and that feel easy.   

Schedule regular time – it can be as little as 10 mins every week – to review what you do.

Focus on activities that are overly time consuming, recurring, distracting, zap your energy or simply do not add value. Also look at activities that you do not know how to do but you spend a lot of time either trying to learn them or procrastinating doing something about. 

Which of those can you

  • Outsource or delegate
  • Bundle and do in one go
  • Standardise
  • Automate
  • Stop doing

Doing this exercise regularly will shift your workload. It will free up your time and mental capacity as you can focus on those activities that truly add value to your business. 

Power Tip 2: Don’t skimp on sleep

Whilst reducing your sleeping time may appear to be the simplest and quickest way to increase your work hours, it is the surest way to create a whole of host of problems. Studies have shown that lack of sleep causes your brain to slow down, become sluggish and unfocussed. We also become more prone to suffering from stress and tend to feel negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger and frustration more strongly. This can result in increased bad decisions, mistakes and interpersonal conflicts. 

You will find over time, having a sleeping pattern that is regular and provides your brain with sufficient rest, keeps you in top mental form. 

Schedule enough time to get a good night’s deep and reenergising sleep. 

startup mindset

Power Tip 3: Get moving

Our brains are supplied by a separate blood circuit from the heart. If we don’t move much, we deprive our brains of much needed oxygen to focus and to regenerate.

Taking time for a power walk, the gym or other forms of exercise is crucial to keep the brain healthy, focussed and alert. It can also give us a different perspective on problems we are struggling with by taking that step back and out for a while. 

This time out enables us to come back refreshed and ready to be more creative and productive again.

Power Tip 4: Plan your time off

We’ve all done this – extended the working week into the evenings, week-ends and every spare moment we could find. At times this is required, however as soon as this becomes a habit, it starts to erode the business. It lowers an entrepreneur’s startup successresilience as time to re-energise is reduced. It also removes any contingency time if something goes wrong or needs a little extra effort. 

Drawing clear boundaries around our time off helps to create the space to reenergise our mind and body. It also ensures that we are motivated to work at Power Tip 1. If we know we don’t have 24/7 available to us, we only have e.g. 10/5 available, that means we have to find creative solutions how to get whatever we need to get done in that timeframe. 

Power Tip 5: Co-working & supporting each other

A lot of solopreneurs and start-up co-founders work from home. Or they work with the same few people. This can lead to feelings of isolation, idea stagnation and low motivation. 

Co-working spaces such as Jelly are a great place to work whilst meeting fellow entrepreneurs, exchanging experiences, solutions to shared problems and ideas, getting introduced to potential referral partners or enjoying the buzz of a larger office environment.

If you do not have co-working spaces near you, consider teaming up with fellow entrepreneurs. Arrange to co-work from a coffee shop with Wifi or from another entrepreneur’s home office.  

As entrepreneurs we need to take our mental wellbeing as seriously as we take our business idea and start-up activities. We need to invest time and create the space for mental wellbeing, the same way we invest time in working on business activities. 

After all, an entrepreneur’s mind is probably the most valuable assets of a start-up."

Bettina would love to hear how you have used any of the above ideas, what insights you gained from this article or what brilliant results had! You can email them to bettina.pickering@aronagh.comor tweet them @Aronagh_Coach

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Published on: 1st October 2015

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