5 STEPS TO AVOID ‘FOUNDER BLUES’ — AGORA WELLNESS SERIES

10 OCTOBER, 2017

In honour of World Mental Health Day, Nick Birkett, Founder of Elefant, has written a blog post for us on how to work wellness into your life — to maintain and improve your mental wellbeing, prevent the dreaded Founder burnout, and generally SUCCEED, LIVE WELL, HAVE FUN!

Read on & Enjoy.

Entrepreneur burnout is among the biggest risks to your company’s success. As a Founder, you’re expected to be bulletproof. But, it isn’t a sign of weakness to admit you don’t always feel 100%.

Tim Ferriss recently opened up about his own wellness challenges. Like me and so many other entrepreneurs, he’s experienced the darker sides of founding a business. Yet, professionally, it remains a taboo.

A recent study by the University of California, San Francisco found that one in three entrepreneurs is diagnosed with depression. The same percentage of startups have been identified as failing due to the emotional state of their founders.

Today is World Mental Health Day. It may seem like a “nice to have”, but practicing some form of wellness to maintain and improve your Mental Health is essential to success. It is a strategic advantage for you to prioritise as, among many benefits, it will help increase productivity. For most, ignoring this will eventually spell failure for your venture.

What are the best activities to schedule in your diary?

#1. Be active and spend time near water

Many people say they had their “breakthrough moment” by/on/in water. Pharrell Williams says he gets his creativity from being by water. Oliver Sacks, one of the greatest minds of our time, said he had his best ideas while swimming.

Listen to this podcast from 8 to 11 minutes for a fascinating insight on this.

Whether by water or not, exercise can prevent burnout and is a crucial part of helping your mental health. If you can’t find time to work out every day, at least make one of your meetings a walk and talk.

#2. Connect

Find like-minded entrepreneurs and schedule time with them. There are plenty of groups out there, like our friends at Agora in London or GBx in SF.

This is obvious, but it’s amazing how many founders get so focused on their own work they forget to come up for air to meet others.

Sharing ideas, and thinking of someone else’s problem can often lead to new revelations on your own challenges. This informal innovation is the key to 78% of startup success, according to a recent Economist report. I know from my own experience you can never predict who knows who and how they may help.

#3. Get advice

I have built and run two companies before. The inspiration for my latest venture, Elefant came in 2009 when I stood up in front of a few thousand people in London and asked Sir Richard Branson for advice.

After speaking to Richard one on one and hearing his advice, I lost the paralysing fear of having to make perfect decisions and learnt to focus on protecting the downside risk in life.

​I realised that getting the right advice at the right time can change people’s lives.

Being a founder is isolating at the best of times, so be open to finding new avenues of input. Ask for help; seek advice when you connect with new people; or look back at things you found inspirational when making decisions.

We created Elefant to allow you to immediately access the “toolkits” that help with different parts of your entrepreneurial life — decision making / stress / anxiety / best practices etc. We’re aiming to give people the perfect mentor in their pocket.

If you ever feel overwhelmed and need advice quickly, 7 Cups of Tea, is a 24/7 instant support that has a special section for startup employees and founders. Just don’t always work it out alone. The chances are you will make either a poor decision for you and your company in that moment.

#4. Schedule 10 minutes

Instead of drifting back to sleep, or immediately checking your phone, schedule 10 minutes to think about yourself as soon as you wake up.

Ben Schippers, founder, investor, and TechCrunch author takes 10 mins each day to ask, “How am I actually feeling?”. He is not thinking about specific events but more of an overall feeling, looking for patterns in the last few days. It helps him take stock and get perspective.

Tim Ferriss realised the things that nearly ruined him now seem “incredibly trivial”. “You have gifts to share with the world. You are not alone. You are not flawed. You are human,” he wrote recently.

In your 10 mins, it’s worth remembering the above.

#5. Sleep (and nap too)

Arianna Huffington, Tim Cook, and Bill Gates are just a few successful founders who note the importance of sufficient sleep in their success.

Lack of sleep significantly reduces your output and decreases innovation. You will always feel like there are special circumstances that should be prioritised over sleep but resist. The cost to you and your business will be too high.

Harvard Medical School discovered that sleep deprivation costs the US economy $63 billion a year due to lost productivity. Plus, consequences of going without sleep are significant to your health, including obesity, diabetes, threats to your mental health, and cardiovascular disease.

It will feel odd, even wrong, to start scheduling time for yourself. Especially if that time takes away from your venture. But the top performers in our society already are already doing it. They “achieve” less in a day, but significantly more in the long run.

At Elefant we’re working with a group of entrepreneurs to help them implement and maintain habits like these to improve their performance and happiness. If you’d like to use our technology, get in touch here.

Originally published at agoraworld.one.

A consultancy with community and wellbeing at its heart.