Entrepreneurs love creating businesses from scratch because of the excitement and unfettered determination of starting something brand new. I remember when my wife and I first started our online store, we ate, drank and slept with the business 24/7. Practically every meal, we discussed at length our products, our strategy and our execution plan. Even in bed, we constantly came up with new ideas and discussed our goals for the following day. The atmosphere was intense, almost too intense.
Intensity is good but there’s always a fine line that you must not overstep or you risk burning yourself out. This is what happened to us. Don’t let it happen to you.
We Tried to Do Too Much
The early stages of our online store could best described by a single word: impatience. We were eager to launch the store as quickly as possible so we worked ourselves to death trying to get all of the merchandise together, establishing a good picture flow and working out the logistics for day to day operations. We wanted to spend as little money as possible on web development so I also spent a good deal of time learning PHP, html, css in order to create a professional looking website.
In retrospect, we pushed ourselves too hard. Our situation was further exacerbated by the fact that we had no idea what we were doing either. There was so much material we had to learn and I felt like a chicken with its head cut off, scrambling to digest as much information as possible in as short of a time frame as possible. At the peak, I was working 50 hours a week and then coming home to work another 50 hours on the online store.
All of this work took a toll on my health and well being. If I were to do it all over again, I would take it at a much slower pace. I’d probably set aside one or two days at most to work on the business and try to stay on a rigid schedule. In the early stages, this can be hard to do, but you have to constantly remind yourself that your business is a marathon and not a sprint. Ask yourself if delaying your business a month would be the difference between success and failure. The answer is probably no.
We Weren’t Getting Enough Sleep
My wife and I are zombies when we don’t get enough sleep. I don’t how we kept up the intensity with only 5 to 6 hours a night, but I could tell our minds slowly wasted away with each passing day. One time, I fell asleep on the toilet only to realize that I couldn’t move my legs because they both fell asleep. Another time I was working on my website when I accidentally tried to eat my mouse instead of the breakfast muffin right beside me. Not sleeping enough and pushing yourself too hard actually reduces your efficiency in the long run. If you feel well rested, you will easily make up the hours with increased productivity. At least that is how my body works.
We Forgot to Eat Well
During the early phase of your startup, there will be a period of time where you will view eating as a dreaded chore. You’ll think to youself…if I just ate at my desk, I could get so much more work done. Oh wait, I’ll just pop a bag of Doritos in my mouth and that ought to tide me over until dinner. Then when dinner time rolls around, you’ll bust out the hot pockets in the freezer so you can scarf down your meal quickly and continue working. Because this behavior is inevitable with most people, I suggest that you keep absolutely no food in your home or office. That way you are physically forced to leave your desk and grab some real food.
I Forgot to Exercise
I was in decent shape before we started our online store. But I stopped exercising because I didn’t feel I could spare the time. In retrospect, taking a break and going for a good run would have cleared my mind and increased my productivity. Instead, things began to snowball out of control. The combination of no exercise coupled with eating like crap led to me gaining weight. Gaining weight caused me to be more tired and lethargic so I could get less accomplished.
My Wife and I Didn’t Spend Enough Quality Time
One of the worst parts of the startup phase was that my wife and I didn’t spend as much quality time together. All of our topics of conversation were directly related to the business and we didn’t really hang out as much. It wasn’t until we both got burned out did we force ourselves to set aside a certain period during the day just to relax and be with each other. Everyone needs some time to unwind. Never forget to relax once and a while especially with the people you care about most.
We Ignored Our Personal Hygiene
I was probably at my lowest point when I stopped showering on a regular basis. A shower takes 10 minutes and I couldn’t possibly spare 10 minutes could I? I had a store to launch. The only advantage I could see here was that I saved myself from doing laundry and saved on my water bill. Other than that, it was pretty disgusting in retrospect.
The moral of the story here is take things slow and gradual. Even though you’re feeling ambitious and determined, establishing a business takes time and there’s absolutely nothing that you can do about it. You’ll end up worse off if you sacrifice your health, your hygiene and your relationship with your spouse. Have faith that you’ll be successful and it will happen eventually. We were lucky that it only took us 2 weeks to get our acts together. Don’t fall into the same trap.
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