Startup Smart: Three ways to manage “entrepreneurship fatigue” as a startup founder
I see entrepreneurship fatigue everywhere. Very recently, I sat down with a friend who said to me: “I need a break from the word entrepreneurship, I’m leaving the country.”
In a more serious case, a friend struggled to build the financial capacity of her social enterprise and experienced burnout and clinical depression.
We know that fatigue decreases productivity and performance, while simultaneously increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. It is so well documented that many industries and professions measure performance and manage risk through monitoring the impact of fatigue on performance – mining, healthcare, airlines, elite athletes, the list goes on.
But where does this leave entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurs operate in a working environment that is with largely self-regulated work patterns, regularly work in isolation, and often with no end goal. Furthermore, entrepreneurs in Australia currently exist in a noisy political environment where entrepreneurship and innovation are at the top of the election agenda.
Despite the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that entrepreneurship fatigue is a thing, a quick search of Google Scholar returns few articles about the concept.
What, then, is fatigue itself? In a 2009 study of mental fatigue and physical performance, Marcora, Staiao and Manning defined fatigue as “a psychobiological state caused by prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity”. In Japan, chronic overwork resulting in death even gets its own word, Karōshi. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defined this type of fatigue as “death from overwork”.
As an entrepreneur there is no fatigue management policy, there is no enterprise bargaining agreement, and there is no boss telling you to go home at the end of the day -in other words, no one is going to monitor your fatigue for you.
Therefore, it is critical that entrepreneurs create a fatigue management strategy. And it requires a level of self-awareness and self-regulation to implement before it is too late.
From working with young entrepreneurs, I have identified four key strategies for managing entrepreneurship fatigue.
1. LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR TIME
Sometimes, time management is not about crafting a perfectly scheduled calendar. Nor is it about rallying the perfect team in order for you to find more hours in a day. Time management is also about setting boundaries about how you use your time and what projects you are willing to dedicate your energy to.
In time management, there is a lesson in learning to say no, even when exciting opportunities present themselves. Learn how to evaluate opportunities in terms of their value to you as an individual and as a business.
2. FIND THE RIGHT TRIBE
It might sound like a cliché, but finding a tribe is critical. Identify who among your peers is perpetuating any negative energy (spend less time with these people) and those who are creating positive outcomes (spend more time with these people).
Think about who you go for a run with, who you discuss your values with, and who you share your blue-sky dreaming with. Keep these people in your tribe.
3. FIND SOMETHING OTHER THAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Live a life beyond your startup.
For me, I commit to my ideal unwind, the 30 minutes every day that I carve out of everyday for myself. It started as a well-being strategy that quickly became a love of long distance running. This is the time I use to clear my mind and devote time to my physical well-being. I am an extrovert with a lot of energy, so running suits me. Your ideal unwind could be yoga, reading poetry, or learning a new language. Of my peers that have got on board this trend, they all say it’s had a positive impact on their life.
We are living in a time when exhausting words like disruption, agile, innovation and entrepreneurship coming at us with rapid pace. We have to learn to manage our fatigue in this environment.
As for my friend who planned to skip the country, she’s been sucked back into the vortex and will spend her days in another co-working space on a new project.
But this time, she has a few management strategies up her sleeve.