How to overcome Founder’s Fatigue
Everyone will tell you building a business is hard. Hard work, long hours, worries and a little bit of exhilaration thrown in now and then the keep you going. But we’re never really aware of just how much that journey can take out of us. We slog along day after day, dealing with a thousand things, worrying that we’re not going to have enough money in the bank at the end of the month and dealing with setback after setback. Finding clients is tough, you don’t have enough resources and you sometimes get stuck.
I’m beginning to feel Founder’s Fatigue
I’m building a product called Tornado Marketing. It’s a self-study course for small business owners who want (or need) to do their own marketing. The outline for the course is done; there are 6 modules and some 34 lessons in all, and at the time of writing I’ve completed 4 of those lessons.
Last week I was supposed to complete lesson number 5. I didn’t. Founder’s fatigue set in and I just couldn't bring myself to work on it.
I had to take a break.
The break was a good thing in some ways. I was able to work on some web pages that needed updating for a long time, I had time to think about the course and how I’m structuring it, and I think I have a good idea of some changes I would like to make.
But I had to admit to myself that I had encountered what every founder experiences at some time or another — Founder’s Fatigue.
It’s been too many long days, long hours and not enough positive feedback. Not enough results that would give me a boost.
All founders feel Founder’s Fatigue at some point
Whether you’re a first-time founder or a serial entrepreneur, you’re going to feel Founder’s Fatigue at some point in the game.
We’re all human, we all feel fatigue at some point and for different reasons. It could be purely from overwork and not enough rest; it could be because of problems that we don’t like dealing with that sap the energy from us; or it could be from facing a seemingly never-ending journey.
But somehow we keep coming back, working at it and eventually breaking through. Here are four things you can do to help you through Founder’s Fatigue and beyond.
Four things to help you deal with Founder’s Fatigue
Here’s what I’ve found works for me, and what I’ve seen other founders use to deal with sprinting a marathon.
Take a break: It seems so obvious but I’ve seen so many people not take a break when they so obviously need one. If you keep going when you’re fatigued your productivity drops way down and you get less and less done.
So take a break. And not just a few minutes or a few hours - take a whole weekend off. And go hard-core; turn off all Internet access for the weekend. You will be surprised how difficult it is to do; and surprised again when you see just how much better you feel when you get back after the break.
Put strict time boxes around everything: Work will expand to fill available time. This is an old saying from my software development days. It basically said that when you ask a software developer how long it will take to do something, they will answer with a question: how long do I have? And believe it or not, they will use up all the time they have, whether it’s a week or a month.
If you don’t put limits on how long you have to do something, you will take forever. You will never be done because there’s always some little thing more to do be done.
So put a time box around it. That’s the time you have to get it done, and no more.
Get rid of interruptions: The biggest productivity problem we have is interruptions. When you sit down to do something that requires some non-trivial level of focus, an interruption sets you back way more than the amount of time the interruption took to deal with.
So if you need to get something done, take all distractions out of the way. I’ve learnt that I’m the most productive in my writing when I set all my devices to airplane mode, or turn off wifi to avoid potential distractions.
Reward yourself: You’re working really hard and you deserve to reward yourself in some way to feel that it’s worth it. Whether that reward is a nice dinner out, a weekend at home or a new gadget is up to you, but do reward yourself. You deserve it.
You may not succeed - at first
Dealing with Founder’s Fatigue is particularly difficult because this is your baby, your passion and your life. So taking time away from it somehow seems like anathema.
When you try to take time out from your work the first time, you may find that you don’t know what to do. There will be things that you’ve neglected and you need to deal with; catching up on laundry, running errands or doing admin work. And you just can’t get your work off your mind.
The first time you do this you will wonder what the heck you’re supposed to do. You don’t have any hobbies any more, your circle of friends has dwindled and you don’t know what’s on in town.
But persist. The first time is difficult - and you will feel guilt. But you will come back refreshed and get more done in a week than you were able to get done in a month before.
The second time will be easier - and you will notice that the positive effects of the break or the reward were so much bigger because you were able to let go just a little more.
Have a business - and a life
One of the things I keep telling my entrepreneur coaching clients is that if you’re not in peak performance shape, your business won’t be either. You are the pivot around which everything turns, and if that pivot is falling over chances are your business will fall over too.
So have a business - but you have to have a life as well. If you don’t, you may end up with a business and no life, or no business and no life. Neither of those options are attractive.
Make it worth it. Work hard, but have a life too.