Building a startup is like assembling a parachute when you’ve jumped out of the plane. It seems there’s not too much room for mindfulness – but to have a safe landing, you need to make room.
Too many startups hold the likes Steve Jobs and Elon Musk as examples of what to be, but as Plato Project founder Omar de Silva explains that’s doing more harm than good.
“[They’re] two people that are renowned for their ability to just go, go, go. I think those guys are capable of going at the pace they go at for a sustained period, and it’s sustainable for them,” he told The Pulse.
“People aspire to be those people and they try to do things the same way.”
“The problem with that is that those are one in a billion-type people. The likelihood of anybody else being that way is very slim.”
Yet startup founders of all stripes fall prey to the busyness syndrome, where being busy is confused with being productive. Then they skid towards burnout.
So, how do you balance the need to switch off while you hit deadlines as they rush towards you?
MAW Creative founder Debra Longin told The Pulse that making sure your brain gets a rest doesn’t mean it sucks days away from the business.
“Even if it’s for a few minutes, find something that gives your brain a way to switch off,” she said.
That can be staring out the window while you’re on the train, listening to music or walking – the key is to find what works for you.
“We’re very complicated people,” explained Longin “so what rejuvenates us and how we’re creative is different for each person – but you need the time to try out different techniques to find the one that’s going to work for you.”
“If you do the same thing and you feel like you’re not getting the results, don’t write off the whole need to switch off. Try something else.”
De Silva says startup founders need to embrace a “fourth bottom line”: people.
“People talk about sustainability of a business, but if the people behind the business aren’t sustainable, then nothing’s sustainable,” he said.
“I often say there needs to be a fourth bottom line as opposed to the standard triple bottom line.
“Taking care of yourself really is personal sustainability.”
For example, athletes have long realised that adequate sleep is a requirement of maintaining peak physical performance – but startup founders are often quick to trade sleep for work.
“It’s really about figuring out what’s going to make you perform to your best every day – and it’s unlikely to be staying up for 20 hours a day every day of the year,” de Silva said.
Ever wonder why billion-dollar ideas take shape in the shower? Because it’s one of the few times in your day when you’re not distracted by a screen.
“There’s a certain glamour around grinding yourself down being great for creative output, but in fact that’s not true,” said Longin.
“A lot of people see creativity coming out of angst. Often the big aha! moments actually come when you stop for a few seconds, when you’re in the shower or going for a walk.”
We’re not suggesting you spend an extra five minutes in the shower (especially if there are water restrictions), but carve out moments when you can avoid distractions.
Longin says founders don’t realise they fear “losing progress” if they seek out moments of quiet – but there’s a solution to that which works for her.
“I know I’m the sort of person who needs to write something down – basically parking your idea,” she said.
“I do that because I find that unless I put it somewhere and I can come back to it, I’m worried that it will somehow be lost.
“If I park it and I know where it is, I feel like I can go off and do something for ten minutes and when I come back and look at it I’m able to pick up that thought again.”
Both Longin and de Silva will be presenting on how to embrace mindfulness while building a startup at the Master Series by WeTeachMe series at Inspire9 at Richmond next Wednesday – proudly supported by MYOB.