Why Startup Founders Start Losing Track of Time
As you start getting better at your job, there’s a “sweet spot” where you can generate results by working hard, without needing to work long.
But as you get better still, the sweet spot disappears and what used to be hard becomes easy (or at least easier) but also takes longer.
As a startup founder, this means that if you’re already good at what you do — and the challenges of running your business are increasing — it’s very likely that the more time you spend on your business, the less effective it will become.
And when that happens, there is an absolutely overwhelming pressure to work harder if you want to see results.
You suddenly need to be spending most of your (now precious) time on your business instead of doing other things in life.
You start working on weekends and holidays instead of spending time with friends or family.
You feel guilty for every hour not spent thinking about or working on your startup — because even though it might take longer for each hour spent on the company’s growth, somehow all those hours add up and become an unacceptable amount of time spent away from the company… which is just unacceptable!
The pressure gets so intense that you are tempted to start ignoring the warning signs (like sleepless nights and loss of productivity) because you’re afraid that you might not meet your goals if the team isn’t spending all the time they can on it.
This is what the industry calls the “Startup Founder Time Paradox”. As a startup founder, it seems like there’s never enough time to do everything that needs to be done, but at the same time, as a startup founder, you feel obligated to spend more time on your business than anyone else.
The Startup Founder Time Paradox is particularly bad for people who work alone from home.
You have no one to tell you when it’s enough — no one around to remind you of life outside of your business.
You get sucked into a vortex of working harder and harder without seeing any results because there are too many other demands on your time for anything else to be possible… or so it seems.
And even worse, as hard as this paradox situation can be on everyone involved in a startup company (particularly when trying to find ways out), there are some companies that actually rely on this paradox for their survival which means that if you ever want their service, you’ll need to pay the price of sacrificing your own time.
How to get out of the Startup Founder Time Paradox
The good news is that once you figure out how to navigate this paradox, your business will become more effective and you can start enjoying life again. I’m not saying that you should quit your business, or even slow down at all… but before you do either, try these tips if you want any chance of sanity in the future:
Be aware! Be really aware! Don’t ignore the signs that are telling you that there are other things in life besides working on your startup.
If it takes too much effort to work on your startup, it’s time to reevaluate your approach. Work smarter, not harder.
If it takes a long time to achieve results for a short period of work (or if working any less than full-time doesn’t yield results), try tweaking how you work instead of trying harder — this might include: upping efficiency by automating repetitive tasks or using tools like Zapier or hiring someone else who is better at what needs doing; upping quality by making sure everything is done right instead of just being done; upping quantity by doing more and/or by making sure that you are only doing things that can be done in an hour.
Put a hard limit on your working hours. There is no single solution to this, but if you want to try something, try the 4-Hour Workweek principles — they were written for people with startups (and I know it’s been incredibly useful for me).
Work smarter, not longer (or harder). It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that working more hours will bring you closer to your goals, but it’s not true.
Working longer doesn’t make you a better person or a better entrepreneur. Better ideas will, and they are often born out of thinking about other things — like when you are cooking dinner or taking a walk outside.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.