In my previous post, I wrote about some of the difficulties I faced in starting a business alone. In essence, I was simply not equipped to deal with the myriad challenges in a graceful way. Consequently, most of my problems were due to me chafing against myself.
This post is about some of my methods for dealing with these difficulties. It is about some of my techniques for rising to the challenge in graceful and sustainable way.
1. Forcing myself to acknowledge the positives in my own work
When you are designing and building a product, you naturally draw inspiration from the other products which are out there. Consequently, comparisons are inevitable.
The problem is that these other products are always going to be more polished, or more complete, or more balanced than yours. After all, they have probably been around longer and are successful, which is why you are looking at them in the first place.
So if you compare your baby with these products, it will probably always look like an ugly duckling. This creates an unhealthy state of mind where you notice only the flaws in your own product. This can get debilitating.
That's why I force myself to consciously take note of the good things in my own work on a weekly basis. There is always something to praise if you look for it.
And when you articulate that praise, you begin to believe it. Over time, this process makes you feel good about your own work. And feeling good about your work is the source of infinite energy.
2. Forcing myself to take things moment by moment
When you are trying to get a business off the ground, your list of tasks is infinite. There is always that marketing project to complete. There is always that feature to add. There is always that bug to investigate. Etc.
When faced with any list, a Homo Sapien naturally assumes that it has an end. So when you find that your list of long term tasks has no end, it can get overwhelming.
That's why I make sure that my task lists never span more than a day. Ticking items off this daily list gives the feeling of real progress. And this is very energizing.
In other words, I don't keep a list of concrete long term goals. I only have broad long term plans which inform my choice of daily goals. My long term goals work themselves out through these daily goals. This approach has made a world of a difference in reducing my stress levels.
3. Forcing myself to make time for everything
Another really simple -- and universally popular! -- method for reducing stress is to refuse to sacrifice the little things in life.
Your business has a tendency to consume everything else in your life. And for the latter half of 2012, I indeed got sucked into RecordBox and sacrificed many of the small things. This was not healthy, and it started to get draining.
But in the past month, I have realized that being a workaholic is a choice. It is most certainly not an inevitable result of starting a business. Realizing this was liberating.
So these days I make it a point to do the following:
- Eat well and enough.
- Sleep enough.
- Read a lot.
- Write regularly.
- Do yoga, play tabla, and meditate regularly.
- Play tennis.
- Make lots of time for friends and family.
I make sure to give each of these things their due, even if that means RecordBox gets less of my time and energy. The balance has really boosted my wellbeing.
4. Accepting that 'Shit happens'
Another thing I have observed in myself is the tendency to take it personally when things go wrong. For instance, as a software engineer, I have always taken all of my bugs very personally.
With RecordBox, my tendency to take things personally has become more pronounced. I am solely responsible for everything that happens, after all.
Consequently, in the early days, I used to drop everything and jump into firefighting mode each time I received a support request. Of late, I have realized that while having prompt customer service is important, it is seldom necessary to dive headfirst into latest issue.
This has helped bring my schedule into my own control. And that has made all the difference in helping me keep my composure.
The tip of the iceberg
I could write pages and pages about the other things I have done to gracefully deal with the pressures of bootstrapping. But I will stop here today and turn it over to you, dear reader.
How do you guys strike a work/life balance and keep your composure through stressful jobs? Let me know in the comments!