To many of us startup founders, the idea of much-needed R&R seems like an obscure concept, like wandering up to space to check out the scenery. I mean, we don’t all have private rockets like Richard Branson. However, as the ageless founder of superbrand Virgin proves again and again, rest, relaxation and fun are integral to avoiding burnout and keeping you, your team and your business in tip-top shape.
So whether you’re reading this on your phone over a shot of Nespresso Arpeggio between meetings or while lounging in a hammock at an Airbnb hideaway in Cinque Terre after a breathtaking mountain hike, you’ll surely relate to the fact that everyone has unique downtime techniques. Some of us take 10 minutes, some of us take 10 days. Check out how these startup founders prefer their downtime…
“As startup founders, we’re always struggling to make time for vacations, partly because the amount of work that piles up while we’re gone almost makes it not worth it. I try to take very short (three-day) vacations a couple times a year and find these very reenergizing. However, I recently took my first week long vacation and disconnected this summer after four years of launching CoFoundersLab . It was pretty memorable as I was taking my company through a merger, and the merger basically happened while I was in the middle of the ocean on a cruise to Alaska with my entire family. We merged to create Onevest, and I’ll never forget the feeling of knowing things were okay back at work with my expanded team on whom I could rely on to fully enjoy my vacation.”
– Shahab Kaviani, Founder of CofoundersLab
“I’ve been a part of the startup scene for fifteen years and if there’s one consistency it’s a serious lack of downtime. At the onset of Modev five years ago I vowed to build in a more “european” approach to my schedule. I had dreams of a shorter work week, slower approach to my days and a superior organizational approach. Ha ha. Here I am, five years and two kids later working hard to keep my company and family growing with some sense of inner zen through it all. Here are the things I do to stay in good mental, emotional and physical shape:
– Run: Even a twenty minute run can do wonders. When I get into longer distances (5-10mi), really cool things happen.
– Walk: Our mornings start best with a 30-45 minute walk with the kids.
– Meditation: I wake up before everyone else and find a quiet place to sit. For a variation on traditional meditation (where one is encouraged not to think) I like to visualize the way I most want things in my life to go.
– Vacation: While the two+ week euro vacay isn’t my reality with two toddlers, nine days (one week + two weekends) totally away from work is great for me.
– Long weekends: Four day sips are often fun and just the right respite.”
– Pete Erickson, Founder of Modev
“To be honest I don’t do much R&R these days but I know that it is super important to take care of yourself as burnout is a very real danger. What has worked really well for me is to stay away from emails all day saturday and partly Sunday. Having a break of a day and a half is really great. Also leaving the house to go away for the weekend works better than spending the weekend in town. I will be going home to Albania for 2 weeks in August and that will be my break this week. I think it is really important to have a chance to relax, spend time with family and reset. Finally working out a couple of times a week and especially incorporating yoga is very helpful for me.”
– Lona Alia Duncan, Founder of StyleLend
“While studying for the bar exam after law school, a very successful individual gave me a piece of advice that went like this: ‘You’re going to feel compelled to work and study all the time. Don’t. Carve out a schedule and a routine, and make sure that you have at least one full day per week when you can unplug and reset. When you do, you’ll have a more defined focus when you get back to work.’ Without question, this is some of the best advice I’ve ever received and it’s from that thought process that I strive to find time wherever I am in the world (on business or personal trips) to focus on what’s around me. Not only does doing so help you clear your mind, but you’ll end up stumbling on to aha moments when you least expect it.”
– Adam Zuckerman, Founder of Fosterly
“There’s a perception that entrepreneurs should reach for their smartphone first thing in the morning, but don’t fall for it! I find it important to take a moment and figure out my goals for the day, so that I am driving my agenda, rather than reacting to others. Maintaining my own focus reminds me that I need to make room for energizing hobbies as well as my work — for me these include travel, hiking and photography. Running 20SecondStory as a global firm, and implementing regular tech blackouts throughout the day, has allowed me to pursue my business and passions simultaneously. In fact, I’ve taken some of my best photographs on work trips!”
– Olga Levitsky, Founder of 20SecondStory
“When you are your own boss, it’s easy to find yourself forgetting to turn-off from work mode. When I need to disconnect and time permits, my first pick to relax is always a weekend getaway with friends to see live music. On the days when skipping town to go on tour isn’t an option, I make a point to ride my bike — I find it is amazing how refreshing two hours away from the computer can be, especially on those really busy days. While Traction is a huge part of my life and providing financial support to growing businesses is something that I’m truly passionate about, maintaining balance is key and really helps to prevent burnout.”
– Matt Briefer, Founder of Traction Professional Services
“Just 10 days after we released our completely redesigned site [sleep, what’s that?!], I left for a week driving around Iceland. An amazing experience. It was great to have the distance — physical and mental — to open the mind for everything that lies ahead. The key to getting away was trusting the terrific team we’ve built to maintain our momentum while I was away. It’s great to be back and fully reengaged, though I do miss the days of 20 hours of sunshine!”
– Martin Levine, Founder of Whyttle
Like most entrepreneurs, mompreneurs are continually on the go. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to tend to the customers at work and the customers at home! I’ve found that I have to make it a priority to schedule time throughout the week devoted to rest and relaxation. This includes set times when I unplug from technology and focus on my husband and children. Set times when I catch up with friends and family. I set ‘me’ times when I workout, do yoga, unwind with my favorite shows, focus on myself and de-stress. I have found that I am happier and a more effective leader when I make these set times a priority on a consistent basis.
– Anjali Varma, Owner of Kidville and Modern Mompreneur
“To me, taking a break isn’t just about relaxation; it’s all about resetting. When I was waiting tables at a very busy restaurant years ago, we had a wonderful consultant come in for a week. He told us to go downstairs and touch a trashcan. This was a place we had never been and a task we had never done. The purpose was to reset our minds and see things when we returned to the dining room in a different light. For example, upon returning I would notice maybe this water pitcher on the counter doesn’t look good to the guest at the table next to it. This is what rest and relaxation does for me. Whether it is a journey across the ocean or a day spent on my rooftop, I come back to planning our events with a reset and recharged mind. Thinking outside the box or perhaps realizing something right in front of my nose is sometimes the best way to design a perfect experience.”
– Scott Stein, Founder of Capital Connoisseurs
“While traveling to a new country at least once a year has been my favorite vacation routine for decades, it’s not always possible with the non-stop schedule of a startup founder. So, I love to take real weekends whenever possible … Spending a Saturday with family, date night with my husband while our little girl has fun at a sleepover, a lazy Sunday brunch to reconnect with friends over unlimited Bellinis. It’s amazing how a couple days away from the screen can feel like a week-long getaway, resulting in a ready-to-run Monday to take on new projects, go above and beyond for clients and lead the Aveya team with endless enthusiasm!”
Are you part of a startup team with awesome ways to kick back? Let me know for the next R&R feature in the winter. Thanks!