June 25, 2013
This post is part of Tech Cocktail’s “Psychological Guide to Starting Up,” bringing you insights on the psychological and emotional challenges of startups throughout June.
If you’re an entrepreneur and you feel lonely, the solution is simple: spend more time with people. Right?
That’s only part of the story. Not all types of loneliness are created equal: they go from the amusing realization that you’ve been working at home in pajamas for five days, to the soul-crushing feeling of being misunderstood or invisible.
And it’s easy to ignore – to “suck it up,” or tell yourself you don’t have the time to deal with it. We asked entrepreneurs how they deal with loneliness, and we wanted to share a few of their strategies that take only 15 minutes. 15 minutes, for your mental health – I think the to-do list can wait.
1. Work at a cafe
Admittedly, this might take the whole day, but getting to the cafe hopefully takes less than 15 minutes. If you work alone at home or at the office, this is an easy way to add some human contact (and the invigorating scent of brewing espresso) to your day. This method is best for low-level loneliness, where the problem is simply not seeing other human beings for too long.
2. Call a family member or friend
When they pick up the phone, explain your situation: you have 15 minutes, and you just wanted to say hello. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting roped into an hour-long conversation and losing precious work time.
Try sharing something personal. You don’t necessarily have to admit that you’re lonely, but say something that goes beyond the usual “How are you? Fine. How’s work?” etc. As I’ve personally experienced, it’s possible to be lonely even when you’re around people if you’re not sharing your current state of mind, whether that’s unhappiness or excitement.
According to Campuscene CEO and founder Dave Meyer, it’s crucial to have confidants who aren’t part of your team or the startup world at all.
“They might not understand half of what I am even talking about, but it’s imperative to have a place where you can speak openly and honestly about your experiences with people who aren’t stakeholders,” he says.
3. Bond with your team
One long-lasting loneliness killer is to become closer to the people you spend most of your waking hours with. Order some coffees or chocolate-covered fruit or a packet of energy bars, and tell everyone to stop working for 15 minutes. As the folks at the Downtown Project know, blending work and life makes both more enjoyable.
4. Talk to your cofounder
Sometimes, family and friends don’t understand you. And while your team may be close, it’s hard to bridge the gap that inevitably exists between leaders and the people they lead. In this situation, try having an honest chat with your cofounder. If it’s hard to admit you’re lonely, try phrasing it a different way: “How do you maintain your social life?” or “How do you deal with the crazy work hours?”
5. Connect to other founders
If you can’t or don’t want to talk to your cofounder – or don’t have one – there are plenty more fish in the sea. Or, rather, birds – and they’re all tweeting on Twitter. Send a tweet to someone you met at an event or follow on Quora, and start a conversation by asking a question. Or, take your 15 minutes to find a Meetup group.
“Get to know other startup founders well enough to vent and grab a weekly/monthly beer. Call it Founders Anonymous,” suggest Jon West, CEO of AddShoppers.
In that same vein, author Susan Baroncini-Moe recommends creating a “mastermind group,” a collection of your peers who meet every few weeks to share feedback, advice, and encouragement. Take your 15 minutes to make a list of people who might be interested.
6. Sign up for a conference
If your tank needs a refuel, tech conferences can provide a jolt of inspiration, drive, and motivation. Seeing other people hustling, hearing their ideas, and commiserating about the difficulties can remind you that you’re not alone or misunderstood. Speaking of which, we’d love to see you at Tech Cocktail Celebrate in October.
7. Find an advisor
Finally, mentors who have experience in the trenches can provide you with many other tips on dealing with loneliness and much more. Try sites like Clarity or MeetAdvisors, where you can schedule meetings with entrepreneurs famous and unknown. Most likely, they’ll tell you that loneliness is normal. And if you’re lonely, knowing that other entrepreneurs are lonely makes you feel less lonely – no?
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