Startups are a glorified vocation. Much like a Marathon, the glory sits at the finish line. Much like a Marathon, only the runner knows the pain and uncertainty in reaching that finish line. I have talked to many of my startup friends about the everyday struggles and stress in a startup – almost wondering at times if the journey is worth the reward. Some tips that I have gathered below.

Know when it hurts most

Awareness is a key element of managing stress. There is a rhythm to startup stress. For me, stress is highest when I wake up because everything that can be a problem is staring at me in the face. That stress vanishes when I reach my desk and am solving for those issues. Having recognized this pattern allows me to deal effectively with it. I am able to park my worries for those couple of hours in the morning, and I hit my desk early to get into solving mode rather than worrying mode.

Know what hurts most

Equally important is to know what issues stress you the most. This helps in identifying when the stress levels are going high, recognizing the underlying driver, and being able to step aside from stress to solution. It could be the fear of missing targets, it could be fear of losing the customer, it could be frustration of others not doing what they are supposed to.

What’s your operating rhythm

As individuals, and governed by needs of the business, we have a certain operating rhythm which captures typical milestones, adjustments, and planning/review cycles. Tune them to your advantage. Don’t set a daily rhythm for something that inherently will take a week to next milestone. And vice-versa. Cadence is perhaps the most important secret of long distance running – both “too fast” and “too slow” are tiring.

What do you love doing the most

Just as it is important to know what stresses you the most, it is important to know what gives you the most joy. Spending more personal time in those areas – and hopefully you are good at those as well – allows you to both contribute most effectively, and hire for functions where you might be suboptimal. For me, customer interactions and problem solving are the most joyful startup activities. I ensure a good mix of those in my day-to-day calendar.

Enjoy and let enjoy

Ultimately, startups are a team game. An entrepreneur’s job is to absorb stress, not to amplify it. Remind yourself of this every day you look into the mirror. It will help you reduce your own stress, as well as create a slightly more fun environment for others to operate in. Celebrate small successes.

These tips are at best my personal experiences and those of friends around me. You may have completely different ways of dealing with the many tribulations that come with a startup. Do share your formula with us!

Alok Mittal

Alok is a first generation entrepreneur, now in the venture capital business. Alok heads up venture operations for Canaan Partners in India, with focus on internet, technology and BPO space. Alok is also a founding member of Indian Angel Network - an organization comprising successful entrepreneurs looking to invest in seed stage businesses. Prior to this, Alok cofounded JobsAhead.com, a leading job portal which was acquired by Monster.com. Alok is an active charter member of TiE Delhi. Alok is a computer science graduate from IIT Delhi and, postgraduate from UC, Berkeley.

The views expressed on this site are personal views of Alok, and do not constitute an offical opinion of any company or organization.

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