I was on a holiday this past week. Can’t really help taking time off seeing I’m a single mom and there’s a school break. But I realized today it’s more than that.
Someone told me today that you cannot build something extraordinary without sacrificing your family and personal time in the balance. I disagree. For me 10 hours work days are not productive. And I don’t just mean over time. On days I need to pick up my child, when I only have 4 hours of real work (not counting fluff) I get more done than when I have the whole day. When my work and personal time are in balance I am more focused. I am more efficient. I get more done, and I do it better.
So much startup advice tells you you must - and so many startup founders do - work crazy long days. I can’t practically do that, but more importantly - I don’t want to and I don’t believe I have to in order to build a successful startup. Yes, you must have passion. Yes, you must be incredibly driven. Yes, you will have to push hard, beyond your boundaries and dig deep. And you will probably find yourself working all kinds of hours now that there’s no set schedule. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot have any work life balance. If you cannot quit your day job and work on your startup in parallel, then it will be very hard to find time for anything but. However if you are able to work on this full time, for some of us keeping a balanced life is the only way to go.
I came back from vacation last week and my mind was lost in all directions. I have lost a week worth of work, more time will be required to get my head straight and tasks have piled up like you cannot believe. I also found a bug while on vacation and, given circumstances, I wasn’t able to fix it until I returned. But that step back, and having to sort out the mess it caused, has given me perspective. You see, instead of diving back into the task I was busy with a week ago, I took the time, now that I wasn’t too focused and tunnel visioned, to look at my users’ behavior. It turned out people say they want one thing but how they use the app tells a different story. I was able to realize the feature I was working on is not really a priority. While many people asked for it - no one is actually using the app in a way that will make it relevant. (Of course you should check your priorities and check what users are doing, but we are all wise in hindsight and like I said before you will have to accept making the wrong mistakes sometimes.) At that point in time, before I left on vacation, I was focused on user feedback and that addressing that requested feature, and did not see past it.
I don’t know if I will succeed, perhaps I’m talking nonsense and there is no way I can build a viable business without spending 10 hours a day. Perhaps I will fail for other reasones. But I do know that after working on this startup for less than a year I have accomplished a lot. I do know that I was told in the past “this cannot be done” and proved that it can. I also know that for me this adventure is a part of my life, a part I choose, not means to an end. And above all, I know that without keeping the balance I will not be able to keep the startup.
If you’re happy working 10 hours a day, if you get a lot done, if this system works for you - that’s great. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t another way. It doesn’t mean other people are less driven. It doesn’t mean other people will not be able to accomplish something because they work differently. You have to be driven, you have to be passionate - but you can have a life outside your startup. And for some of us, that makes us better at what we do.
BTW research is on my side :P