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WrkRiot, a startup caught up in chaos and claims of forged wire transfers, fake records, late payments, and borrowing money from employees, recently collapsed in spectacular fashion. While WrkRiot is an extreme example, it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that startups are synonymous to chaos and crisis.
You often hear stories about startups failing, founder fatigue, funding problems, and as Trudeau Sr. would have said, general fuddle duddle ups. However, there are some easy ways startup owners can avoid, well, fuddle duddle ups and reach the state of extreme peace and unfuddle. Let’s look into some such ways.
Don’t assume superhuman responsibilities
Accountability is a good thing. As a founder, you are not only accountable but also responsible for your startup’s success. However, you are an entrepreneur, not a superhero trying to save the world. Stop assuming more responsibility than you can handle. Acknowledge your limitations early on to avoid startup stress. This can help you in dual ways:
- You kick your ego by understanding you don’t possess the power to do everything.
- You hire hardworking people and let them do their job.
Startup founders often have the compulsive urge to be involved in every aspect of the business. However, taking on more on your plate than you can handle can inevitably lead to chaos. A successful leader is one who can draw on strengths of other people and balance the wheel.
Evaluate viable and unviable ideas
Startups grow by repeating or altering some elements in their offering. Each time they receive a positive or negative signal from the market (such as a conversion, retention or bounce), they set off righting the wrongs or iterating the right elements. However, not all those iterations or alterations might be viable. The ideal way is to assess each idea by weighing its chances of success against time and cost.
Stop, drop and float
Constantly thinking on our feet is what saved humans from being a nearly extinct species to one of the most civilised beings on the planet. However, what saved us from predators and dangers of the wild quickly became a subliminal habit, which is why our mind is always overthinking, finding dangers and trying to fix everything.
Jonas Ellison, coach, writer, and contributor to The Huffington Post, has an excellent post on how to “stop fixing” and start floating. If you want to learn how to handle stress, you need to learn how to stop, drop, and float. Every time you encounter a chaotic situation, instead of finding a quick fix solution for it, stop obsessing about the problem, drop everything, and stop thinking about the problem completely. I once read somewhere that you can’t see reflections in boiling water. Similarly, you can’t see the truth in a state of agitation.
Do more in less time
Instead of staying up late, learn how to do more in less time. This is one place where technology can most definitely help: there are several project management tools on the internet that come in handy for planning and scheduling important tasks, setting workflows, determining dependencies, and measuring estimated times to pass milestones. These tools are invaluable in helping you set realistic goals and chart progress accurately.
While many startups swear by basic collaboration apps like Slack or Trello, these tools treat projects as simple to-do lists. I’d advise you to go for a more feature-heavy and no-nonsense tool that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between basic, entry-level tools like Basecamp and bloated, enterprise-level software like Microsoft Project. WorkZone, for instance, simplifies the complexity of new startup projects while giving you some advanced features, such as team or department-wise planning controls, target allocations, interactive timelines and collaborative document editing.
Narrow down the gender gap
Many studies have shown women are more resilient and respond better to stress than men. A single gene, SRY, is responsible for the “fight or flight” way men respond to stress while the absence of this gene in women is why women are less aggressive and “tend to befriend” in stressful times, Australian researchers found.
If you want everyone to function smoothly under crisis, which, let’s face it, is inevitable in a startup, hire more women. Of course, that’s not the only advantage. Women are also great at averting personal crises because they are better at confrontation with minimal conflict, unlike men who are more likely to push personal issues under a rug, where these issues stay only to rear their ugly heads again some time later, causing more tension. If you’re still not convinced on why startups should hire more women, read this “all-male-childless-team-bashing” Quora thread.
Do something creative and constructive
Every few days when work pressure increases, take short breaks to do something creative and constructive. Sounds soft and unprofessional? It’s no secret that doing something with your hands such as painting, sketching, molding clay, or building sand castles can help you and your team to think more clearly and gain self-awareness. It also makes you stronger and more resilient to problems. You’ll find many creative hobby kits and colouring books for adults’ relaxation on Amazon and other shopping sites. Creativity is known to be one of the fastest ways to bust stress and become more productive.
Take a cognitive reappraisal
Cognitive reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that involves changing the trajectory of an emotional response by reinterpreting the meaning of the emotional stimulus.
In simple words, cognitive reappraisal is just a fancy term for looking at the brighter picture. It means you have to make a conscious effort to change the way you interpret problems. So you lost 50 users in a day? No problem; what did you learn out of it? Look at the brighter side – had you not learned the lesson, you might have lost 200 more in future. While this advice may sound complete bollocks, conscious cognitive reappraisal is proven to help you reach a positive frame of mind so you can find your way from whatever fuddle you are in quickly.
So these are the seven ways you can rise above the daily muddle of startup life. While certain ways such as drawing and making clay pots are easier than others, with time you can achieve a total state of unfuddle with all the remaining methods too. Do you, your co-founders or employees use any of these methods? Care to share your ways in the comments and help bring sense to chaos?
Feature image: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr.