Our own Glucose Mix - Dealing with Founder Burnout

 Growing up in the 90s, some products were staples for surviving the sweltering summers of Chennai. Various brands of Glucose, juice mixes and other elixirs promised “instant energy” to those who returned home from the scorching sun. 
I have often wondered if there could be such instant “elixirs” for mental and emotional wellbeing as well. 
The startup journey cannot be described adequately in words, as many of you founders know. There is so much to be done, the times are hard, and we have responsibilities towards our dreams, teams, families, business stakeholders, and society, to state just a few. We try to get as much of our responsibilities right, wearing different hats, which sometimes don’t fit entirely, but must be worn elegantly nevertheless. 
Would it be surprising if something or someone got missed in this mix? Guess who? Yes, the founder him/herself. 
And when that happens, there can be burn out and affect everything that we work towards. Having experienced mild burnout in the past, and having a better understanding of it today, I often remind myself of my learnings, which make up my Glucose Mix.  
The paradox of “no time for me”
Prioritizing work to the exclusion of other interests used to be my default. When people recommended hobbies, I used to think - If I do not have time in the day for work and life, how could I even contemplate giving time to other things. There was no “utility” I could put to time spent on self, hobbies and such. 
As I took some tentative first steps towards these missing elements I was surprised to see that I actually gained work time. I did more work in less time, than I did “keeping at it” for harder and longer.  
Pursuing things added skills, all useful for managing the startup too. Meditation opened the heart and added clarity to issues. Exercise strengthened confidence and mood. Learning other new skills, reminded me to embrace the discomfort of learning, the importance of which cannot be over-emphasized enough in a startup.
Adding other things, added more productive time, achievement, and energy to work-life. 
What's in a name
Like everyone, I have absorbed different theories about work-life balance over the years. A lot of it also seeped in from labels we acquire on account of gender, societal or functional roles.
“A startup founder should be available for work all through the day”.
“A mother should <long list> :)”
“A finance professional cannot <somewhat long list> :)”
It took me a good deal of introspection to separate conditioning from reality, and consequently evolve the balance that works for me. 
Further, once I started viewing balancing as an art and a verb, it relieved the pressure of having to do it all every single day. Some priorities were sharper on some days, weeks of even months. 
Setting a fluid intention to balance helped set more realistic expectations from myself, and caused less stress “about being stressed” :)
Understanding co-travelling
In a startup’s roller-coaster journey, a lot of our success depends on the people we work with. While having a deep friendship between us cofounders itself has served as a cushion during rocky roads, we have been doubly lucky on the talent front. We started hiring from our own pool of experienced women professionals very early on, each aligned with our vision, and the flexible way, simply our default way of existence. This allowed us the flexibility to grow the team in small steps & layers (similar to clients who hire from us). 
Having included the best people for each role, I still struggled with the guilt associated with delegation. 
Slowly I changed my lens to taking pride in the successes of my team members. This, I see, is resulting in a virtuous cycle of revealing hidden treasures within people, as well as reducing stress for myself. 
Lonely Warriors
Entrepreneurship can seem lonely sometimes. I used to hesitate talking to other startup founders about issues we faced, doubtful about how it would be perceived. 
Overcoming this initial inertia proved to be invaluable. 
Not only did we receive help freely and easily, it humanized the other founder’s journey, and helped connect with many common fears and dreams. While we are focussed in our individual pursuits, there is immense value in sharing the camaraderie and lifting one another up.
Finally, with all the best intentions and support, it is still hard to be kind to oneself on the worst days. I keep experimenting with different ingredients of my Glucose Mix to ride through the stormy days. Many times it works. Sometimes it doesn't. 
And yet, the sun always comes out the next day, shining almost as grandly as the vision that we want to achieve in this world. And makes it all worth it. 

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