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Managing Stress As A Founder During The Coronavirus Pandemic: 5 Effective Techniques

Managing Stress As A Founder During The Coronavirus Pandemic: 5 Effective Techniques

By Brandon Metcalf May 20, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Building a company is always stressful.

For example, when we launched my previous company, Talent Rover, there was always something going on—some fire we had to put out. We dealt with a lawsuit early on, which was stressful. We scaled from one office in the US to nine offices around the world in a very short amount of time, which was also stressful. The entire journey of building a business is filled with stressors, even if those things are positive for the business. Growth is a great problem to have. It’s just also stressful.

Every founder I know, talk to, and am friends with feels the same way. It takes a certain type of personality to want to build a startup—especially if you’re someone like me who has done it multiple times. And so finding ways to manage that stress along the way is extremely important. Otherwise, you begin to resent the journey, and building a company goes from being your passion to becoming a source of unhappiness.

Here are a few habits that have worked well for me over the years, and are helping me destress on a daily basis considering all that is happening in the world right now.

  1. I don’t work past 6:00 p.m. during the week, and will only work a couple of hours on the weekends.

The easiest trap to fall into as a founder is to feel like you have to be working all the time.

Especially right now, while many companies are still working from home, there can be this impulse to stay in front of your computer for 12+ hours per day. But truthfully, this ends up doing more harm than good. You might think you’re being “productive,” but in reality, your effectiveness probably isn’t very high. It’s much better to work a bit less, recharge, and re-approach your work energized and with a clear head.

Once I close my laptop for the day, I then take the rest of the night to do things for myself. I don’t respond to emails or Slack messages—not just for myself, but to set an example within the company as well. People shouldn’t be burning the candle at both ends.

  1. I am spending quality time with people in order to maintain connections to support systems.

In times of stress, I’ve always found talking with other people and having social experiences outside of the context of work really helps.

Especially right now, we are doing more virtual happy hours within the company, more team chats, and celebrating each other’s wins. I’m talking to friends more on the phone or over Zoom. I’m reconnecting with people I haven’t talked to in years. And all of these little moments of social interaction have helped me keep things in perspective. Even though we are growing very quickly right now at Place, and experiencing some of the early growing pains of a scaling startup, human connection really reminds you of what’s most important in life.

Don’t underestimate how much a single conversation can change the way you see the world that day.

  1. I am creating definitive plans for how to deal with the uncertainty of the future.

I am a planner.

If I don’t have a plan for something, I get anxiety around it. So, knowing this about myself, I’ve worked hard over the years to make sure I create plans for the things in front of me.

When I say “plan,” I don’t necessarily mean typing out this long document of policies and procedures. What’s more helpful is to just pinpoint a few bullets of what I want to accomplish, where I want to move next, and most importantly, how I’m going to measure the success of those bullet points. I want to know, “Yes, this is on the track,” or, “No, this isn’t working.”

In this way, I can channel the anxiety I have around how something is going to get done into a clearly defined plan—and be more productive.

  1. I am over-communicating with my team, partners, and vendors, so we can all solve problems together.

The flip-side of being more social, friendly, and supportive with your team is also being honest and transparent with them as well.

For example, during this pandemic, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty for businesses around sales, cash flow, and stability. I believe it’s a mistake for a founder (or founding team) to keep those things to themselves. I’ve always found it’s far more productive to come up with a plan on how you’re going to manage the current situation, but then also communicate that plan with the team so they can help you execute it. Because unless they have the full context of the situation, they aren’t going to understand the decisions you’re making, or why.

The same goes for partners, vendors, and customers. For example, we have a handful of customers who are behind on their billing. It’s not the end of the world, but it is important to address it together. You should ask them, “What’s the situation? What can we do to help?” Because at the end of the day, their challenges are now your challenges—and so you need to know what’s going on in order to plan accordingly.

Overcommunication is the key.

  1. I am being conscious of how much I’m counter-balancing stress with coping mechanisms.

Look, during a pandemic, we’re all going to find ways to cope.

Liquor sales going through the roof is an indicator of how the country is feeling. Netflix adding 15 million new subscriptions is another clear indicator. Truthfully, I don’t think having a drink or watching a show on Netflix is bad. The only question worth asking is, “At what point is too much, too much?”

Personally, I know if I drink too much, I’m not quite as focused the next day. I might be more emotional, or not as sharp as usual. So finding a healthy balance is what’s important. You might have a tough day, and feel completely burned out, but drinking alcohol or watching four hours of Netflix might have the opposite effect you’re looking for. Instead of returning the next day feeling refreshed, you might actually feel even worse.

This is where activities like exercise, meditation, reading, or just cooking a great meal without constantly checking your phone, can really help you recharge.