The current stereotypes of entrepreneurs usually are 70-80 hour weeks, cold pizza and Coke every day for meals, caffeine, no sleep, and the sacrifice of family, friends, and personal time in the name of business. I am disheartened when I speak with young people who are either a) scared to start a business because they think that’s what it takes, or b) are super pumped to start a business because that kind of lifestyle fires them up.
It is our responsibility, entrepreneurs or people interested in/work with entrepreneurs, to re-define what a successful and sustainable entrepreneurial lifestyle is. Both these aspects are important. You can be successful for 4 or 5 years but be burnt out afterwards.
The Power of Full Engagement has been a good resource for me in this area, with its emphasis on managing energy, not time. Here’s my partial list of components to a successful, sustainable lifestyle. (By the way, I often size people up based on their attention to these areas.)
1. Sleep – At least 7-8 hours a day. The most amazing thing I see on a regular basis is people who routinely ignore study after study which report that anything less than this and your decision making ability goes way down. Your alertness goes way down. Your retention of key information goes way down. If getting 4-5 of sleep a day is the norm for you, then you may say “I do fine on these hours.” My challenge to you: go three weeks with 7-8 hours a sleep a day and let me know if you feel a difference. You won’t know unless you try.
2. Nutrition – There’s nothing worse than running to a meeting feeling hungry, or worse yet, trying to catch a flight when you are starving and no time for dinner. Any entrepreneur who doesn’t travel with a healthy supply of Cliff Bars is nuts. Also, eating breakfast has been proven time after time to be essential to be able to give 100% all day long.
3. Exercise – I work out two hours a day, six days a week. I immediately feel the difference when I go a few days with no treadmill, basketball court, or weights. Many decently successful, moderately interesting entrepreneurs work long hours and swear they have no time to get to a gym. But the very best people in the business world I see always find time to get their one hour in. If they can find time for it, so can you.