Less is More, Enjoying Startup Life

Interesting, thought provoking and true post by David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) of 37Signals about how people seem to feel obligated to work crazy hours and make their startup all consuming.  This is the wrong approach and can be harmful to the overall life of the startup.

As David points out:

This myth neatly identifies those fit for mission: Young, without obligations, and few if any extra-curricular interests.

I was young one and I can attest to this, 100%.  It’s really easy to think that if you pour your waking hours into your startup, you will be insured of success.  More is not better…after working 80 hours per week for a long time I became burnt out and it took an eternity to recover.  I learned my lesson, work less.  Yes, I said it, work less.

It was really easy to getting into the mindset and the routine of working the crazy hours.  I knew about burnout but sometimes with stubborn people, it has to be their idea, their realization.  This is how it worked for me.  The days got harder and harder to start and the hours resulted in less actual work done.  I wasn’t putting in my best efforts but rather going through the motions and passing the time.   The products shipped but I can’t say I was particularly proud of the quality.

I sold the company I founded which forced me to reset and determine a better path.  I realized less is better and be more efficient with less hours.

Most people will look at that and say that’s not me. I don’t have 110% to give. I have a family, I have a mortgage, I have other interests. Where’s my place in the startup world if all I have to give is 60%? What can putting in part-time give?

Get out of the mindset you need to put in ungodly hours to be successful, you don’t.  I provide consulting work to clients but I put aside time for the projects I am passionate about, the products I want to see come to market.  I make more progress on these projects with small, focused efforts than I would have in that past life.

DHH works at 37Signals, the poster children for working less and enjoying your life:

The good news is much more than you think. The marginal value of the last hour put into a business idea is usually much less than the first. The world is full of ideas that can be executed with 10 to 20 hours per week, let alone 40. The number of projects that are truly impossible unless you put in 80 or 120 hours per week are vanishingly small by comparison.

Steve Eichert, a fellow entrepreneur and someone who moved from the cubical to his own company has a great and timely post about doing things little by little.

No matter what I do, I’m still going to have things I need to do that will prevent me from creating. The good news for me, is I have the ability to put aside all of those things and go and create. I’m starting small, trying to pick a few features that I’ve wanted to add to one of our software products and getting them implemented this week. My goal is to continue that tradition every day by finding at least 1 small thing to add, improve, or tweak for the better.

It’s important to realize you can do the things you want to accomplish by doing them in small steps.  You will enjoy working less, leave the 80 hour weeks to those that don’t know better.