Thanksgiving was gone in the blink of an eye and now we are in the midst of the holiday season. Soon, employees everywhere will be taking well-deserved time off to recharge their batteries and perhaps even remind themselves why they put in the hours throughout the year. For those in the startup world, where the boundary between work and play can be nebulous, maintaining sanity and perspective may require forcing oneself to put the laptop away. For myself, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving did not bring to mind the old familiar thoughts of family, food, and a long weekend. Rather, I spent November planning for a Black Friday promotion to increase visibility among holiday shoppers. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a late night, not because I was out partying with friends, but because I was making sure our virtual assistants were prepared to pick up the slack so I could take the day off without losing momentum. This certainly is nota horror story; I am sure there are plenty of hungry entrepreneurs who continued hacking right through dinner. Startup founders and employees are running a sprint without a visible finish line, and it’s best to assume the competition is not resting.
To be fair, life in corporate America can reach the same breakneck pace. I do not know anyone who works in the traditional “9 to 5” world who actually works from 9 to 5. The difference is the constant sense of urgency that exists for a startup to survive, much less thrive. The overall goal of a startup is to grow exponentially, and exponential growth does not happen during vacation days.
Every now and then I have to explain to someone that working for a startup does not just mean nerf gun fights and afternoon beers. However, most people I know understand that my hours are long and unpredictable and that planning time off is extremely difficult. There is a sense of pride that comes with the long hours and the hustle. We are doing this because we are creating something. This is what makes the lopsided work life balance endurable.
Despite the necessary grind of the startup life, it is still important to relax around the holidays and enjoy family. I do not recommend blowing your seed funding on a vacation, but find whatever hours or days you can to stop thinking about metrics or code. Without recharging, it will be much harder to bounce back from the inevitable failures you face along the road. Not only that, but we have all seen enough Christmas movies to know that we will regret it in the long run if we do not make time for family. If not for you, take a break for the people in your coworking space; they will appreciate you keeping your sanity.
Dave is a City Launcher for SpotHero, the Uber of parking spaces. He hails from Chicago and has a background in digital marketing. He has worked on or with startups since graduating from the University of Illinois, and he helped run the Chicago Lean Startup Circle before joining SpotHero. When he’s not solving the NYC parking problem, Dave enjoys skiing, scuba diving, and craft beer. Follow Dave @SpotHero_NYC.