6 Ways to Stay on the Grind as a Startup Founder

Eximius Ventures
6 min readSep 7, 2020
Image credit: Johnson Wang

Having a dream gives you a purpose to grind. While it is enough on most days to sustain your productivity, some days are harder. There comes a point in an entrepreneur’s journey where he/she feels overwhelmed, demotivated, or unsure about the next step. The problem exists even for founders who have sufficient resources, an experienced team and the desired startup venture capital. Moreover, it is cited as one of the top 20 reasons a startup fails. While passion, determination and grit have immense power, they alone are not enough for continuous effort. Once you pair them with the right methods, you will find it much more effortless to maintain productivity.

Before we discuss some of the best ways to stay on the grind, it is important to find a common ground on what we mean by it. The accepted belief is that a laser-focused and successful founder is the one working 10 hours a day. However, that’s not the right parameter, consistency is.

Instead of overworking yourself to the point of exhaustion, you can stay persistent in your output and still manage to achieve your goals. The key is striking the right balance, whether it is between big and small tasks, professional and personal life, or planning and execution. To make the process easy for you, we have compiled a list of methods that you can easily incorporate into your existing schedule:

  1. Let Your Goals be Non-negotiable

What is that one goal that compelled you to run your own business? After you have a clear answer, ask yourself this next: What is the one thing that you absolutely have to do today to move closer to that goal? Consider both of these as your non-negotiable goals.

Your long-term goal will give you a reason to strive for success through work. But for the daily grind, give yourself the ultimatum of completing at least one task a day, which should be enough to propel your business forward even if you don’t get the time to direct your energy to other tasks. Your non-negotiable goals should override any and every setback you face. This will not only enforce self-discipline but also protect your most valuable resource: time.

The more additional goals you meet, the better.

2. Rely on Your Team

The Pareto Principle states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The temptation to do everything yourself can easily lead to burnout. As a founder, you shouldn’t be doing more if it doesn’t amount to an equally valuable return.

Instead, surround yourself with a dependable team, where you know people are capable of taking care of tasks like you intend them to. Author and CEO Bill Green advises, “taking time out of your day to ensure the people you’re delegating to are prepared.” Spend 20 minutes deciding the right person for the job and explaining it to them. You can save yourself hours or days worth of work, energy and time, while also avoiding productivity slump.

3. Write It Down

When you get back home after a long day, it is possible to find your mind racing with the myriad things in store for you tomorrow. Breathe. Take five minutes to prepare a to-do checklist at the end of a working day with realistic time limits. It will not only allow you to take your mind off work but also make you return with a much more focused mindset.

Moreover, you will be able to club similar tasks together, such as meetings with a venture capital firm and third-party vendors, and keep the rest of your day available for an uninterrupted workflow. Apps such as Dewo and Hazeover are especially helpful in understanding when you reach your creative flow and automatically silence distractions.

At the same time, writing also helps tackle distractions that occupy the brain. It aids in converting abstract ideas into simplified thoughts, and helps process information much better than typed or verbal comprehension. An undisturbed mind will help you stay more attentive throughout the day.

4. Keep the Professional and Personal Separate

As a founder, working hours tend to be flexible and it may not always be easy to clearly define when you clock in and out. Therefore, it’s important to cultivate self-discipline when it comes to achieving a balance between your professional and personal life.

Tools such as SaneBox make your life easier by decluttering your emails and helping you switch to the DND mode. Another hack is keeping a work phone and a personal phone. When you absolutely need to focus on one aspect of your life, keep the other one aside. However, unpredictable situations can and will happen. Entrust your family/COO with reaching you on the alternate phone only during emergencies.

Most importantly, take breaks to do the things you love. It is the best way to rejuvenate yourself. Whether it’s travelling, keeping in touch with old friends, or horse riding, they should make a frequent and equally important part of your to-do list. This way, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed or demotivated by keeping your vigour alive.

5. Focus on Your Health

Absolutely nothing can compensate for a healthy diet, sound sleep and exercising. If you go down a road where you need four-five cups of coffee or work 10 hours a day, your health is bound to take a hit.

Routine is not a founder’s best friend, which makes it difficult to sustain that gym membership or fix yourself a healthy meal everyday. If time is not on your side, make smaller changes that fit into your existing schedule. For example:

  • For meetings, suggest a place that serves food you can trust. On other days, order from these startups that exist to deliver your daily healthy meal.
  • An occasional late night doesn’t hurt but a regular habit of it can affect your output. For things that aren’t urgent, try switching to a morning brainstorming session.
  • Develop a habit of walking while talking on the phone or after a meal. Rujuta Diwekar suggests another constructive method: after about half an hour of sitting, stand or walk for 3 minutes.

6. Remember Why You Started

As cliché as this might sound, keep revisiting the reason you started. It is always inspiring to read quotes by successful businessmen and keep reminding yourself of all the right things you should do. However, the biggest factor contributing to your grind is your unique dream.

While on the road to achieving that, you will be faced with your own set of problems. This is when it becomes more important than ever to remind yourself of the bigger picture.

Throughout your journey, you must have hit some measurable milestones, whether it was raising the desired venture capital funding or an unexpected spike in sales. There must have been well-wishers who expressed positive feedback. Use them to remind yourself why it’s worth doing what you do.

More than anything else, a productivity slump is a severe lack of motivation, which can owe itself to both external and internal problems. Solving internal problems and achieving a balance empowers you to tackle the external.

With great power, comes great responsibility. Make good use of the autonomy that having your own business allows you. It’s critical to make your customers, team, and venture capital investors happy but it’s also about you. Define your goals, delegate, plan, maintain your health, and distance when necessary. It’s all about striking the balance that enables you to return to it day after day with a clear, fresh and go-getter mindset.

Written by Anureet Kaur.

Eximius Ventures is a micro venture capital fund investing in young and dynamic Indian Entrepreneurs with a precedence for female founders. You can reach out to us at pitches@eximiusvc.com.