Entrepreneurs Need "Leave Me Alone" Time

Entrepreneurs Need "Leave Me Alone" Time

It has been a while since I published a post on this blog. If you have been a regular reader, you would know.

The break might be evident if you are going through what I am going through. Burn out.

As entrepreneurs and high-performing professionals, we often get pulled into a vortex of "urgent work", which hardly gives us time to reflect on things.

They say you need to sharpen the ax as much as you are spending time cutting the tree, but unless you pause and reflect, you wouldn't know if you are cutting the right tree.

Decision-making needs space. And making the right decisions will beat a hyper-productive routine in terms of results. We are, most of the time, barking up the wrong tree. Unless we stop barking, we wouldn't think about it.

My lack of writing is an indication of me having caught up in the vortex and not having time to think.

After a long time, I set the first half of today as "do nothing" time. I was just staring at the ceiling. One by one, the open loops got closed. And many tasks, I just ignored.

The mind-space then started populating with thoughts. And the first thought I got was: how long has it been since I had a morning like this with an empty calendar, and then it dawned on me that such times are the most important for an entrepreneur. Because it is in this space good decisions are made.

Just like hunger is a trigger for eating food, boredom is a trigger for getting work done.

Instead of eating healthy meals, you can cure your instant hunger by eating some salty chips. If junk food is an instant fix for hunger but not good for long-term health, then social media is the junk that cures your instant boredom, which is not good for productivity and mental health.

Boredom is the foundation for productivity. Work gets filled up in an empty space. But you have to create that space in the first place. It takes willpower to create that space just like it takes willpower to do water fasting for a day.

Some people do not use social media but they fill up their calendars with meaningless meetings and work. The person addicted to feeling productive by constantly working on something is no different from a social media addict.

And most of the time, you are knee-deep into both. In the past month, I have been using Instagram and LinkedIn more often than I used to and there were also many things piled up with work. I decided to delete all the social media apps and slowly in the past two weeks, things seem to be sane again.

Entrepreneurs are particularly prone to get exhausted with people and social media because most of the time, there is a conversation running in their mind and any new input from the outside world is interrupting that conversation.

If I get a call right now, I would get irritated because I am writing a blog post. But I am irritated whenever I get a call, because I am "on call" with myself, talking to myself about many things.

Let's make a brain dump of all the things that run in my mind most of the time.

My "awareness" primarily is spread on the following things.

  • Ideation of new products
  • Refining existing products
  • Operations that deliver and service the product.
  • The instructions that you need to come up with to delegate the operations
  • Managing team members
  • Hiring new team members
  • Monthly accounting and an idea of cash positions in any given week
  • Managing relationships with financial consultants
  • Identifying opportunities and changing marketing conditions on a macro level
  • Learning new things from books and courses
  • Attending events for learning and networking
  • Keeping all web assets secure (and renewed)
  • Identifying security threats to data and assets
  • Building cash reserves for having a runway
  • Investing in new experiments to introduce chaos into a rigid system
  • Turning chaos into order to put into repetition mode
  • Investments in assets (equipment, office, etc.)
  • Building a personal brand for networking (includes blogging, writing books, speaking)
  • Media relations (including guest interviews, features, etc).
  • Listening closely to the market to identify opportunities and ways to refine the product (using online communities as focus groups)
  • Managing personal productivity through healthy routines. And sticking to the routines.
  • Managing personal relationships that will support the work
  • Eliminating projects that didn't work and letting go of "dream projects"

The above list is something that came out from the top of my mind and if I iterate this I am sure the list would be 5x as large.

Now is there any space for something else? Definitely not. That's why I proactively avoid personal conflict, trying to save a few bucks over trivial matters and worrying about the past. It's not a luxury to live a life like that, it is a requirement for an entrepreneur.

Our human psyche is a result of status games played over millennia and it is natural for the mind to get its attention drawn toward petty things.

You should either become a monk (which most of us can't, yet), or you should become an entrepreneur. Life will become so demanding that the only attention that you can afford to pay is to the projects that you do.

Paul Graham talks about it in this essay, the top idea in your mind. The thoughts that you are drawn to while you are in the shower are the top thing on your mind taking attention, and if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, the thoughts that populate your mind should be nothing else apart from the thoughts about your startup.

If you have read this until now, I hope you will take a day off. If you can't afford to do it immediately, start planning for it at least.

Deepak Kanakaraju