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Startup lesson #05: Be prepared to work more than you've ever worked before

Lessons from 100 days of starting my own business

OK, this could sound like a negative point, but it’s included here for a very important reason.

Part of the reason you’re almost certainly going to end up working longer hours, and more than you’ve ever worked in your entire life, is because this ‘work’ doesn’t feel like the work you’re used to.

Being an employee; working for someone else can be incredibly draining. Commuting can be brutal. At the end of the day, we arrive home feeling utterly exhausted, incapable of functioning and achieving anything else for the day. It’s as much as we can do to feed, wash and dress ourselves, and get to work on time. We occasionally find time to go to the gym or socialise. The thought of working even longer hours than we already do is horrible, demotivating, unattractive.

The work I’ve experienced since starting my own company is that work no longer feels like work. Work feels like something I’m excited to start doing every morning, enthusiastic to fill my day with, and reluctant to put down at night. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m so excited about an idea I’ve had, and I can’t wait to try it out.

Every day for the first 100 days, I put in 10, and often 12-hour days. These are broken up by things like yoga, gym, meeting people for lunch, but largely I start work around 9:30-10am and won’t finish until after 8pm. (And I didn’t even realise I was working so many hours until I just worked it out for the purposes of this lesson!)

Nobody is sitting here telling me that I have to work long hours, or judging me for leaving my desk early. Nobody is telling me that I have to get X done today, or Y done tomorrow. It’s just that I want to be here, I want to make this a success, and it has all my focus.

Now I’m no workaholic, certainly not. Believe it or not, I do actually have a pretty good work/life balance (there will be posts on wellness to follow!). But one of the biggest challenges I have faced, and which you may face too, is to remember to stop working, and to take regular breaks. I had to learn very quickly that becoming an entrepreneur instantly becomes a lot more about taking care of yourself, becoming infinitely more self-aware, and paying very close attention to your mental health than I ever had to before. Part of this involves learning how and when to switch off, especially when there are no co-worker distractions or background noises.

For me, this was one of the biggest surprises of working for myself. I severely underestimated the amount of self-awareness and self-care that making solo decisions every day would take. So whilst it’s perfectly OK to work long hours, I learnt a quick lesson that tearing myself away from my work at the end of the day was actually vitally important if I wanted to achieve good results.

I would never have predicted the importance of this back in July 2016 when I quit my job, and I would never have foreseen the fact that a whole bunch of the posts that will follow this one will be on 'wellbeing'. In the corporate world, even in workplaces that were a whole lot more caring than the majority, it often felt to me that this was something of a taboo.

I'm Claire Ransom, and I'm a writer and business owner. I founded Lazy Flora, a garden-in-a-box delivery company, in February 2017. This blog post is part of a series on things I learnt during 100 days of starting my own business.

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