314: How to Handle Private Life Challenges While Running a Startup (Forgiving Yourself)
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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to take care of yourself when you are not feeling 100%. They look at how to give yourself time to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries so that you can work optimally and get more done.
When you have a heavy workload and find that you get sick or have other life challenges, sometimes it can be hard to decide to take a break to recover. But being overworked can create physical symptoms, taking some time to recharge is an essential factor in our health and well-being.
If you are feeling under the weather, then your work will be impaired leaving you with an outcome that is disappointing and unsatisfactory. Taking breaks and time off has a considerable impact on our personal and professional productivity. Ensuring the quality of our work remains high, and our relationships with our team remain strong.
Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to learn about the importance of taking care of yourself and your team. How to take care of yourself and maintain optimal outputs when you are working. As well as Steli and Hiten’s advice for seeing the big picture when it comes to the balance between work and well-being.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:27 Personal challenges in the workplace.
01:34 A common theme with personal struggle.
02:42 How to deal with personal struggle.
04:18 What is the company perspective?.
04:40 Mistakes to avoid if you have a life challenge.
05:20 How to support your team to take the time they need.
07:00 The disadvantages of being too hard on yourself.
07:18 The responsibility of managers and owners.
08:55 The importance of honesty.
09:30 Steli and Hiten’s top tips.
3 Key Points:
- Making sure that you are communicating, is a crucial skill to avoid struggling in the workplace.
- It is imperative that you take care of yourself and your family first.
- It’s vital for you to protect your employees to allow them to recover and regain their focus and energy.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and today on The Startup Chat we’re gonna talk about this concept where, or this idea where … How do you deal with things that happen in your personal life that are debilitating to some extent or that really cause you to have to focus on it, maybe in some ways cause you to really have to put a lot of your energy towards your family or your personal life compared to your work? And what do you do about it?
Steli Efti: Yeah, the reason why we wanted to talk about that was that just recently I had a number of people, both on my team but also friends, going through personal challenges, right? Somebody’s father dying. It just started. A new team member, works with us for a month or so and then his dad passes away. And so that is obviously a super dramatic, personal life event that affects work as well. But also people with less traumatic things happening to them of, just like moving and how interruptive that can be to life and therefore also to work. The common theme that I saw in many of these situations was, most of the advice and most of the work and energy I had to invest in those people was all about giving them permission to deal with life and be okay with the fact that work will have to take a step back for a little bit. Just telling people, “Hey, it’s okay. Take care of yourself, take care of your family. Work will still be here in two weeks, in three weeks. It’s okay if you’re not on your “A” game.” Seeing how much people struggle with giving even themselves permission to be out of balance at times, to be struggling. We’re all gonna go through phases where we struggle, but how you deal with that struggle, if you’re giving yourself permission and if you deal with it with forgiveness towards yourself, or if you make it even harder because you create this pressure and stress of thinking, “Oh my God, I’m behind on work.” And creating this extra pressure and destructiveness that ultimately will lead to even worse results in work as well.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think it’s really about communication because remember, you’re not the only one on your team, so being able to communicate with your team, even if it’s a highly personal matter and you don’t wanna share what it is, you should say, “Something personal’s going on in my life and these are the …” You wouldn’t communicate it this way, but essentially, “These are the rules of engagement with me for this amount of time, until this is over.” Right? Or, “Until I get my head straight on this.” Talking about your availability, being vocal about it in a good way, and not being embarrassed, and making sure you are actually communicating. Because most of the time in your company, people are just gonna be concerned and they really care about your well-being. So it’s really important to communicate, regardless of what the situation is, even if you don’t want anyone’s help or anyone’s sentiment or anything like that, just communicate. It’s where I see people really, really screw it up, especially in those times when everyone knows, life happens. And honestly, family first. It’s super important to take care of yourself and your family. And when things happen, to be able to take the time. I haven’t found a company that’s actually not okay with that and not accepting, as long as you’re communicating. What happens is, when you don’t communicate, people just start guessing about what’s going on and that’s the last thing you would actually want.
Steli Efti: Yeah, I love that. I think that’s super important. Flipping it to the other side, I think from a company perspective, it’s super important to not just say that you are accepting and understanding of somebody’s personal situation when that happens, but to be very proactive in helping the person, giving the person permission. Because in certain situations, one thing that I’ve found for instance, is that people that go through these life challenges, they are not very good at … They’re gonna be way too aggressive in the way they are estimating how much time potentially, they’ll have to be away from work. Let’s take that as an example. We had a person on the team that had to go through a surgery awhile back, and I remember that person saying, “Yeah well, I’m probably gonna not be able to work for Thursday and Friday, just two days after the surgery, but then I’m gonna be, after the weekend I’m gonna be back full time.” I had to step in and tell the person, “Hey, take a whole week, maybe one and a half weeks, and if you feel much better after the surgery, if you actually, really feel good, you can come back to work earlier, right? That’s awesome, that’s not a problem. But I think you underestimate how much of an impact a surgery like that can have and I don’t think it’s a good idea for you and for your team to be communicating, you’re only gone for two days and have all these scheduled meetings and calls and things to do. And then what if your recovery is not as quickly as you hope, right? Then you’re gonna create all this stress for you, the team and everybody. So why don’t we take one and a half weeks off instead of just two days and if you feel much better sooner, that’s awesome. And if you don’t, then that’s also okay. Everybody’s prepared, you feel okay about it.” And it took a lot of back and forth, convincing that person and then when the surgery happened, the person needed the whole one and a half weeks and was very, very thankful and grateful that that was the setup because otherwise she would have struggled a lot and she would have created a lot of stress for her. So I think sometimes people are … And I’ve had this situation with many people, where I have to step in and say, “Well, you think you’re only gonna need this amount of break from work. I think you should take more.” Or “You think …” Because people are just, they’re too hard on themselves and they are making these calculations or estimates that are just unrealistic because they don’t feel comfortable taking these huge chunks of time away from work at times, but it’s important. And you’re not gonna be working productively anyways, right? If you’re not recovered, it doesn’t matter that you’re working now. You’re not gonna be able to do good work and it’s just gonna create a lot of stress for you, so I’d rather have you not work at all and fully recover. But I feel like people are too hard on themselves. They don’t feel like they have the permission to do that. They feel uncomfortable asking for that, so I think it’s the responsibility of the company or the managers, for you as managers , to step in those situations and protect your employees, and make sure that you give them permission and that you sometimes even force them to take more time off or take it easy or take less projects onboard, on their plate so that they can recover and they can regain their focus and energy once the family situation, whatever the struggle is they’re dealing with, has passed.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s important to be proactive in those situations as a manager in a company. It’s critical actually, because if you’re not, then honestly, bad things happen, right? People let you down, to be honest, and oftentimes people just don’t realize. They’re very optimistic about themselves and their ability to recover from things. So yeah, I think communication is key. I’ve had folks who have had tragedies happen in their personal lives and they were able to deal with it just by communicating and going offline, and being very direct about when they’re gonna be available and when they’re not. It’s that simple. I wish I had more to share on this topic, but you’re talking about the difference between work and your personal life, and both of your networks or the people involved around you in those scenarios, they both depend on you for many different things, so being able to be smart and cover that is really important. And cover it meaning be able to not let anyone down, at the same time be honest and be realistic. The best approach is, if you don’t know what’s gonna happen, then say you don’t know, and then talk about what the options are or what might happen then let the people around you know, very clearly. I couldn’t say that stronger because it’s just one of those things where it’s so critical to communicate. You don’t communicate, you end up causing a lot more trouble for yourself than you need to.
Steli Efti: I love it. Yeah, I think proactive communication, asking for help, being transparent and then also from the team perspective or company perspective and management perspective, taking care of people and protecting them from themselves at times, and supporting them very proactively and not just saying, “Well, this person said they need this time off. That’s their decision, I’m not gonna push them for more.” When you are convinced that it’s unrealistic or not good, is also a really bad idea. Yeah, life happens. If you have, hopefully, a long life and you have a long career and you work for many years building companies or working in startups and teams, you’re gonna have life tragedies unfortunately, in most cases. There’s gonna be life distractions, there’s gonna be things in your personal life that’s gonna affect your work life. And forgiving yourself in those situations, for not being the perfect person in work and the beacon of productivity, and giving yourself the permission to take it slower for a short period of time at work so you can regain your energy and focus, you can take care of your life. And realizing that this is a marathon and hopefully this is something you’re gonna be doing for 20, 30, 40 years versus just obsessing over the project you’re working on right now or some kind of a short-term milestone or goal you’re trying to accomplish, over dealing with what’s more fundamentally important which is your personal life, your family, your health, whatever it is, I think that that’s super crucial. Being okay with, at times letting your personal life take priority and having work life having to slow down a little bit at those crucial times is super important.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, I totally agree.
Steli Efti: All right. That’s it from us for this episode.
Hiten Shah: Bye.