6 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of an Entrepreneurial Slump
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Every entrepreneur has faced it. The mind sags. Motivation flees. You don’t feel hungry. You’re worn out, washed up, dried out. Whatever that electric feeling was, driving you on, pushing you further -- it’s gone.
You’re in a slump. Now what?
This isn’t failure. This is just a cessation of doing, of being, and of driving. You’re in an entrepreneurial slump. You need to pull yourself out fast, because a long slump can turn into failure.
Here are six proven techniques that will blast you out of a slump.
1. Take a break.
A slump is often a precursor to burnout. Your mind and body are telling you to slow down and back off before you go down in flames.
This is the perfect time to take a break.
- Sleep more.
- Get some recreation.
- Take a vacation.
- Stop thinking about the business for a while.
I advise entrepreneurs to take 3-month-long vacations from their business. The practice, insane as it sounds, could actually be one of the most significant things that ever happened to you and to your business.
If you can’t realistically get away for that long, I suggest a vacation no shorter than two weeks. You need as much time as possible to disconnect and recharge. When you come back from your break, you’ll be as ready as ever to jump back into the business. Goodbye, slump.
2. Make a list of everything that’s going right.
When entrepreneurs slump, it’s often because they are discouraged about all the things in the business that are going wrong -- losses, plateaus, competition, risks. Overthinking the negatives produces a negative response.
Try making a list of everything that’s going right. You could call it thankfulness, gratitude, or mindfulness. Focusing on the good causes us to be grateful for the good, which produces an uptick of positive emotions and physiological responses.
Leo Babuta wrote this regarding the practice of giving thanks:
It has affected everything. It has made me a more positive person. A more productive person. A better achiever. A better husband and father and son and brother (at least, I like to think so). A happier person. I’m not perfect, but gratitude has made me better.
It will probably make you a better entrepreneur, too.
Scientific research has sung the praises of gratitude. Researchers from the University of California and the University of Miami found that people who wrote daily about things they were thankful for were more optimistic, exercised more, and experienced fewer adverse health conditions.
Berkeley researchers discovered these benefits that came as a result of mindful thankfulness:
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated.
It’s no surprise, then, that being grateful can kick you out of a slump.
3. Throw yourself into your other passion.
Slumps are caused when your mental stamina stops and your creativity ebbs low. How do you regain those creative moments and the ability to keep thinking forward?
Counterintuitively one of the best ways to spark creativity is to think about something other than the problem you’re trying to solve. We gain psychological distance from the issue when we conceive of it peripherally, not directly.
Focusing on something else is a great way to break through current problems, no matter what they are.
In your entrepreneurial case, find something else to work on. You’re an entrepreneur. Do you have another hobby business idea to work on? Some fun software to build? Another design to create? Or maybe you just need to forget business for a while and throw yourself into a hobby.
Do it. The minute you do, you’ll be a step or three closer to snapping out of your slump.
4. Fix your posture.
Your posture has a lot to do with your emotional condition.
The way you sit, stand, and move is intrinsically connected to the way you think -- in positive or negative ways.
Researchers from Ohio State discovered that people who literally slumped over their desks were more likely to be discouraged about their job performance.
What kind of postures contribute to greater confidence and mental wellness
- Shoulders back
- Legs apart
- Leaning forward
- Hands on the back of head
- Arms spread wide
- Hands on hips
- Sitting up straight
James Clear provides a visual guide, courtesy of Amy Cuddy at Harvard University.
Cultivate posture habits that contribute to your wellbeing. They may not change behavior, but they do affect the mind in subtle ways. You’ll feel more confident, more powerful, and more likely to snap out of your slump.
5. Spend some time complaining.
Getting stuff off your chest helps. What you might need to do is to whine and complain for a little while. Yep, it’s scientifically approved.
The process of complaining also helps us to narrow down the cause and source of the problem we’re facing. When we complain appropriately, it refocuses our minds. You might just get a flash of extraordinary insight that helps you pull through the slump. But if not, you’ll at least have the advantage of knowing that you’ve aired your concerns.
To whom do you complain? Complaining on paper -- writing out your complaints -- is probably the most effective and easiest. If paper isn’t your thing, find a neutral and detached mentor who doesn’t mind listening for a while. Remember, you’re not searching for pity. You’re airing your complaints. There’s a difference.
Be careful not to complain to business associates such as co-founders, employees, customers, or service providers.
6. Do something radical with the business.
Entrepreneurs thrive on risk. A tendency toward risk is what fueled your interest in entrepreneurship in the first place. Risk is what can spark your entrepreneurial passions once more.
To take radical action is to take risk. Some of the best moments in my businesses have been the moments when I’ve made a major move. The fact that they were risky moves actually inspired me, pushed me, and drove me to greater levels of success.
Here are a few of the risks that could blast you out of a slump:
- Firing an underperforming worker who may be holding the business back
- Hiring a rockstar salesperson
- Launching a new product
- Acquiring another business
- Opening a new location
- Getting bought out
- Going public
Radical moves produce radical internal motivation, and this could be exactly what you need to fire you up.
If you’re in a slump right now, there are ways to get out. And if you’re not in a slump, consider this as a good a time as any to try one of these techniques. Who knows how much higher you can go?