The best way to launch a startup: Vacation!

What have you been doing when on vacation this summer? Eat amazing food? Lie on the beach? Enjoy the sun? Read a lot of books?

Ok, great! I have done that too. (Well, almost, since staying in the sun for too long is definitely not a healthy thing for my nordic skin, even with 5 layers of sunblock)

But there is one additional thing I do when on vacation. I spend time working on my startup and exploring new business ideas; This means both thinking on ways to pursue them, develop business models, estimate markets and in many cases often start to develop initial prototypes. Of course, many people do not think it is possible to combine this “work” with being on vacation, but in my experience, if I just focus on the elements that I find truly enjoyable, it is the exact time where I can be the most creative and have the most fun while still allowing myself to relax and recharge. Actually, I have found that I have come back from those vacations with a ton of motivation and enthusiasm and often with having done more work than I could have hoped for.

Finding time for your startup with a busy schedule

Many of us entrepreneurs who are still in a regular job while developing our own company on the side are under great pressure. We need to perform in our daily jobs and still have enough energy to push our startup to the point where we can move onto it full time. Personally I work in a company that often requires 60-80 hours of work per week, which leaves little room, often late evenings and weekends, to work on my own businesses. This unfortunately is also where my energy and creativity is at its lowest, which makes it it hard to do any work other than standard maintenance and tasks which does not require too much creative effort.

In the end of the day though, this is a shame, as it is often our own companies which is our true passion, and the dream of working by ourselves is what drives the long nights of work. I have therefore struggled to find time where I could prioritize my businesses especially during hours where I can be the most productive and creative.

This is where I have found vacations where I travel away from home to be magnificent motivational kick starters and spurts of productivity.

The ‘vacational’ development cycle

The great thing about vacations and being away from home is that much of the pressure and distractions related to your daily job and everyday life is removed. A vacation therefore allows me to have time to focus on what I enjoy. Of course, I do not have children and most vacations are beach vacations where I have nothing planned, but even if this is not the case for you, I still think it is possible to carve out some time everyday to work on whatever you like to do.

Most of the work I get done during vacation is something that is directly usable in my business, but do not worry too much about the usability of the work. I have often spend hours or days working on some more or less crazy idea, and then have it lie in the drawer for 12 months before finding it useful in some, often completely unrelated situation.

Suddenly having a lot of time to work on my own businesses often means that vacation periods are the time where I get the most done in the shortest amount of time. The burst of creativity also often produces a tail of less creative tasks which I can focus on doing during my limited time in my daily routine following the vacation.

This vacational development cycle as I like to call it, consisting of sudden spurts of creative activity and slower periods of production type of work and have been great for me, as it has allowed me to move my businesses forward even though I need to spend countless hours in my regular job.

Three rules for “working” on a vacation

I have found a three rules which have made my vacations the perfect blend of recharging, relaxing with the family and pushing my businesses forward.

  1. Only do the things that you enjoy. Do you want to develop a Facebook integration? Fine, do that! Do you want to size the market for second hand shoes in Europe? Fine, do that! You should never feel pressure to work on boring and complex problems, as the primary focus of the vacation is to get back to your daily routine relaxed with the ability to take on the next months of pulling double work.
  2. Set aside a specific time period for yourself each day. Carve out time periods during the day where you are the most productive to enjoy yourself while working on your business. Of course, it is important to remember to prioritize your family, but remember to also prioritize yourself. You will be a happier person if you do, and everybody benefits from that.
  3. Spend time to learn new things, get inspired and see old things in a new light. Buy a load of non-fictional books on different subjects on I usually buy books which are somewhat within my area of expertise but also many personal development books and even books completely outside by field. I do not really think too much about if it is the best book out there or if it might be useful or not, but if it looks  interesting I get it.  By taking time to read and explore new ideas, even if they seemingly does not have anything to do with what you do in your startup or regular job, it will allow you to think more creatively, look at your startup from a different angle and help you develop as a person. Also, on a side note and as a developer, I have found a vacation to be a great time to start playing around with that new technical framework you have not had time to try out yet.

So are you tumbling with a new business idea? Or are you struggling to find time to work on your startup? I suggest you to spend the next vacation setting the cornerstones for your startup.