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How I Made 2020 My Most Productive Year Yet

MELINDA ELMBORG • MARCH 15, 2021

4 Cornerstones behind 0 sick days in 2020

As an entrepreneur and founder, the growth of your startup depends on you.

Productivity is important! The more productive you are the more product you can build, or the more customers you can speak to, or whatever else you need to do right now to grow your startup.

However, if you are away and can’t work things just stop all together (unless, of course, you have been doing some amazing hiring and things can go on fine without you… But most of us are not there yet!)

As a founder it’s critical to stay healthy and productive so you can be creative, make smart decisions and get sh*t done.

To be sustainable long term, you need balance. Overextending yourself and burning out will have the exact opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve!

In 2012, I read How to be Excellent at Anything by Tony Schwartz, and since then I’ve been interested in how mental and physical health correlate with talent and productivity. It has inspired me to optimize how I live.

Believe it or not, 2020 has been my most productive and healthy year yet. ZERO sick days. Not even a fever or a cold. So I could spend more time on what I think is fun -- working!

I’m going to walk you through the 4 cornerstones of my life that keep me happy, healthy and productive. I’m no doctor so don’t take this as medical advice, but I hope it can inspire you to take better care of your body and your mind.

Work 

I work 40 - 50 hours per week, which I think is much less than many other ambitious founders. I have tried to push beyond that but it just doesn’t work for me. My brain gets tired and slow and there’s no point in spending inefficient hours at the office.

Something very important that has allowed me to stop working after hours has been to turn off notifications for job emails. You should do it right now. Go ahead! It’s not worth getting stressed up about an unhappy customer during your precious time off. Your emails can wait until the next morning!

I do take vacation, since it’s crazy important for my health and my performance at work. It helps tremendously for motivation and to get a clear perspective on where I’m going. As the saying goes, “you can’t see the forest for the trees,” and if you don’t step away from the grind, it’s hard to see the big picture.

I never work on weekends (ok, you got me, a tiny bit, but very close to zero). Weekends are reserved for family, friends and traveling. I tried working on a Sunday afternoon once, but then I couldn’t to sleep for days… And since I didn’t get my sleep, I ended up being terribly unproductive. So not worth it!

Some people think that resting means wasting time and losing productivity. In truth, resting is a way of preparing for your next round of productivity. It’s an essential part of the process!


Which leads us to my next cornerstone…

Sleep

Sleep is holy for me. Without 8 hours of sleep, work feels difficult and ideas come slowly. I see such a clear difference in my mental health and productivity at work if I’ve slept 8 hours or less than that.

When I get a little bit worried about something, it gets hard to fall asleep though. The day only has 24 hours so I really can’t afford to waste any of those valuable hours staring at my bedroom ceiling.

I’ve had to find methods for being able to let go of whatever worries me. I’ve tried Calm which was ok. But, what I’ve found works great for me is listening to a podcast about astronomy (Astronomy Cast, there are like 600 episodes!). Listening to Pamela and Fraser explain how supernovae explode just makes me doze right off...Zzz…

Another key part of keeping energy levels consistent is how you eat!


Eat

I’m very strict in eating regularly -- I never skip meals during the weekdays. I never exchange a meal for snacks either (but sometimes snacks between meals 😋).

I tried to do fasting since it’s said to help you detox and improve your physical health… However, it was terrible for work productivity! Your brain needs fuel, and eating gives you that fuel. So I stopped fasting and haven’t done it since then.

Dietary supplements are really important for me and I think a major contributor to why I’ve been so healthy this year. Everyday at breakfast, I take a probiotic from Canxida and a prenatal multivitamin (since I’m a female in fertile years) from Thorne.

I’ve experimented with different dietary supplements, and this has really been a winning combo for me. Both of these supplements are quite expensive, but so worth it considering I feel like I’ve become immune to the typical seasonal cold or flu.


Exercise 

My New Year’s Resolution for 2020 was to be better at exercising. My previous work out habit was 1 or max 2 times a week -- so, I set the goal of working out 3 times a week. I’m so proud to say that I’ve kept it up! It’s quite easy to keep it up when gyms are open… But unfortunately they’ve been closed for most of the year in France. 😅

Then you have to be more creative… It’s been a lot of yoga and cardio at home. Luckily YouTube is full of amazing channels so you can get your workout done without too much thinking!

For sweaty yoga classes, my favourite is Five Parks Yoga. For at-home cardio my favorite is FitnessBlender.

When I set this goal in the beginning of the year, I thought it would help me sleep better and perform better at work. However, I can say that it has not made much difference for my sleep, but it has made my immune system unbeatable.

Hopefully these cornerstones can help motivate you to create better habits for you and your company’s health!


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About the Author: 

Melinda Elmborg was a Venture Capital Investor at the French VC firm Daphni. To help founders build, grow and raise capital to their startups, she switched careers to become a startup coach. In 2018, she started Startup Action. 

Based on her learnings, she has developed The Startup Action Framework that guides startups from launch to exponential growth.

So far, over 400 founders have already joined one of her workshops and thousands of founders have taken advantage of her templates and guides to succeed with their startup.

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