Obliged to be an individual: Notes on self-care for African founders

It is a priority and a necessity, not a luxury.

Start-ups have been likened to ‘jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.’ The willingness to jump is the founders’ most valuable asset. The phrase aptly captures the essence of starting something new and figuring things out as you progress.

In Africa, however, the typical start-up founder’s situation of assembling that plane is magnified a hundredfold. Why? The continent has unique challenges confronting its entrepreneurs. From infrastructural deficits to harsh environments. From insecurity to unfavourable political conditions. Every day the African founder encounters hurdles to business success. These are on one hand.

On the other hand, it can be tasking to be self-employed in itself as well as lead a team. African founders often deal with unusual working hours, irregular income, risks of constant failure, time pressures and a host of invisible issues that accompany the role. The realities of running a start-up are stark, both physically and psychologically. And the stress and burnout likely to follow are worthy of concern.

“The Western workplace culture — exported to many other parts of the world — is practically fuelled by stress, sleep deprivation, and burnout. This is profoundly — and negatively — affecting our creativity, our productivity, and our decision making: the very things entrepreneurs need in order to succeed.” – Arianna Huffington

Here lies the urgency for self-care.

Every African going through the daily grind of survival requires self-care. Especially African start-up founders. No matter how minuscule or infrequent. And we found five ways to incorporate it into your start-up life.  

Protect your energy. Spend time only with people you love and who love you in return. Because it’s the relationships in your life that keep you going, knowing that their support, love and encouragement are interwoven into the fabric of your start-up success. They also help cushion the effect of that well-worn phrase: It’s lonely at the top.

Perform weekly rockets. They say the best time to plan for the working week ahead is to start on Sunday night. Every Sunday, write down the one thing that will launch your business forward if you achieve it before the week runs out.

Adopt the sticky note challenge. Those small, plain, coloured squared (sometimes rectangular and lined) notes with adhesive at one end that you can plaster just about anywhere? Yes. Try the following with them. For three weeks, every time you switch tasks, write it on a sticky note. At the end of the period, separate them into revenue and non-revenue tasks. Assess and adjust where necessary.

Get physical. Some individuals clear their heads by walking or working out. Others get some of their best ideas or become more productive on the days they sweat. In other words, constant physical exertion is good for everyone. Not just the founder. What works for you when it comes to exercise? Have you discovered you feel better and more productive afterwards? Keep at it.

Do less. Did we hear you just chuckle at this suggestion? Well, you cannot add more hours to the day. You cannot power your way through them when your body is saying otherwise: Take a much-needed break. If you want you and your start-up to keep growing, you have to clear some things off your packed plate.

At the end of the day, it is not about how many hours you worked or how many things you got done. It is about how much closer you are to your goals because of how much you put in. Being deliberate about your self-care is one fast approach to achieving them.   

‘Think of self-care as a way of showing others that you respect them enough to show up to work with your best face forward. When you take the extra effort to function at your best, it encourages others to do the same. Self-care is a win-win for you, your team, and your company.’ – Daniel Schawbel

Read also: African Start-up Founders & Their Morning Habits: GetFundedAfrica (GFA) Alumni Reveal Theirs.

Thanks to C.S. for spotlighting this issue

About GetFundedAfrica

GetFundedAfrica is a cloud-based technology platform specializing in developing software that helps businesses to fundraise, grow, and tell their stories. Whether you want to raise funds ranging from $100k to $50m, scale your business or share your entrepreneurial journey, sign up for free at  

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