4 Hacks For Every Founder

4 Hacks For Every Founder

“Founders are not superheroes, nor machines. They are complex human beings with feelings and families. Let’s remember that – and create an environment with access to the full range of skills they need to grow...” 

Amanda Price | Head of High Growth Ventures, KPMG Australia

Source: KPMG Research into the Wellbeing of Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

KPMG’s research into the wellbeing of startup founders and entrepreneurs uncovered some alarming statistics:

  • The average work week for a founder is 64 hours 
  • 23% of founders haven’t taken three consecutive days off for over a year 
  • 53% of founders worked during their time off 
  • 7 in 10 founders are paying themselves less than they were earning before 
  • 43% of founders are unhappy with their fitness level
  • 31 % of founders complete 3-4 hours of physical activity per week, 29% complete 1-2 hours per week and 14% complete less than 1 hour per week 
  • 96% of founders feel their role is stressful, 66% finding it very or extremely stressful 
  • 58% of founders relax for less than 1 hour per day 
  • Many founders note that stress was contributing to lack of sleep and they felt it was affecting their health 
  • An overwhelming majority of founders feel they are nor spending enough quality time with the people they care about 


At SBE, we are passionate about accelerating, supporting and connecting women-led businesses. Through our work, we hope to have a positive impact on our founder’s health and well being. Many of our founders come to us feeling overworked and isolated. One of the most heart-warming things we see are the life-long connections our founders make with their fellow cohort - beyond the program they participated in.

Before 2020 really heats up, do yourself a favour - stop and reflect on your work load, work commitments, your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social health and your stress levels. Founder or not – we can all reflect. Does the stress you experience motivate you or does it negatively impact your productivity at work and your capacity to lead your team? Can you make some changes to better manage stress?

In my first university degree, I majored in nutrition and exercise science. During my athletic career I worked as a nutritionist and exercise specialist. After a decade, I returned to university to complete a master’s degree in education. Soon after graduating, I accepted a role as Head of Health Education and Director of Sport at a boys’ school in Melbourne. Although I am not a founder, I feel versed to provide strategies for improving health and well being.

Here’s to being happier and healthier in 2020:

Nutrition Hacks

On top of work-related stress, the foods we consume can also cause a stress-response. If reducing your workload or demands is not an option, making better food choices is always an option. 

  • Cut out processed foods (most things you buy in a bag at Woolies), sugar and trans fats (in all the take-away rubbish).
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol (if you are going to do it, organic red is the best option) and gluten.
  • Eat loads of organic vegetables, whole foods and some fruit and unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, organic and hormone-free eggs, oily fish) – every dam day.
  • A little bit of organic and hormone-free red meat, chicken and fish is ok if that’s your thing but I highly recommend a plant-based diet.
  • Shoot for 2L of filtered water per day, mix it up with some caffeine-free herbal tea.
  • Next time you have some TV time, check out Game Changers on Netflix.

    Exercise Hacks

    The Department of Health recommends adults be active on most, preferably all, days of the week. Furthermore, adults should accumulate 2½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1¼ to 2½ hours of vigorous intensity physical activity, each week and that adults should do strength training activities on at least 2 days each week. Here are some hacks to wedge some activity into your week:

    • Exercise is best in the morning, set your alarm 30-minutes earlier and get out on the pavement for a jog or brisk walk (your dog will love you for it).
    • Download a bunch of podcasts to listen to when you are jogging or walking (a list of great podcasts later in this post).
    • Get yourself a set of Airpods and a running belt and be hands free on your jog/walk (way more pleasurable).
    • Have a phone meeting at work that doesn’t require you to be in front of a screen? Whack your Airpods in and take the call on foot.
    • Do you take a tram to work? Get out a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way. Be that person and wear your runners with a skirt. 
    • Book in a regular beach, bush or urban weekend walk with a friend, dog or family member.
    • Grab yourself a Yoga/Pilates/Meditation membership at a nearby studio and write a bunch of classes into your diary (and actually go to them).
    • Too expensive? Try this awesome yoga App: Down Dog.
    • Highly recommend an Anytime Fitness gym membership, they are cheap, open 24 hours and all over the world. They also have a great App with loads of easy to follow workouts (for whatever your goals are).
    • Change up your workout routine every 8-weeks to prevent boredom and a physical plateau.
    • Enter into a fun run (call it an un-fun run if you please), set yourself a completion goal (distance or pace) and chip away at it with a couple of running sessions per week in the lead up.
    • Run with Park Run – organised, free, weekly running events all over the world. Run with random people at a park near you – a really cool concept.
    • Surround yourself with people who want to be active too.
    • And maybe, just maybe… Consider taking up a new sport! Tennis, golf (who has time for that?), squash, netball, basketball, footy (if you’re young enough).
    • I nearly forgot. MENTOR WALKS! Be a mentor or a mentee and walk 


    Lifestyle Hacks

    Sure – nutrition and exercise are (should be) collectively part of your lifestyle, but they really do deserve categories of their own. Here are some other lifestyle ideas that you could think about implementing into your world to help reduce stress and improve your holistic health. 

    • About 10 years ago I spent 6-weeks in Ubud – trying veganism, studying yoga and meditating. The experience changed my life. If you are new to meditation, I highly recommend a guided meditation App, try: Headspace, Smiling Minds or Calm.
    • De-clutter your life to de-clutter you mind and open space for create and innovative thinking. Huge, huge believer that minimalist living is the way. Need guidance? Marie Kondo can help, try the KonMari Method
    • For entertainment, read, write, cook something healthy, go to the movies, play a solo card game (with real cards), visit a museum, gallery or library.
    • To pamper yourself or relax, put on a face mask and read, get a massage, write in a journal, meditate.
    • It deserves a whole dot point of its own… Listen to a podcast or audio book. And do I have some cracking recommendations:


    Sleep Hacks

    I’m a huge believer that sleep is the first, most important thing you need to get right if you are serious about achieving optimal health and well being. Your circadian rhythm (or sleep/wake cycle) is your very own 24-internal clock that runs in your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness. The master clock (the hypothalamus) controls the circadian rhythm as well as associated hormones. The following sleep and sleep hygiene hacks will help your hypothalamus and associated hormones do what they should do at the right time: 

    • Shoot for 8 hours sleep, every night, even on weekends – it has to be a consistent thing. 
    • Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes.
    • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime (lose the nicotine altogether).
    • Exercise early in the day. If exercise later in the day is the only option, you are still best to exercise rather than not at all.
    • Eating close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. 
    • Exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night helps to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
    • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine – this helps the body to recognise that its bedtime. Bath, read a book, stretch, dim the lights. 
    • A good hour before you climb into bed, lose the screens and dim your lights. Candle light is nice (although, beware of what’s in the candle you are burning – so many have toxic chemicals).
    • Consider your sleep environment – a comfortable mattress, pillows and clean sheets. The bedroom should be cool, quiet and dark. Leave your phone to charge in another room. Blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, white noise machines, fans could be helpful. 
    • And if you are travelling the long haul, try the Time Shifter App to assist a more seamless transition on the new time zone. 


    We know stress and poor mental health can derail success. KPMG’s research highlighted many of Australia’s startup founders experiencing overwhelming levels of work-related stress. I therefore ask our founders, what can you do right now to reduce work-related stress? And I ask our ecosystem supporters, what can you do right now to help a founder you know? It is my wish that someone will take something healthful from this post and implement it into their own life in 2020 and maybe even share this with someone who could get value from reading it.


    Be well, 

    Olivia Doherty

    National Program Manager (and health enthusiast) 

    SBE Australia