Kristen Hamilton, entrepreneur-in-residence at Maveron; Kelsye Nelson, co-founder at Writer.ly; and Dan Price, CEO and founder at Gravity Payments, talk about the startup life at University of Washington’s Entrepreneur Week.

Dan Price didn’t have the most healthy lifestyle during his first few years starting Gravity Payments. Price, our 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, was sleeping four hours per night and eating one meal a day while trying to get his company off the ground.

While that regime works for some people like retired Lt. Stanley A. McChrystal, it isn’t exactly good for health.

Dan Price, Gravity Payments founder and GeekWire’s 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

“It was not a recipe for living past 50, and not a recipe for a lot of things in life,” Price said, speaking on a startup panel at the University of Washington’s Entrepreneur Week. “But it was was I needed to do during that initial stage.”

Kelsye Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Seattle-based Writer.ly, immediately responded to Price, saying that she has “really strong feelings about that.”

“I hate it when I hear entrepreneurs only getting four hours of sleep,” she said. “I think you’re doing a horrible disservice to yourself, to your company, to your clients and to your people.”

Kelsye Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Writer.ly.

Nelson admitted that it is indeed difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle while launching a startup. But she advised the UW students in the room to “get comfortable with a to-do list that is never done.”

Even though Nelson has a ridiculous amount of daily activities to take care of — she’s a CEO and co-founder, a consultant, a mom, a dog owner, an author, a community event organizer — she’s learned to stop saying she’s “too busy” to do something.

“I always used to say that,” Nelson explained. “Now I say, ‘It’s not a priority.’ When you start saying that, you’re forced to make choices. You have to realize that if you want to be an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to let go of something else. You might not be able to have a whole lot of friendships or have all the hobbies that you want to do. It’s a choice.”

Photo via Bigstock
Photo via Bigstock

Price, who founded Gravity Payments as a 19-year-old Seattle Pacific University student, agreed “100-percent” with Nelson. He said that as he grew up, the now-29-year-old eventually figured out how to “synergize” some of these different things to maximize his time.

“I want to exercise and talk to a client, so I’m asking them to go jogging with me,” he said. “I started to think more creatively. And I’m proud to say, due to wonderful friends like Kelsye, I now sleep eight hours per night.”

Kristen Hamilton, entrepreneur-in-residence at Maveron and the third panelist, offered one recommendation.

“Hire your friends and you can see them all the time,” she said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

EntreWeek2013The topic of work-life balance is talked about all the time in the startup space. Just recently, the Evernote and Salesforce CEOs said there is no such thing as work-life balance.

However, we’ve had two great posts on GeekWire in the past listing ways for doing so. And many Seattle entrepreneurs have taken a liking to walking meetings as a way to be more efficient, similar to what Price said about jogging with a client.

In fact, this will be one of the topics at GeekWire’s Startup Day on Friday, October 25th, with SquareHub founder and CEO Dave Cotter giving a talk titled “Work life balance of a startup dad.”

Readers, do you have any recommendations for achieving this balance, especially when it comes to the startup life?

Editor’s note: UW’s Entrepreneurship Week has events all week, from a Venture Capital Walk to panels with local successful entrepreneurs. Check out the schedule here

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  • Mark Illing

    I find these articles fascinating when it comes to entrepreneurs that make broad statements about what it takes to be successful. I hope everyone realizes that these are personal patterns for the individual in question and how they choose to cope with the stresses that come with being an entrepreneur.

    I agree with Nelson that it is all about priorities and setting your own. If you want work/life balance, it needs to be a priority. If you want a healthy lifestyle, it needs to be a priority. If you want your app to have the highest regard, it needs to be a priority. All the things that are priorities are listed and the list constantly being reordered. There is only ever one thing that is the highest priority and that is the thing you are doing right now.

    I have worked for a number of highly successful start-ups, and some not so successful. My advice goes to those that think their life needs to be solely focused on the start-up, are willing to live on 4 hours sleep, abandon their health, friends and humanity, it is this: You may be completely focused on the start-up, but it is going to take you longer to achieve your goals. After 60-80 hours in a week on one thing, you do not have the mental clarity to make the good decisions. You may be working hard, but your efforts will be on a path that is less efficient. Much effort will be wasted as you work on the wrong thing, only to be realized later that an earlier decision was poor. Take the time to do all those things you don’t have time for and give your brain the recharge time it needs to make better choices.

    This is my opinion, your mileage may vary.

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