Has anyone here dealt with chronic fatigue while building a side project?

I have a full time job and am slowly working on starting a side project in my free time. I also deal with chronic fatigue. My wife and I think I may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, but are still working towards the point where we can afford to get a sleep study done. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to work around my fatigue and continue to make progress on both my responsibilities and my passions.

Has anyone here dealt with chronic fatigue or a similar physical challenge while building a side project? How did you push through?

Looking forward to hearing your hard-won wisdom.

  1. 5

    I have, and I didn't power through.

    Finally clicked with me on my last venture (quit my job, to work 16 hour days, to build a product nobody wanted) that the moment I'm feeling that way, it's time to just give in and get some freakin' sleep.

    Since then I've been really leaning more into improving my work/life balance and being cognitive of when I'm not working deeply (recommend Deep Work by Cal Newport on the subject).

    Really changed everything for me. I'm sleeping more, working less, and legitimately getting more done than I ever have before. A lot of that is just because I'm not trying to do everything, but focusing on the things that "matter" and/or I feel will move the needle.

    I'm even actually taking a day off here and there when I have a cold, something I've never done in the past (I'm 38 now) and I'm happy to report that my recovery time is measured in days vs. weeks when powering through.

    Helps a ton to keep notes / a journal / some sort of tracking app to help better identify the things that are negatively impacting you.

    One other bit for ya, even with scaling back, I'm still "doing it all" in a lot of ways (solo founder of 2 revenue generating side projects, weekly writing for 2 blogs, full time job, full time family). Something that's helped me a TON to feel like I'm accomplishing stuff, even when I feel like I'm not working enough, is to just keep a list of it all. Digital, paper, whatever, just keep a list of everything you've done so when you're feeling like you're a slacker you can look back and be like "eff yeah, I'm crushing it".

  2. 3

    I know @MikeTaber has been going through something similar - he mentions it on his podcast (startupsfortherestofus.com) every now and again.

    1. 2

      Assuming it's a sleep disorder, I would say I think it's possible to push through to a certain extent, but you may be a lot better off just seeing a doctor to get an official diagnosis and start a treatment plan.

      The thing with sleep is that lack of sleep compounds on itself. One bad night of sleep per week for a year is far less impactful than five bad nights of sleep out of seven for ten weeks. Technically, it's the same amount of bad sleep, but the lost sleep carries over to the next night to a certain extent.

      My own experience involved getting less and less sleep per night to the point that I was probably only getting 2-4 hours/night. When I finally got a CPAP machine, I was told it would take a while before I slept comfortably. I was so exhausted that the first night, I got a solid 13 hours of sleep. The only other time I've ever done that was when I stayed awake for 39 straight hours.

      There are certain types of health issues where pushing through can be an option. Long-term sleep problems is probably not one of them.

  3. 2

    On my last project, I experienced extreme insomnia, fatigue, and a host of mental issues. I had a lot of stressful things going on in my life (full time job, living in another country with no friends, fiance who didn't know if she would get her visa, and every second of free time on the project). I "powered through" for over a year before realizing I was just killing myself over something no one seemed to even want.

    This experience led me to realize that there is nothing wrong with giving up on something. I am sure you will see a lot of people who quit their full time jobs and focused on their projects, but I had to really weigh the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur and eventually moved back to the states after 3 years abroad working on projects and settled down into a full time job while I reclaimed my sanity. And you know what, there is nothing wrong with that. If anything, I would say it has re lit my passion to "do something" as well as pushing me into a REALLY great company.

    I am now married in the US with my wife (then fiance) and am the happiest (and most rested), I have been in a really long time. The funny thing is, this may have even re-lit my desire to pursue side projects.

    We are only human. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, is it really worth it?

  4. 2

    Sounds like the typical burn out. How long have you been working on this side project?

    Not yet mentioned: coffee, stimulants, exercise, weed? Any of these could help, or could be a problem in excess. Don't sit down too much, and definitely don't lay down. If you're like me, taking a nap can be really hard to recover from. Do some push-ups, keep your blood flowing.

    Is it a matter of will power? I like to think of myself as a master of will power. I've abstained from everything you could think of for over 40 days. Yet even simple things like cleaning the house and doing dishes/laundry can become impossible, especially if you become dependent on stimulants (like coffee) or weed.

    Focus, creativity, problem solving, "energy", and will power are all closely related. "Working hard" is often not the answer. I think of it as a certain activation energy needed to motivate to do something. And if the energy isn't there, my mind thinks, "crap, I need more coffee." Don't fall into this trap. It's really hard to break a bad habit, but this can be the key.

    You could try fasting. I did a 7-day, water only fast. It puts your body into ketosis, where you burn fat instead of sugar. While my body became slightly fatigued, my mind surprisingly became even sharper.

  5. 2

    Yep, totally. It eventually resulted in my quitting my full-time job and giving my side hustle (https://artinres.com) my full attention. I'm not sure if it's actionable for you, but scaling back hours at a full-time job or quitting altogether is a pretty straightforward solution :)

  6. 2

    I can relate and have been trying to find the root cause. Do you have other symptoms that accompany your fatigue (e.g. numb/cold hands and feet, lightheadedness, feeling disoriented, sensitivity to lights)? Also, have you visited a doc to get lab work done to make sure Thyroid function, glucose, B12, D, etc. is all good?

  7. 2

    When did it start? Does it persist if you sleep more, work less? Do you have any self-care activities to replenish your energy?

    And you definitely need to make sure it is not a medical condition. If it is, you better not seek advice by nonprofessionals. For example, there is such a thing as chronic fatigue syndrome. And it is much worse then it sounds. People literally cannot get out of their beds.

  8. 2

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