Mental health & wellbeing, Startup Advice

Three simple changes Finch co-founder Shahirah Gardner made to help combat burnout

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Finch fintech Toby Gardner, Shahriah Gardner and Eric Kunh

Finch co-founders Toby Gardner, Shahriah Gardner and Eric Kunh.

When Shahirah Gardner, co-founder of financial management app startup Finch, started feeling the effects of burnout a few months ago, she made three simple changes to her routine in a bid to reconnect with the world outside her startup bubble.

Gardner launched Finch in 2017, with co-founders Toby Gardner and Eric Kunh, after completing the Yodlee fintech innovator program. Just months later, the founders had completed a whopping $2.25 million seed funding round.

However, speaking at LaunchVic’s Yeah Nah summit in Melbourne on Friday, Gardner said she “hit a low point” a few months ago.

“I felt that I was not in control of my day as I used to be, I was not as focused as I normally am,” she said.

She thought she had a good routine — going to the gym in the morning and spending 10 to 12 hours in the office, before heading home to wolf down some dinner and go to bed.

“I thought that because I could do it, I should do it,” she said.

“That turns out not to be the case.”

When she realised her “head wasn’t right”, however, she reached out and starting talking about it to friends.

“The minute you start talking about it you recognise that you’re not the only person going through it,” she said.

Sometimes that’s enough to make you realise you have to change something, said Gardner, and speaking to other people also means you can get some advice on what to do about it.

Now, Gardner has made three simple changes to her routine.

1. Taking meditation seriously

Gardner now recognises the health and wellbeing benefits of yoga and meditation; “that was something I started taking very seriously,” she said.

She started replacing her morning gym sessions with 20 minutes of yoga and 20 minutes of meditation every day.

“Some days I had to force myself to do it, but once you get into the habit you actually the feel difference,” she said.

2. Going home

The second thing Gardner did was to set herself a calendar invite for 7pm every evening, which tells her, in capital letters, to ‘GO HOME’.

The email forces her to consider whatever it is she’s working on and ask, “can it wait?” And 90% of the time, “yes it can”, she said.

Occasionally she does still stay in the office later, but “most of the time at 7pm I get to go home, play with my puppy, have a glass of wine — to make it feel like there’s a part of me that exists outside of the office”.

3. Getting some fresh air

Finally, Gardner committed to spending some time outdoors.

“Every Sunday I jump in the car and just drive for an hour in any direction,” she said.

“I love hiking, and for me that’s the automatic reset button that reminds me that there is a world outside of my Finch bubble,” she added.

She admitted it sounds “soppy”, but getting out into the countryside helps Gardner get some perspective.

“I’m very lucky actually to be doing what I love doing and it’s very important to remind yourself of your connectedness to the world around you,” she said.

If you or someone you know is living with mental health issues, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

NOW READ: How Candy Crush and Spotify help Atlassian’s Dom Price manage mental overload

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is a reporter at StartupSmart.

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