I have a problem. I'm a relatively new co-founder and generally a beginner in the startup world. For the last few years that I've been doing startups and starting new businesses, I was in a constant sprint, which pretty much made me abandon my social life and relationships outside work. When I start a new project I don't get off of the computer until I finish with everything related to it. It's like the world stops for a while. Later on, I find that it was running but just without me. It's the following problem I was reflecting on recently. In order to be the best, you have to sacrifice something and avoid things that are in your way of succeeding. On the other hand, being so determined might be emotionally and physically tiring and even damaging. I'd like to hear from successful entrepreneurs, how you managed your work-life balance and what helped you avoid getting into the trap of the no hours workday?
As a fellow workaholic, I can't possibly advise you.
But there's an excellent podcast series by an acquaintance / former client of mine called Dadverb that's all about balancing work life with fatherhood. He interviews successful entrepreneurs about how they find the right work-life balance.
You may not be a father. Neither am I. But I remember the very first interview in the podcast (with the creator of Ruby on Rails) as being right up your alley.
Dadverb.com redirects to the series. Check it out!
I'm a firm believer in being successful in business but also finding a balance. It can be challenging when you love what you do and enjoy building your business, plus making money is the goal and that takes work. I'm a firm believer in delegation and collaboration. I realize that I'm not good at every aspect of my business and for some tasks to get done, I need to get help. I've gotten a lot of benefit from working with a virtual assistant who can be paid per project. Recently, I published two books and I hired someone to edit and upload the books and someone else to illustrate the cover. If I hadn't done that, the books would never have been completed. I would encourage you to take a serious look at all of your tasks and evaluate what you must do and what someone else could do as well or even better than you can. See if you can remove some tasks from your plate. Also consider breaking down projects and creating a reasonable deadline. Do a little bit every day instead of putting your nose to the grindstone and not coming up for air. It will get done.
I wrote an column on self care if you'd like to check it out. Available for a phone chat as well. Best wishes!
I've run multiple businesses while leading a family, maintaining friendships, working with non-profit organizations (I sit on several boards), and being an active leader in my church. It's certainly not always easy, but it's rewarding when you can maintain the right balance.
Here are a few tips:
1. If something is important to you, put it on your calendar. This includes family time, friendships, rest and relaxation, etc. I have found that if something doesn't get from my to-do list to my schedule, it often doesn't get done. This applies not only to work items, but to personal ones as well.
2. Create some space away from your work. Set time-based and geographic barriers for yourself (i.e. no working in certain rooms in the house or after a certain time at night). Create some rules and stick to them - even find ways to reward yourself for sticking to your boundaries.
3. Recognize that you get diminishing returns after a certain point. If you are working a ton of hours and shortchanging yourself on rest and recharging, you will eventually get less productivity and lower quality work out of yourself. That means you'll have to work 80 hours to get the same output you used to get from 50 hours, and it becomes a vicious cycle. If you look at the time away from your work (especially sleep) as an investment in the quality of your time at work, you can do more with less.
4. Recognize the value of your relationships. When I'm struggling with stress at work, it's great to have a supportive wife and encouraging friends to help me maintain perspective, and to remind me what is important and what I'm capable of. But those relationships can't be built in the moment you need them - they take time to create and nurture. The saying "dig your well before you're thirsty" applies not only to business relationships, but to personal ones as well.
A couple of years ago, I gave a talk on this topic at a leadership conference. You can view the video (about 13 minutes) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzS59UjmO8A
I hope that's helpful!
I had my second daughter three weeks after publicly launching my last company. Four months later, I was under so much stress I broke out in hives when attempting to fall asleep, and then proceeded to have such a hard time breathing I had to take benadryl and a cold shower. I woke up the next morning confused, frustrated, and very aware of a need for a change. Here are some lessons I learned - most of which can be summed up with the word "routine:"
1. Schedule just about everything (like Kris said).
2. Establish work hours. By creating a hard stop/start time on your work day, you'll begin to train your brain to stop chewing on incomplete tasks even when away from your work. I'm still bad at this, but getting much better. My brain would much rather work on a task until it's done. This is also why I/we gravitate towards wasting time on lots of small things vs. the important big things. Which leads me to...
3. Complete the hard, intimidating tasks in the morning. Avoid the false sense of accomplishment that comes from busy work.
4. Find something to quit on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.
5. Ask a few friends to call you regularly to hang out. You need people pursuing you.
6. Don't sleep with your phone in your room. Put your phone on a routine - plug it in outside your bedroom in the same place every night.
7. Take a digital "sabbath" - one day a week without your computer or phone.
8. Exercise!!! Even just a walk a day...
9. Pick a night to hang out with friends/spouse/partner every week and stick to it no matter what.
10. Remember very little is actually in your control. You can work your butt off and still see a company fail - it happens all the time.
11. Be happy with your best - even if you don't feel like it's good enough.
12. If you can, establish a specific location where you will work. Again, related to routines, this helps your brain compartmentalize.
A man is never too busy to admit how busy he is. Sitting in front of a computer or being glued to a handheld device isn't akin to enhancing productivity. The best way to enhance productivity is to take occasional break from work and connect with your social and natural surrounding. Best learning as an entrepreneur happens outside your office or room.
In a nut shell, you need not plan your day but just plan your working hour each day. Anything outside work should be kept unplanned to make most out of the day.
Great question, it shows your aim is on winning the marathon not the sprint. I agree with most of the advice in this thread. For us, it came down to putting a boundary around our work hours, in my last three companies there were never boundaries and we had what we thought were sweet benefits like "take as much vacation as you want" but really it just meant longer hours before and after your time off. We did an experiment called "40 Hours a Week No More No Less" testing to see if we could meet current responsibilities, stay profitable, and beat the competition. That experiment turned into a company policy three years and has been one of the most influential things we have done as a company. There isn't enough room to provide the full background but in short, by setting boundaries around our work hours it actually increased efficiencies and created a hyper focus on prioritizing the right work each week. You can read more about it here: http://neversettle.it/actual-40-hour-weeks-in-a-startup/