Richard Branson on Finding a Work-Life Balance
For an entrepreneur launching a startup, it always feels like there are a million things to do and the clock is against you. It is easy to neglect your health and your family as you spend your time dealing with emergencies. Finding time for yourself or to think about the future of the business may seem just about impossible, but you won't be able to keep going at 100 miles per hour if you are running on empty.
Just navigating each day can be a challenge. I find that technology is a great help -- I use phone calendars, email reminders and mobile reminders to maneuver my way to each meeting, event and party. You can also use these things to make sure you have time to eat regularly and that you can get a good sleep. My family is the center of my life, so wherever I am in the world, when I have a few minutes, I talk to my wife and kids.
And short breaks can make a big difference. When things are hectic, I find a good English cup of tea rejuvenating, and after a long day of business travel and meetings, a hot, relaxing bath can make a big difference. And don't forget to exercise, to keep the body as active as the mind. (I try to start my days on Necker with a swim around the island or a game of tennis if I can.)
But while some people try to deal with the stresses of entrepreneurship by setting up a strict routine that covers the bare minimum -- eating, sleeping and perhaps a little exercise -- I am not able to share my own routine because I don't have one, since I try to make every day unique. If you love life and live it to the fullest there are limitless ways to spend your time.
And as an entrepreneur you have to find a way to be flexible, because if there is a problem, you need to be able to prioritize. If you have a prior engagement that needs to be postponed, so be it. I found that the best way was to hire people who could take over running our businesses so that I could represent the Virgin Group. This arrangement was very useful to us just recently regarding Virgin Trains, our rail business in Britain, when the Department of Transport rejected our bid to keep the franchise. It was such an important issue that I dropped all other plans to focus on it and try to find a positive resolution. On September 10 I took our case to the Transport Select Committee myself.
Once you have learned to delegate and free yourself from micromanaging, you need to take the opportunity to focus on the future. Finding time for aspirational thought is vital. When I am on Necker Island, I spend time every day in a hammock with my notebooks and iPad, thinking over new dreams and ideas. At the beginning of your career, you may only be able to schedule 10 minutes during business travel, or between meetings, but even if that is all you can do, you should make the most of it.
Learning to delegate also means that you can switch off entirely every now and then -- it will keep you fresh for other challenges. Spending time thinking of others, such as by working with our foundation Virgin Unite, is one of my daily pleasures. Business leaders often get wrapped up in their own world, so charity work keeps things in perspective. It is amazing how focusing your mind on issues like health, poverty, conservation and climate change can help to re-energize your thinking in other areas.
Finally, to be refreshed and ready for anything, you need to find time for play. You are far more likely to succeed if you are having fun, so play just as hard as you work, if not harder! Find time to laugh, whether it is catching up with friends, chatting to new people or sharing a joke on Twitter. Then when opportunity knocks, open the door and make every second count.
Related: Richard Branson on Time Management