Feeling the Drain of Business Demands? Focus on These 3 Areas.
Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: smart managers know when to let fires burn. Listen to this week's episode here.
We two -- Doug and Polly -- are slashers. Not in the sense of the horror-movie genre, but in our roles: We're consultants/business owners/entrepreneurs/speakers/authors/columnists/real estate developers/angel investors -- and the list goes on.
Our is what might be called a portfolio career. We didn’t consciously move toward creating this type of job for ourselves; it just happened. And, we find the variety exhilarating. It's exciting to discuss buying a building in the morning, speak at a luncheon event at noon, work with clients in the afternoon and end our day with a strategy meeting for one of our businesses. It's rewarding.
But, the long hours and the constant hat-switching can also be physically and mentally taxing, and the schedule can make finding downtime challenging.
That may be your work life, as well: When you're trying to run and grow a business or portfolio career, you face a myriad of tasks. There are endless demands on your time that can lead to stress in both your personal and professional roles. And stress can eventually result in health problems and relationship woes, which in turn can bring about even higher levels of stress.
The negative cycle continues. While we're not wellness, organization or relationship experts, we have found several techniques and tactics that help us keep pace with the demands of our businesses and other pursuits:
Both of us are a bit older; we're boomers. So, to make sure we remain physically fit, we work out every day. Yes, we said every day. We have found that if you never take a day off, you never go down the slippery slope of taking even more days off. And we have no excuse: We're blessed to have a gym in our house. On our busiest days, we might run on the elliptical only 30 minutes. But, we also work out with a trainer three days each week, and on weekends, we push the 30-minute workout to an hour.
Sleep is something else that's vital to staying focused. We go to bed every night at 10 p.m. We get up early. Depending on the demands of our schedule, that could mean 4 or 4:30 a.m. However, some weekend mornings we "sleep in" until 5:30 or even 6 a.m. We have done this for years, because getting enough sleep is important to your physical and mental health. Moreover, recent studies show that having a regular bedtime and a fairly regular wake-up time is at least equally as important as getting sufficient hours of sleep. If you want to be sharp, don’t sacrifice in this area.
Our next strategy for wellness: We give back. We are mentors, we sit on boards and committees. And we are people of faith. This faith grounds us. It reminds us to be grateful for the many blessings in our life, and sustains us when times are difficult. We find time to attend weekly services, feed the homeless and take on leadership roles in our church.
It can become easy to get wrapped up in a very small world when you're focused on your business. Giving back broadens you and gives you balance.
Our advice: Work out every day. Always go to bed at the same time each night. Give back and find something beyond yourself to keep you grounded.
We have tried different systems over the years but always come back to the simple to-do list. We each write a list daily. Reason: It's commonly known that the very act of writing notes or to-dos helps you to remember them. The opposite is true, as well. If you don’t write tasks down, or type them into an electronic list, you are likely to forget things.
If you are scaling a business, or have a busy lifestyle, you have to write things down. Of course you can put your own twist on things. For instance, Polly puts a star by the three or four tasks on her list that must be done that day. Doug keeps a portfolio with him at all times, where he takes notes for each client or project. Find a system that works for you, and be consistent.
Our electronic calendars are our other organizational tool. We can see each other’s calendars and are allowed to schedule each other’s time. Therefore, the rule is, “keep your calendar up to date.” It's troubling when you make an appointment with a client, only to have to reschedule because your business partner didn’t update his or her calendar and has a conflict. So, we sit down once each week to review calendars and talk about upcoming events.
Another strategy for organization: Don’t forget to delegate. Too many entrepreneurs try to do it all. But, as you scale, you'll need to off-load tasks you did when the business was smaller. Delegate to employees, contractors or vendors. In your personal life, hire people for housekeeping, errand running or gardening. Order cleaning and pet supplies online. If you do it right, you can gain back hours of time each week.
Our advice: You can’t remember everything (and it gets worse each year). So, make lists. Keep your calendar up to date. Delegate non-essential tasks.
People often call us the in-love couple. And that's true: We enjoy spending time together; we are best friends. But, serving our clients' needs and attending to all of our obligations make unscheduled time scarce. So, our solution has been to start scheduling date nights and mini breaks.
Studies show that scheduling time with your significant other is crucial to a happy and successful relationship. At least once each week, we schedule a date night, making reservations at a nice restaurant to enjoy a relaxing meal together. We still discuss business, real estate, clients, etc., but we also make plans for vacations and chat about the kids.
As for our schedule, we work at least some amount of time, seven days a week. On holidays like Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving, we may only check and respond to emails, but the rest of the year work is on the schedule.
This makes mini breaks all the more important. To us, a mini break may be a long weekend where we spend only an hour or two in the morning on client work or writing. Perhaps a mini break means a day spent travelling to two or three of the beautiful wineries we have in Virginia or a day picking blueberries with our granddaughter. These small breaks help us to recharge our romance and spend some precious time together and with family.
Our last tip in the relationship area is to find a way to retire at the same time each night with your partner. There have been many studies that show that this simple ritual can boost feelings of love and intimacy between partners and stave off the drift that often afflicts even the most loving relationships.
Doug was the one who made this request at the beginning of our relationship. To comply, Polly had to give up her night-owl ways and learn to get to sleep earlier. But, the benefits of this habit have greatly outweighed the few weeks it took to get used to a new rhythm.
Our advice: Schedule time to be together. Go on date nights. Plan mini breaks. Go to bed at the same time as your partner.
While all of these tips may sound simple, it's the discipline to keep them going that takes work and dedication. While you may not find all of these useful to your particular situation, we tried to make the case that tactics and rituals can be helpful to keep you on track as you tackle the demands of running and growing your business.