4 Pieces of Advice You’re Not Getting When Starting A Company
So you’re starting your own company. Congratulations! I’m sure you’ve been given a ton of advice on things like funding, hiring, managing, etc. But, have you gotten any advice on keeping your personal life together as you build your company? I didn’t, and as I’m going through the process I can tell you it’s easily ignored, and critical to your success (and sanity.)
Here’s some of the advice I didn’t get.
Since Time is Money, Your Agenda is an Investment
I spend an exorbitant amount of time on my company. You probably do, too. (at least that’s advice we’re all given.) You’ll probably get to the point where you plan out themes for your days. For example, mine look like this:
That’s great for your 9–5 (or, 7–7) but what about a schedule for your life outside of your company? I know it’s unrealistic and completely unappealing to schedule fun stuff, but without a semblance of an agenda, it’s so easy to keep putting in work hours until you’re ready for bed, and that’s not sustainable. It’s important to figure out a schedule early on so any unexpected road bump won’t completely derail your productivity, or your home-life obligations.
Time boundaries are also crucial. Just because you decide to work until midnight doesn’t mean your spouse/friend/parent/whoever is willing to stay up that late to spend time with you.
Set a certain time by which you will be done work each day, and stick to it.
I’ll be the first to admit — the work I do at 10:00pm sucks, and needs to be redone the next day.
Write down your commitments (professional AND personal) to keep track of everything that needs your attention
Use those commitments to build a schedule that allows time to get everything you need done
Test your schedule — make changes where you have to
Become BFFs with your calendar/day planner — use the constructive boundaries that you designed.
Set time to check in once a week — did you stick to your schedule? Or were you super reactive and got pulled to whatever came up?
You Need Defined Work Spaces
My first defined ‘work space’ was my basement. The idea was, if I’m going to work from home a few days a week, I needed a dedicated work space so that I could ‘go to work.’ It sounds like a detail, but sitting in my living room working while my wife is trying to have a conversation means I’m not being present. By setting location constraints on both home and work, you’re allowing yourself to be fully present wherever you are. This makes all the difference not just for you and your performance, but for those around you who rely on your dedication and attention.
Dedicate a room for work, or at least nominate a desk that’s sole use is for work. Don’t have the space in your home?
It’s time to employ the oldest trick in the pre-office entrepreneurs handbook: find a local coffee shop.
When you’re ready to graduate, find a shared workspace or incubator to work from. Just make sure that you have a place that means work, and your other spaces are for non-work.
The extra bonus is in ‘forming patina’ (as Seth Godin puts it.) When I go to my work space, I work. It’s a physical, mental, and mentality queue that it’s time to get to work. When I get home (/ walk upstairs), that’s my queue to start recharging — and not to squeeze in another few hours of low quality work.
So, when you’re home, be home. Do your household chores, relax, do whatever, but be present.
Build your office area
Find a local coffeeshop / extra space (bonus points if you chum it up with the barista)
Set a time to check in on being present — how much time did you spend working from home?
Your Personal Life is Like A Part Time Job
If you can’t tell — I work better within a framework of my own creation. Since I have a great way to keep track of my professional life, I realized I had to also set aside time for the things in my personal life.
Maybe you’re a volunteer, maybe you’re a parent, maybe your greatest responsibility at home is to choose the movie for movie night. Don’t let these things fall to the wayside.
When you’re in, be all in.
Just like how your employees wouldn’t like you half-assing your job, your friends and family would be none too thrilled, as well.
I look back with shame at the times that I’ve been the tenacious “rockstar hustler guru” for my company, then proceed to come home and say “oh, I don’t know, whatever you want” when it’s time to decide what’s for dinner. I realized my relationships outside the office deserve to interact with the best me, too.
Write your personal life job description — what do your friends and family rely upon you for? What do they respect about you?
Set a goal — how many times do you want to see your friends a month?
Conduct a personal life job review once a quarter, ask your significant other / friends to give you feedback on how you’re doing as a friend / spouse
Pretend Like Your Health Impacts Performance
I’ve spent the better part of a lifetime thinking up, implementing, and measuring a myriad of techniques to improve my personal performance and the performance of my company. Until recently, taking time to exercise has not been on that list.
Isn’t that insane?
Take time for yourself so you don’t burn out. Take a walk, get a massage, see a movie. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t take time to relax and recharge the batteries, you run out of juice and become useless.
When your days are full, it’s easy to take a look at the things that don’t seem immediately necessary and toss them out. A lot of things can get tossed out, but exercise is always first on the block.
I don’t need to waste your time by explaining the benefits of exercise, but, I will remind you that exercise boosts creativity and keeps your mind, as well as body, sharp and happy. It’s easy to skip a run or bail on a yoga class because it may seem unnecessary at the time, but in the long run, it will help you go further.
Think about how you’re showing up:
Would you want to hang out with the tired, overworked, overstressed, overweight version of you?
I can barely stand the sharp, focused, fit version of myself.
Find a physical activity you enjoy and go do it
Go to sleep. I like to shift my evening hours to planning to make sure my mind is calm before it’s time to bed.
Make time every week for just you
One key thing to take away: no matter how busy you get or how successful your business becomes, none of it matter without you. You have to always make sure you and the people around you are top priority. It will make you and your business stronger.