Wherever life takes me on the next journey, one thing I learned in running a startup is that more is not always better. This is applicable in many areas. Top line revenue at the expense of profitability, contracts and projects that you can’t deliver on (better to say no than do a crap job) are both things that are typically in every management textbook as examples of “more is not better.” What I have come to realize is that time is probably the best example there is.
Running a startup, it is an understatement to say that time is a precious thing. If there was a way to add three or four hours to a day I would have taken this over many, many tangible goods. Over the past five years there have been more than a few times where I felt I was able to exercise little control over my time. Meetings were set by others, my schedule was not a priority and I wore many hats owing to lack of steady funding to support additional staff. The reality of this may not have been quite to out of my control. I definitely have a hard time saying no. Over time, like any successful startup, the day-to-day operations slowly shifted to operations staff and I am now almost fully committed to strategic operations and growth initiatives. There is still plenty of work to be done and I could theoretically continue to put in 20 hour days 7 days a week, sleep at the office, and continue the toil.
However in 2016 I committed to being selfish with my time. I have come to realize I don’t need more time. I just need to take back that time which is wasted by others. I needed to be selfish. No more attending meetings that could be handled with an email. No more travel for pointless conferences and events. And, most importantly, prioritizing and planning my days to focus on what really matters, ensuring I have built in time to appreciate life and take care of myself physically and mentally. Long gone are the days of priding myself on getting as little sleep as possible. It turns out I am far more productive calling it quits and going to bed and getting 6-7 hours of sleep. Waking up, enjoying a cup of coffee in bed, reading, going to the gym, then getting rolling and focusing on the day. In 7-8 hours I am accomplishing more than I was working almost three times as long. Productivity aside there are a number of other benefits. First, my life no longer revolves solely around work. Secondly, while I have always eaten pretty healthy, the lack of sleep, irregular eating patterns, and irregular exercise patterns took it’s toll. In the last year I have lost 20 lbs, and more importantly, my body fat percentage is down from 14% to just under 7%. This commitment to be selfish with my time has also allowed me to focus and slow down. In Dec 2016 I took the first vacation (With my wife to Chilean Patagonia, where the above picture was taken) I have had in 10 years where I didn’t bring (and use nearly full time) a work laptop. While I am on my 9th year as a United 1K and have had the privilege to visit 23 countries, I have rarely explored these locations due to short trips, back to back meetings and quick departures to fly to another meeting. I’ve committed to taking some time when I travel to explore, to use the downtime to decompress, focus and reflect on the best ways to proceed. Being selfish doesn’t mean doing less. Quite the contrary, I have found I can do more just much more efficiently and be exponentially happier.