When I was in college I worked 12+ hour 7 days a week: double majoring and holding down 2 TA positions, hey Duke ain’t cheap! After I graduated I actually spent a year just working a 40 hour a week job, and after that year got bored. So I went back to 7 days a week piling on a part time Masters. So from 18 to 24 I was working 7 days a week. How did I feel? Like I was working all the time… I had little to no life and I felt like I was going to spend my youth chained to my desk.
The second year of my first startup I made it a point to only work 5 days a week, freeing my weekends to pursue hobbies, and personal interests.
When I started my second startup I tried working 7 days a week, but I just couldn’t! I was no longer the 18 year old or 24 year old who could sleep 5 hours a night and work 12 hour days after drinking a double latte and eating cafeteria food. Instead I was the 27 year old foodie with social obligations, an active yoga practice, who craved traveling! More to me means living a life full of worthwhile experiences. So how was I supposed to hustle but still feel like I had a full life? Truthfully the first couple years I traded in my social life in for team building. However, this year I made friends and family a priority. This of course meant that I had to search for extra time in my schedule, which was pretty hard to do. So instead of trying to cram more into an already tight schedule I did a couple things.
First I created a list of priorities, things I absolutely had to do maintain my health, sanity, and also make others know they were important to me:
- Call mom!
- 5 days of yoga => 16-18 hours a week
- Cooking 2 days a week => 2 hours a week (I made my brother who is my roommate cook 2 nights, and the other 3 are a toss up between going out and eating leftovers).
- Housekeeping => 2-3 hours
- 2 to 3 evenings with friends
- Blogging => 1 – 3 hours a week
- Startup work: sales, events, and employee 1-1s = 40 hours a week
- Reading => 30 minutes to an hour/day
- Additional side projects (speaking and writing) => 2-3 hours a week
- Self-improvement (learning a new language or skill) => 1-2 hours a week
- Meeting new people => 2-3 hours a week
So where does the less come in, i.e. when do I have time to relax? Well no matter what I try to pack in a 1-2 week vacation every 3 to 6 months, depending on affordability and easy of getting away without disrupting work. When I do take time off I do absolutely no work, except for maybe checking in a couple times a week. I’ve found that this helps me avoid burnout. But even more important than vacations, is to have at least one evening a week to myself that is devoted to not working, socializing, or being actively engaged in an activity, this is my veg night, and is usually a couple hours. I find that having just one veg night makes it easier to get through the week, keep stress levels, low, and still be productive and happy.
I know it may seem its silly to have a process, but I truly believe that if you want to live a full life you have to put a little thought into how you’re going to achieve and maintain it. Discipline and adherence to a routine are part of that process. But discipline isn’t just sticking to a schedule and staying organized, it requires have a good and healthy personal psychology, I have had to train myself to:
- Not overcommit. This of course means not feeling guilty about being unable to be present for everything and everyone. It also means that I cannot feel like I’m missing out.
- Be present and relaxed in social interactions whether its a meeting or party. If I’ve set aside time to be somewhere or with someone then I want to give them my full attention.
- Avoid drama like the plague. I know shitty things happen everyday, and that is just life. But self-inflicted drama through negative self-talk, overanalyzing situations, anticipating events that are beyond my control, or having high expectation of people or events are culprits that I know can bring me down and make unproductive. So I do my best to avoid it.
- Avoid keeping up with the Joneses. Its easy to see what other have and want it too, but I like to ask myself if its something I truly want and need or if I just desire it because someone else seems happy because they have it. Often times I’ve dug deep to discover the self-sacrifice, or even unhappiness associated with what others have. Its important to have that context, and I think its overlooked because people are great at having a veneer of happiness and effortless perfection.
Finally, I take time to think about how far I’ve come, and accomplished. Its easy to always want more and do more, but you have to stop and enjoy the things you have in the present. I know that sometimes things are outside of my control, especially when other people are deciding factors. When this happens its a good opportunity to actually do less in the moment, and wait for more to come.