This post may become many posts once I’m done but I’d like to start on this topic in hopes to inspire some others. I can’t count on my fingers how many thing I have my hands in right now. My workload is crazy, I have a full time job and 10 other part time projects. I have a girlfriend of 3 years and I have to take care of adult things like laundry, bills, groceries and hygiene. Actually, I’ve always struggled with hygiene but that’s destined for another post.
Let’s discuss prioritizing your workload and focusing on life. Life is so important. Without it, we wouldn’t be here and many of us forget that there is a bigger picture and forget to look up at the sky. I look up at the sky every single day. I wake up at 7AM, stand at my window and look above the cityscape into the skyline long enough for a cloud to pass by. If you’re not doing this, you’re not living. Where I come from, living is working 9-5 at a job for 40 years, buying a house, raising a family and preparing for retirement. That’s exactly what I’m not going to do and you shouldn’t either. We all should be able to have an equal ammount of freedom and responsibility in our lives and not worry about 60 years from now so much. If you’re 30, just know the average live span is around mid 70s in The US so working what you’re doing beyond that shouldn’t be at the top of your list.
Priorities are key. What do you need to do and what would you like to do. Those should both be exactly the same. I want to help a company be the #1 most used social media aggregator in the world and that also happens to be my job description so it’s a match made in heaven. If you need to answer 500 emails a day and honestly could care less about doing so then you’re wasting your time. There are thousands of people out there who are doing a job that you would really like to be doing and would gladly trade you but unfortunately that’s not how it works. Oooh, that’s a good idea for a startup.
The Bushido always lived by the sword. One of their teachings is that you live today as if you were going to die tomorrow. Like many teachings in eastern philosophy, it can be taken two ways. I’m hoping that you don’t go on a cocaine binge and 5 days later run out of cash and realize that you probably could have been doing something more productive with your time. The lesson is meant to force practitioners to use their time wisely, enjoy life and make choices that benefit humanity so in your death, you won’t have the remorse that your life was a waste. That’s the lesson and I attempt to live this way every day.
You’re not working if you don’t work 16 hours a day on weekdays and 8 hours a day on weekends. This is the absolute truth. In tech or any profession, it’s key to bust your ass even after you’ve made it big and when you retire, actually retire but until then work as hard as you can. You can still live a healthy lifestyle with a 16 hour work day but there are some things you must do.
- Stop being so high maintenance. Avoid weekly haircuts and ironed shirts unless absolutely necessary. Take a page from young Bill Gates and you’ll see that appearances don’t always guarantee success. You can skip a shower one or two days a week but it means you’ll have an extra 30 minutes at the office. Only shave when you have to and spend the extra time working.
- Don’t watch television or visit YouTube (ever). Just stop tuning in. if you turn off the television for 6 weeks and turn it back on, you’ll realize that the shows you were into don’t matter anymore, have lost importance and there are new shows that you just don’t get. TV lives on and you’ve made great headway in your career. It’s all advertisements anyway.
- Find a flow and culture it. Every morning I wake up, reach over and grab my computer. I answer about 30 emails that are the easiest to respond to in about 5 minutes. I put my computer down, wash my face, put on some tea and watch the skyline taking deep breaths and enjoying total relaxation. This is how I start my day and it works well for me.
- Schedule things. Find a scheduling tool that you will actually use and get in the habit of scheduling everything. I schedule phone calls, meetings, time to blog, time to email, time to read RSS feeds and time to hop on FaceBook and find parties in my area. Schedule it all and you’ll feel relieved and more relaxed knowing everything going on in your life and you can tackle things one by one.
- Exercise. I haven’t been doing this but I need to do more. Take 30 minutes a day to walk, run, stretch or go to the gym and do these things. CrossFit is great for @home exercise. Do it and you’ll be happier when you’re 50 and you’re the only CEO that hasn’t been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Here are things that I avoid and have avoided for the past year with remorse:
- A thriving social life outside of tech / startups. I don’t go out to meet people outside of my circle. I’m fine with that. If I’m meeting someone who isn’t in my circle or founders, marketing people and visionaries or someone who is trying to get into the industry then I’m wasting my time. That sounds completely insane, I know but it’s what I’ve had to do to optimize my progress in this industry.
- Television, seeing every new movie when it’s released and get togethers outsite of technology. You can really optimize your time when you’re ignoring such things. It’s worked out for me.
- Travel for travel’s sake. I saw my family last week and that was awesome and there is huge value to not forgetting where you came from but if you’re a bootstrapped startup founder trying to breakthrough, it’s important to get things going and never let up even if a free ski trip to Lake Tahoe sounds like just what you need to rest a bit.
- Spending Money. I’ve lived on a very tight budget the past 10 months. This budget has enabled me to dress a little nicer, afford a faster computer and traveling to conferences that are truly worth my money. The more money you spend on fun things, the more you feel compelled to use those fun things. Buying a cool new camera, plasma TV or XBox is just what you don’t need and it only means less time toward your project.
I’m going to talk about this more and more and begin exploring workflow optimization soon. This was just a short (3 page) intro to prioritization of your life and becoming a leader in your industry. There’s more coming soon.