Making Time — The Struggle of Being Busy in Business & Life
Being busy is easy, especially if you’re an entrepreneur and a parent like me. I recently gave a talk how I manage to run multiple businesses, be a present father & husband and still find time for myself.
While preparing for this presentation, I tried to look beyond my own personal practices and instead, distill down a few essential similarities between many of the people I look up to and admire.
Whether you are a small business, looking to be more active, desire to travel more, seek to spend more time with your family & friends, or just trying to find time to “do it all”, I’d like to share a few of the things that I believe all successful people have made conscious efforts to master.
The Difference Between F̶i̶n̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ & Making Time
The first think I’d like to clear up is the difference between “finding” and “making” time.
When you wake up in the morning, do you find yourself opening up Instagram or Facebook to see who has commented on your latest story or post and then mindlessly scroll through your feed for the next 30 minutes?
Now ask yourself, in the last week, how many times did you get up, go for a run, bike ride or participate in some form of physical activity?
If the answer is zero or “not as much as I hoped”, don’t worry — you’re not alone. As humans, we’re hardwired to gravitate towards the path of least resistance.
By partaking in this “low hanging fruit” we sacrifice our ability to find time for the real work. To be clear, my definition of work includes long term goals and dreams, physical activity and personal development, not just the hard things on our punch list.
Achieving That Goal — 1 Hour at a Time
As a thought experiment, I want to break down how something as simple as 1 extra hour per day can be the catalyst to set you on a path of accomplishing a long term goal. Don’t worry too much on where this time will come from — we’ll get to that in a bit.
Over the course of a month this hour equates to 30 hours of time you just “found”. In my mind, this is more or less an entire work week when you take into account lunch & breaks.
Stepping back to a much more macro view — this equates to 15 FULL days over the course of a year. If you can free up 2 hours per day then you just “found” an entire month every year to dedicate to starting a business, spending time with your family or devoting to personal development.
If You Want Something Done, Ask a Busy Person
We’re all really busy — between our job (and sometimes second and third jobs), kids, family obligations and sleep — there's a whole lot going on in our lives and it’s often a struggle just to manage it all.
I started to wonder if I could distill the similarities between highly productive (or busy) individuals down to a core set of common characteristics and I came up with three areas where all successful people universally shine.
The elegance of it all is that by implementing some of these basic practices into your life, you are able to work less and achieve better balance in your life.
Practice #1 — Busy People Build Systems
In order to be successful and free up some time you’re going to need to start building systems. Make lists, use calendars and establish priorities — there are plenty of great (and free) tools out there including Trello, Slack, Google Calendar, bullet journals, and more so this is an easy thing you can immediately incorporate into your daily life.
Don’t get too caught up with the tools or processes though — by simply committing to a basic system you will already have leveled up.
Additionally, these systems should be fluid and change as your grow and your priorities shift. The tools my team use are much different than when we started and continue to change as our organization evolves.
Practice #2 — Busy People Keep A Schedule
Keeping a schedule sounds pretty rudimentary but I am continually amazed that so many entrepreneurs I talk to have no routine and juggle obligations in their head.
My current daily schedule is structured as follows:
5:30AM Wake Up
60–90 Minutes of Pranayama, Meditation and Asana (my PMA’s) or some sort of physical activity
Shower & get ready for the day
Make breakfast with my son so my wife can catch up on some sleep (she works late most nights)
In the office by 8:30
Lunch around noon with the family most days (I have a 5 minute commute to my office)
Back to the office and I’m home around 5:30–6:00 (depending on if I’m teaching a yoga class on any given night)
In the evenings I’ll make dinner, hang out with the family and read for about 30 minutes before turning the lights out around 11:00PM
While I do deviate from this schedule from time to time, the takeaway is to establish a rough blueprint for your day and use this as a basis for bringing some structure to your life.
Taking this to the office, I like to create fixed times for weekly “standing meetings”, time blocks for deep work sessions and I try to work “remote” at the local coffee shop once a week.
All of these practices allow me to create space to tackle any issues and focus on growth without running around putting out proverbial fires all day.
Practice #3 — Busy People Create Downtime
The last practice I was able to glean from my observations was that busy people prioritize downtime and give themselves space to recharge and process through things.
I know personally, I try and spend several weeks per year overseas, typically in the winter months, and while this may seem extreme, this practice allows me time to take a step back, look at the big picture and really prioritize what is “long term” important versus another temporary “fire”.
While this may not be an achievable (or even desirable) goal for you, there are a few easier tactics you can begin to play with that help build a healthy practice of creating downtime.
Take 1 day out of the office and work remote — it doesn’t have to be at home but just try and escape your typical surroundings.
Take an extra day off each week during the summer — 3 day “weekends” give us more time to take care of things in our personal life which can reduce anxiety in our work life.
Schedule time to think and put it on your calendar— go for a walk in the woods, develop a meditation practice, or just sit and look at the ocean.
Maintain some sort of physical activity every day — go for a bike ride, run, get on your yoga mat — it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re making time for this.
To outsiders it might look like you’re slacking off but I encourage you to engage in some sort of routine downtime. We are in a constant state of information overload and we must allow ourselves proper time to process through everything.
Remember, there is no merit badge for working 60 hours per week — don’t do it to yourself and don’t encourage it with any of your friends, coworkers or employees. As a society, we’ve built this image that you have to hustle to grow but, while hard work is important, overworking is just a symptom of poor time management.
Lastly, it’s important to recognize that sitting on your phone or binging Netflix are NOT practices to create downtime and, regardless of the content, you’re brain is still absorbing and not processing through information. You need to do your best to completely unplug during these times and sit with your thoughts.
But How to I Apply This To My Life?
I learn best through jumping right in so I’m going to challenge you to incorporate these practices into your daily life right away.
It’s best to remember that personal development (and life) is not a zero sum game and that you do not need to do everything to be successful, however, I encourage you to try these things, see what resonates and iterate until you find something that works for you.
Challenge #1 — Set a Limit on Social Media
If you have an iPhone or Android phone, buried in your settings is a “screen time” preference. Play around with this for a bit and see how much time you’re spending each day and week scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or Reddit.
I guarantee that most of us immediately can find that extra hour per day simply by developing a little bit of discipline with how we engage with these platforms. If you keep digging around you’ll probably see that you can set a daily limit on social media and I encourage you to pick a length of time that is fair and reasonable. I like to give myself 25 minutes per day to do everything I need to do on these platforms and after that, I’m locked out.
If you would like a “next level” challenge, I encourage you to go on a complete 30 day social media fast. You’re going to detox a bit but once you remove it from your daily life I guarantee it’ll become much less interesting. After 30 days you can begin to re-introduce it in a way that adds value to your life.
Challenge #2 — Get Up 1 Hour Earlier
Are you still looking for that extra hour every day? Here’s an easy way to find it — just get up 1 hour earlier. Yes — there may be an adjustment period but once you get through it (and perhaps start going to bed a bit earlier) you’ll find this space you created essential to your well being.
Challenge #3 — Create a Plan for Attacking Your Goals
All to often we have a long term goal or dream but we struggle with how to break them down into tangible tasks we can do today that help us get there.
I’ve found that the best way to do this is to start “big” but then systematically create a yearly, a quarterly, a monthly, a weekly and a daily plan to help get you there.
Here is a basic exercise I periodically like to walk through. I’m going to outline one of our 5 year goals for Cowerks, our coworking and commercial real estate investment business. I’ll then break it down to several concrete steps I can do today to get us there.
In 5 year I want: Cowerks to own $10MM in commercial real estate assets.
So, in the next 12 months we need to: Close on our next building and have it rent stabilized.
So, in the next 6 months we need to: Put a building under contract.
So, in the next 3 months we need to: Put offers on multiple buildings with the goal of having one of them go under contract.
So, in the next month we need to: Start identifying prospective buildings and schedule some walk-throughs with property owners and brokers.
So, in the next week I need to: Get on Loopnet and run numbers on 3 available buildings as well as attend a local Real Estate meetup to network with potential investors.
So, today I need to: Listen to 1 podcast on commercial real estate investment and buy a book on Amazon so I can make sure I know what I’m talking about when working with investors, brokers, and property owners.
This exercise can be used for setting both business and personal goals and each step should consist of 1 or 2 achievable goals that move you further along towards that 5 year plan.
Will things deviate? Absolutely — but what this does is allow us to build a roadmap as well as actionable items we can start doing today.
So, To Recap
Build Systems — Don’t focus too much on which systems, just have something.
Keep a Schedule — Add some structure to your life — it’ll be a game changer.
Create Downtime — There’s no merit badge for “hustling” 60 hours per week.
Don’t find — MAKE time for your long term goals and passions.