For the record, I hate the posts where someone successful tries to lecture people on how things should be done when you haven’t reached your potential yet, it’s condescending and I hope this isn’t seen in such a way.
I was asked recently how my work habits have changed over the years, how does getting stuff done evolve (or does it) – so here are just 3 tips that I wish I had back in the day.
1. Manage Your Agenda, Delegate Away
As many of you have seen here, I have a physical paper agenda. It never leaves my sight. It will never, ever, ever be digital – I like the idea of writing things out because for the most part I stops me from thinking of anything else – while computer activity is prone to multitasking.
I only deal with one thing a day. Everything else I get done in a day is an awesome bonus but as a human, I can seemingly only give my full and undivided attention to one thing at a time. I also tend to do so away from the PC. There is a joke around the office that you don’t open the door to my office if you see me sitting at the desk with a pen in my hand or going over a pile of papers.
The biggest change over the years.. is that I have a lot of great people around me. And I can’t be involved in everything or participate in everything. So some ideas just go to others for implementation.
Do this: Find out what you shouldn’t be doing. Even if you have 0 employees, there are many things you may be doing that could be outsourced. Yes, even if they cost money. If you can focus on more revenue generating things that only you can do and give up things that anyone else can do you’re taking the first step in independence from your business.
2. Eliminate Distractions
When you’re trying to make it in business your attitude has to be never say no. This inevitably leads to you being taken advantage of, dragged into endless meetings and focus groups and non-profit action committees, dinners, events, fundraisers, conferences, Facebook groups, mailing lists, even usenet for some of you dinosaurs.
Then you have internal and external “drama” that others like to bring to you as a matter of small talk that will drown your productivity – nothing like grown ass men and women gossiping like teenagers at lunch break. I had an employee where every meeting seemingly started with wasted time discussing people and topics that don’t matter – and I’d find myself repeatedly saying “Focus! What are we working on?”
The most significant bit of relief for me was the day I simply deleted firstname.lastname@example.org email account that received thousands of messages each day. Think of your Twitter on steroids – long discussion threads, even longer messages, even more at stake – for everyone except me. I didn’t bother unsubscribing, I just nuked the mailbox.
Do this: Track yourself throughout the day. How much time do you spend on actual work that matters? How much of what you do is actually getting you to (quantifiably) move forward – and start chopping.
3. Compress The Clock, Find Another Challenge
I don’t want to mince words, people that own companies and talk about work life balance should be shot. Dead. If you don’t have passion for your business or live to fulfill your vision and enrich not just your life but that of your employees and your clients – without compromise – you should get the fuck out of the way any let someone else do it. Believed it than, believe it now, anything less than the best is a felony. Hat tip to Vanilla Ice.
But what I wish I knew back then, and the way my life has changed significantly, is in finding other sources of passion and excitement in my life that compress the clock and allow me to get things done faster. Because I have other shit to do. I can’t spend 22 hours working on a project today, going over it a million times and looking at it a thousand different ways because today is my kids last day of first grade and I promised I’d take him somewhere special for dinner to celebrate. I also want to get a run in today because it’s National Run Day. I have inlaws staying with us tonight, we ran out of ovaltine, I have a few phone calls – you get the idea, I can’t stay at work till 11PM to move us one inch closer to the finish line.
If you think work life balance is about trading one thing for another you’re buying pipe dreams from people that failed at life. Unless you’re a sadistic bastard that likes to feel like he is failing one group of folks after another. That’s not what it’s about, you will NEVER be happy if you’re constantly feeling unhappy about striking a harmony between your career and your life. Your career is your life. Your life is your career.
You just need to have your career feed your life and have your life make you more productive in your career.
For me, it’s the realization that things just aren’t going to be perfect. There will never be enough Vlad to go around to please everyone but whatever mode I’m in CEO/dad/husband… I’m at it 100%. And I feel absolutely fantastic while I’m in one role after another because I get the ultimate satisfaction in each moment. There isn’t “fuck, I don’t want to go to work” day or “Wish I never had kids” day in my life.
As my wife recently remarked… “You don’t do anything small. You wanted to ride a bike so you bought a Ducati. Fine. But now you have 5. Wanted to do a triathlon – you’re now doing 9 of them this year and we have such a thing as a spare triathlon bike? You don’t do things modestly”
Do this: Find things that you love to do. Appreciate every moment you get to do things that make you happy. If they don’t make you happy, change them. Live to fill your life with things you want to do so no one thing ends up sucking the life out of you. When you’ve got other fun shit to do you’ll find yourself getting things done a LOT faster than when you’ve got the whole day to willow in the misery of a problem that won’t solve itself.