Starting a company is a major hazard to marriages, friendships, and pretty much every other relationship in your life. As the founder or CEO, the buck stops with you, which means there’s always more you could be doing. I call this the “one more” syndrome, as in there’s always one more email to write, one more prospect to call, and one more potential investor to ping. There’s no way to take the hard work out of starting a company.
Once you let go of your perfectionism, you can stop wasting time on guilt and worrying. Tweet This Quote
I’m no stranger to the busy life. A couple of years ago, I went through a period where I was working a full-time job, continuing to invest in startups, and writing a book—all at the same time. However, no success can compensate for the loss of key relationships, especially those with young children. After 15 years as an entrepreneur, I’ve developed these three specific principles and techniques to keep my corporate babies from consuming the rest of my life.
1. Accept that you’ll never get everything done.
When I was running my first company, my instinctive response to every problem or obstacle was to work harder. I was confident that given enough effort, I could solve any issue. But eventually, I realized that I just didn’t have enough hours in the day to solve all of them.
Once you let go of your perfectionism, you can stop wasting time on guilt and worrying, and instead focus on the practical challenge of figuring out which three of your million to-dos are actually the most important.
2. Put time in your calendar for your life.
I am amazed by the power calendars exert over our lives. If a meeting is scheduled, by gosh, we drop everything and make sure we show up for that meeting. Frankly, it’s a bit irrational.
When you’re taking time away from work, be present—you’ll be much more productive when you do sit down to work. Tweet This Quote
One of the main mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is not blocking out time in their calendar for their life. Founders often treat their personal lives as low-priority. “I’ll get to that,” they think. The problem is, the supply of high-priority items always outstrips available time. If you want to spend time with family, put it on your calendar. If you want to work out, put it on your calendar. If you don’t make time for your life, you won’t have one.
3. When you’re taking time away from work, be present.
Let’s say you’ve accepted imperfection and blocked out time with friends. You could still sabotage your own life. Let me give you an example:
When I go to a party to hang out with friends, I know there will be times when there’s a lull or I’m not engaged in a conversation. At those times, I will be sorely tempted to pull out my phone and check emails. I try hard to resist those urges. The corollary of the “one more” principle is the “just one” principle. Once you go down the slippery slope of checking your email, you’ll decide to write “just one” response. Two hours later, you’ll be huddled in a locked bathroom, frantically typing up messages to deal with the inevitable crises that arose while you were out.
As a founder or CEO, if you don’t make time for your life, you won’t have one. Tweet This Quote
Guess what? That’s not the most effective time or place to address issues.
Workaholism is a fundamentally selfish disease. You work because working makes you feel good (or at least less guilty). The kind of work you do from the locked bathroom at a holiday party isn’t efficient and doesn’t help your company—it just lets you feel better about yourself.
Whether you’re with friends, family, or most of all, your children, when you’re taking time away from work, be present. You’ll be that much more productive when you actually do sit down to work.
Workaholism is a fundamentally selfish disease—no success can compensate for the loss of key relationships. Tweet This Quote
It’s time to accept imperfection and dedicate more calendar time to spend with loved ones. No matter how much you’re tempted, keep the phone in your pocket and make sure you’re actually present.
A version of this post originally appeared on UNREASONABLE.is in December 2013. It has been updated and reposted to inspire further conversation.