It is not easy trying to be a boss at life when you have tons of competing interests. Between juggling the demands of our careers, relationships, finances and health, it is easy to let some things fall through the cracks. We all have been guilty of this at one point or the other, but small actions can set you up for long-term success. Here are eight habits that keep me productive:
Wake up early: Early bird catches the worm. While everyone else is still sleeping and your e-mails and text messages are not going off every minute, it is a great time for you to do things that are important to you. My early mornings start off around 5:00 a.m. with a cup of coffee or green tea. I use this time to eat breakfast, read the news, go to the gym and review my calendar for the day. No morning is the same for me, but getting up early is the constant denominator.
Catch up on work during travel time: I do not have a car anymore because living in New York City, I don’t need one. Public transportation is accessible to me everywhere. During my travel time on the subway, I pop open a book I am reading or draft and respond to e-mails on my phone. Also, I use this time to send off good morning messages to my loved ones or respond to text messages I’ve received. This gets tasks out of the way and keeps me in touch with my loved ones.
Keep your e-mail responses brief: I don’t like reading or writing long e-mails. When I am getting messages from my team, I usually answer the question in one or two lines and get straight to the point. E-mail correspondence can suck up your day if you let it. I usually allocate 60 minutes to e-mail in the morning, 30 minutes in the afternoon and 30 minutes in the evening.
Schedule in project time: It is easy to get distracted from big projects. I have learned to block time off in my calendar to get things done. I usually schedule these blocks in about 2 - 3 hour increments per project, book a room in my office and sit there in silence with my phone on airplane mode and my e-mail screen hidden.
Use lunch time to connect with friends: You have to eat. Instead of always doing a working lunch and eating in front of your computer, opt to meet a friend! It is a great way to incorporate the people you love into your life and gives you a slight boost of energy during the day. I try to do this once or twice per week and have been pretty successful.
Plan for the next day: Before you leave the office, outline what your next day’s tasks and projects are going to be. The best way to mitigate any work surprises is to plan ahead of time. When you get home, choose your outfit, pack your gym bag and pack your lunch. By doing this in the evening, you prevent decision fatigue in the morning. Make it easy for yourself to get up, grab and go.
Schedule some “you” time: I have a rule not to work on Sundays, unless truly necessary. I spend that day resting, cleaning, journaling, reflecting or watching netflix. It is important to have sometime during the week for yourself. You can also opt to have this time during the workday by stepping away from the desk for a few minutes to look out the window or going for a walk in between projects, meetings and/or calls.
Get some shut eye, early: The key to getting up early (habit 1) is to go to bed at a decent hour. I am usually in bed by 11:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m. No evening is the same for me, but I have learned to unplug after a while. I have been there and done the whole #teamnosleep business and it is not sustainable, healthy, or fun.
What’s your take on productivity for this year? What works for you and what doesn’t? Leave a comment below and let me know. If you know someone that could benefit from this post, share it! Thanks for reading.
The other day, I was scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook timelines and I took a look back at 2016. It was a great year for New York On Tech, a non-profit tech education startup I co-founded. What I am most proud of is the way I managed my time this year in the startup jungle. I am not perfect at work-life balance yet, but I am planning for a better 2017. Here are my top five work-life balance strategies for founders building startups:
Done is better than perfect: My schedule is always crazy. Between managing my responsibilities with New York On Tech, traveling to conferences and managing my social life, I’ve hacked the art of “being done”. Perfectionism is valuable, but at some point it can stop you from progressing. Whether it is taking a fourth look at your deck, having someone read your e-mail three times before you send it off or using 10 of your friends to read a post before you hit “publish”, think again! Time is something you cannot get back. Not everything is a high priority item that requires your full attention.
You are entitled to say “no”: I love people and I enjoy making new connections and friends, but I have learned to put some respect on my schedule in 2016! A lot of people want one-on-one meetings for advice, feedback, idea validation and a whole list of things. If I had one-on-one meetings with everyone that requested one, I would have to dedicate an entire work day or two every week. I have learned to say “no” and I have grown really comfortable with it. Also, I provide people with other options to access me (because I don’t want to be completely inaccessible) and ask for people to e-mail me rather than call me or call me rather than trying to meet in person. The word “no” and providing people with other alternatives to reach me is powerful and keeps me on task. Try it!
Show up when it matters: I get many requests for speaking engagements and I hate turning some of them down. Also, I get invited to many events (both local and national) and end up turning some of those down too. I have decided to be super intentional about where I show up or feel like I need to have a presence. Truth is you can't be everywhere. I minimize the amount of events I attend or let someone from my team attend them on my behalf. I also try to recommend other peers in the space doing great work as potential speakers.
Delegation and automation is a major key: Towards the end of the year, we on-boarded a new program manager who is taking a load off! Also, we’re planning to hire and recruit for a few more roles in Q1 of 2017. If I have learned anything it's that delegation is a blessing! Automation is another key. Sync your calendars, schedule your social media posts and e-mails and use a meeting scheduling service. Those small seconds in the day count when your time is scarce.
Rest and recharge: Surprise! I am actually not always working. Sundays are “Jessica Appreciation Day” and that is when nails, toes, laundry, cleaning, Netflix and cooking happens. Sundays are not to be compromised and I don’t let anything stand in the way of “me time” because I work close to 12-14 hours a day Monday - Saturday. Pick one day per week or allocate some time during the day to appreciate yourself! Totally worth it.
Now it’s your turn. How do you balance your time and what are some things you do to keep your sanity while building your dreams? I look forward to reading your responses.