I constantly get asked the question, “How do you find the time to X, Y, or Z,” from aspiring entrepreneurs because starting a business can sometimes feel like a all-consuming effort.
Two things have helped me over the years. One I learned early in my career from my first boss and the other I have just started to enjoy from something my son initiated in our treehouse resort business.
First and foremost, the best advice is:
Make sure your time is spent on what matters most.
It always gets back to the 80/20 rule I learned in my first job out of college as a sales rep. My boss then emphasized that 80% of my business would come from 20% of my customers and he wanted my time and attention to focus on those customers in the same ratio.
The rule is universal and can be applied to everything in business and possibly all parts of our life:
- Want to improve profits margins? Find the 20% of your operations that impacts 80% of your expenses and look for opportunities there.
- Aiming to triple revenue? Look for 20% of your customers, target market, or new markets that can impact 80% of your revenue rather than chasing every possible option.
- Looking for improved employee motivation? Find the 20% of things you control that matter 80% to your employees.
The same will be true of your priorities. If you spend 80% of your time on the 20% of things that call for your attention–the ones that will make 80% of the impact on your success–you will find your success and your sanity greatly improved! Rather than try to “do it all” you look for what is the most meaningful in your personal and professional life and make sure you give those your priority.
This requires you to know your business and yourself to answer the questions:
What are the few things that affect my businesses success the most?
What are the things I need most in my life to be happy?
What do the people I care about need most from me to feel connected?
When you can answer those questions with clarity, you can set your priorities more easily.
Another critical element in being able to follow the 80/20 rule is to make sure you are counting what matters while not allowing what you are counting to dictate what matters. What I mean is if you have people counting how many pennies are spent in a minor area of your company while no one is counting the dollars falling off the table in some other area you might spend too much time discussing, analyzing and strategizing over those pennies. What gets counted will affect what you pay attention to, so ensure the systems you set up in your company pay attention to the things that most clearly affect your success.
My second key to finding time for what matters is:
Look for ways to meet your goals in more than one area of life simultaneously.
Recently, my son and business partner at ArtisTree, decided that whenever possible we will hold walking conferences. When we have our weekly strategy meeting or need to discuss an important opportunity we put on our sneakers and go for a walk. Sometimes we schedule these out in the woods or on the beach; other times we just walk around the block. This means we not only remove interruptions but we also feel more invigorated when we get back because we’ve gotten outside and oxygenated our brains. It also meets my personal goal of putting a priority on my health and well-being, which can easily be put on hold as an entrepreneur. I cannot tell you how effective this small decision has been; I can emphasize you should try it, soon!
My decision to work at ArtisTree was another life-enhancing choice because I am able to spend time with my son in a way few parents do with their 28 year-old. At the same time, ArtisTree’s mission to use a for-profit business to conserve beautiful land, inspire people, and create economic thriving for the communities in which we operate means each day as I work I am also meeting my desire to contribute to the world.
When your business is your passion you automatically have a more balanced life because your work meets your intrinsic desire to have a positive impact on things you care about.
When you step back away from the hectic hustle of your life and consider what matters you will be surprised how many places you can actually combine your most important priorities giving you more fulfillment and success.