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Don’t Have Time? No, You Have to Make Time

Late or no time at all? Make time by scheduling that which matters most (image source: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/Alice-White-Rabbit_l.jpg)

I’m a huge creature of habit. I like schedules, and I also hate them. Like my DISC assessment (high in both influence and conscientious), I’m a bit paradoxical in that I value both structure and spontaneity. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to really embrace this bend-but-don’t break schedule.

However, I’ve always been a bit programmed in appreciating structure and bottlenecks. It’s probably what ultimately drove me to Industrial Engineering at Tech and a consultant after graduation. I always understood priorities and making time for those things that matter most.
In entrepreneurship, this can be a tough task — making time for things that matter while balancing the needs to create and execute. We hear all the time how it’s important to live and breathe the business. Work 20 hours a day; sleep for 4. Even though I don’t have a startup success under my belt, I have to believe that’s a load of crap. At least for me, I know to operate at my best, I need to do what works FOR ME. For me, that means making time for the things that matter.
Below is a quick snapshot of what a typical day looks like for me. This is largely “today” vs. when Body Boss was going when I would have dedicate more time for cold calls and school visits.
5:00 AM
Most days during the week, I’ll wake up about 5AM-5:15AM. I’ll get ready to work out with my pre-workout regimen. This includes reading any emails, reviewing the day’s agenda, reading blogs or Soccernet.com, and playing music on Spotify… and dancing. It’s my warm-up.
6:00 AM
6AM I head to LA Fitness. I pretty much get my workout going at 6:15AM. This will go for about 1-1.5 hours depending on how much warm-up I do.
7:00 AM
8:00 AM
Typically by 8AM, I’m back home, showered, and making a quick breakfast of a couple over-medium eggs, grits or cream of wheat, and protein shake.

While eating, I address quick emails (takes < 2 min to reply). Most of the time, I won’t answer any till later when I’m set up.

9:00 AM
I don’t have an official office, so I can be nomadic, but most days, by 9AM, I’m at the local Starbucks.

I’ll be set up, tall green tea in hand, and I’ll read a few industry or blog posts to start my day.

9:15-30AM, I’ll start addressing emails. I’m a big fan of Inbox Zero. Heck, I’ve been doing that for a while before I knew there was a name for it. That is, I treat my inbox as a makeshift task manager, and work to clear it out depending on how I need to handle each email.

10:00 AM
By this time, if I have any consulting work, I’ll start that. Otherwise, I’m likely starting to code or wrapping up a blog post, if it’s Wednesday for my weekly publish.

I also like to have any pre-brief meetings during 10AM-11AM… if I have a bigger meeting later that day, and I have to collaborate with others.

11:00 AM
12:00 PM
1:00 PM
I might have already snacked on almonds or pistachios by this time. However, for lunch, I’ll have a peanut butter sandwich – the lean life. They’re not delicious by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re incredibly fast to make, clean to eat, and I can continue to work while taking bites. Pretty boring, but very effective.

1PM is also a great lunch time for it seems. By this time, I’ve had put in a good rhythm and accomplished several things.

2:00 PM
I’m continuing to work here with any continuation of earlier work. However, usually, I’m done with any consulting work, and now, I’m focused on programming, marketing, customer discovery, or whatever else. Since I don’t have an official “role” or “job”, I just do what’s needed.

During 2-4PM, I’ll also try to handle most of my meetings including meet-n-greets.

3:00 PM
4:00 PM
5:00 PM
6:00 PM
I typically leave Starbucks about 6-7PM depending on what I’m doing later that night. I’ll keep working from home, but if I’m meeting with friends, I try to make those at 8PM. Yoga at LA Fitness on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 8PM. Friday Night Futbol (pick-up soccer) at 6PM at Tech. We’ve kept FNF going for the better part of a decade with much of the original cast still playing.

Either way, I try to incorporate a more “social” fitness activity during the week so I can break up the monotony of working “alone” at Starbucks.

7:00 PM
8:00 PM
9:00 PM
By this time, I’m eating dinner. I usually have left-overs from having cooked a big batch of whatever on Sunday. I try to cook something new or incorporate a new ingredient every week. However, sometimes, I amaze myself with some delicious meal, so I end up cooking the same thing two weeks in a row.

After dinner, I try to close out any other emails before bed.

10:00 PM
Before actually falling asleep, I like to throw up something on Netflix. It has to be something funny or “mind-numbing”. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep as my mind races with ideas or questions and reflections.
When I watch mind-numbing TV, it allows my brain to shut off. I tried reading, but most of the time, it doesn’t turn my brain off. So I’ll watch a couple episodes of some show, and likely try to fall asleep to it in the background.

These days, I’m on “Friends”. I’ve churned through “How I Met Your Mother” and “Scrubs” over the last seven months.

11:00 PM
12:00 AM
1:00 AM
… even with the mind-numbing TV, I find myself getting up about 1-2AM, and staying up for another couple hours. I’ll be thinking about all these opportunities or reflecting on recent events. It’s crazy. I guess, sometimes, it’s just hard to shut off.

This is particularly annoying when I finally fall asleep about 4AM, and have to wake up in an hour to start my cycle again.

Other general thoughts on schedule…
  • I cook in bulk largely on Sunday evenings and keep everything in Tupperware to last throughout the week. I’m a fan of spontaneity and variety in food, but for the sake of efficiency, variety rolls week-to-week.
  • I like to stay very active as it’s my “safe haven” to get away, but I include some team-oriented sports to get in some social time, too. So I play soccer largely on Friday evenings, but may play on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesdays as well. Weight training happens on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and yoga classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings. And if I have energy, I’ll include either mountain biking or golf on Saturday.
  • I work just about everyday… the extent of how long is another question. I don’t work too much on either Saturday or Sunday to have an “off-day”. However, I like what I do, and I like that I’m continually learning. As such, the concept of “work-life balance” is foreign to me. Instead, I feel that work is part and parcel to my life, and I happily include the two together.
  • I try to see my family at least once every two weeks. I absolutely love my family. Especially with a young niece, I make it a point to see my family somewhat often even if it’s just for a quick meal.
  • I typically work 9AM-7PM – not a crazy number of hours, but I’m focused and keep my head mostly down. More times than I care to admit, I’ve forgotten to use the bathroom. I get in trouble when I get stuck in traffic.
  • I address emails three times daily… once in the morning, once around lunch, and once at the end of the day. At least, that’s what I do most of the time.
  • Most of my meetings are on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Friday mornings I may meet with people at Atlanta Tech Village. Keeps my schedule sane.

Surprisingly, some of the greatest benefits of a schedule is having flexibility and allowing focus. With a schedule, I’ve essentially set aside time to accomplish what needs to be done while all other time is largely fluid. Add to that, I don’t have to wonder when I’m going to do something or when I will finish what I need to do as my schedule takes the thought-process out of it.

What I’ve also noticed in my schedule as it’s evolved is this notion of the introvert me vs. the extrovert me. The solo-preneur vs. the collaborative entrepreneur. I’ve found myself putting a lot of emphasis on finding activities and times where I am not dependent on others. For example, when I work out, I may go with a friend. However, if he/ she doesn’t join me, I’m okay with that. Weights don’t care about my mood. They don’t care about if I’m there with a friend. Instead, it’s a purely ME-challenge. In the evenings, I’ll then try to double-up with the group activities like yoga. I’ll invite others to join; or in the case of FNF, it’s highly dependent on others. If others can’t make it, then I’ve still, at least, gotten SOME form of physical exercise in earlier.
Even with Starbucks, I’ve given myself the ability to be quiet and to myself when I wear a hoodie and plug in my earbuds, or I can opt to be more social and talk to the person next to me. Either way, I’ve given myself flexibility. When I’m at home, I don’t have that flexibility which inevitably drives me wild with “cabin fever”.

In gist, everyone’s schedule is different, but we all have the same number of hours in the day. We prioritize and make time for those things that matter most to us. For me, I’ve stuck to sometimes a very rigid schedule that actually allows me latitude to include other activities that I hadn’t included before… all because I’ve already set aside the time to do what I need to do.