How This Founder Radically Reshaped His Workweek — And Balanced His Life

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A few years ago, I began laying out my week on a spreadsheet — all 168 hours of it — to see how I allocate my time. It’s an eye-opening exercise. About 30 percent is sleep, and 30 percent is work. Then family and friends get 25 percent, and the rest is learning and general maintenance. I also realized I wasn’t always making the most of those hours; I was squandering time, which is the one thing I can’t get more of. For example, I have three young children — but getting home to put them to bed at 8 p.m. wasn’t quality time. I’d rather be around from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. And sometimes I was so busy working on my own projects that I had no time to relax.

Related: How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work

So I came up with an experiment. I’d compartmentalize my time to make sure I spent quality hours on the things that mattered. The big one: Rather than work a normal workweek, I’d divide it up — the first four days at work in New York, and then Friday through Sunday at home in North Carolina. I’d front-load the week with work, then dwindle down to spend more time with family and friends: 18 work hours on Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 10 on Wednesday, 6 on Thursday and 4 on Friday. When you add it up, that means more family time than if I just went home for dinner every night. It also means more-focused work time.

When I did this, I also saw that there are more things I want to do than there is time in the day. So I combine interests. For example: If you want to learn how to play guitar, do it with a friend. Now you’re pursuing a personal development goal and a social goal at the same time. This also taught me to be realistic about where I waste my time; just checking your phone can be a crippling little time suck. 

Related: 9 Rules for Successful Time Management

At the end of each week, I spend an hour auditing the days. Did I use time right? Is this experiment still worth it? So far, it’s working really well.

Some people have said this sounds like I’m taking the fun out of life — that there’s no room for serendipity. But honestly, you can schedule for that, too; you just need to know how many hours you have for it. And this, as I see it, is part of the reason to be an entrepreneur: It gives you the freedom to spend your time the best way you can. It might not always feel that way, because you’re beholden to your customers, or your team, or your investors. But you can take control. That’s the whole point.