I asked the busiest person I know how he manages his time, and stays motivated, despite running a demanding business, raising two kids, continuing university, and presumably attempting to maintain some sort of social life. This is what he said.
Running on clocks picture by Shutterstock
Meet my friend Barry. He’s the busiest guy I know. We work together, and I’m routinely amazed at how he handles everything on his plate so well, while I’m still stuck trying to master my bus timetable (I’m pretty sure my suburb is where they send bus drivers who just don’t care anymore).
His business is thriving, already successful in its sixth month of existence, while not skimping on things competitors might consider luxurious extras for customers. He gets good marks at uni. And from my outside point of view, the family gets enough Dad time. I quizzed him on a few different topics, and I’ll let Barry take it from here:
The main strategy I employ is to have allocated time slots where my wife understands that it’s my time to get work done. This free time can be grouped in to two categories…
- When the kids are at home: 13:00-15:00 (when Marc is napping) and > 22:00 (when they are asleep)
- When Dean is at school and there is someone looking after Marc (Mon, Tues, Fri). Then I usually get about 11:00 – 18:00 to myself plus anytime > 22:00
When it’s my work time, I’ve been waiting all day for this, so I typically don’t want to waste the opportunity. I make a plan in my head of all the things I have to do and prioritise them by earliest deadline first.
The most important component in managing my time is my wife, my parents, and my in-laws. Our parents look after the kids a lot and this gives me the windows of time that allow me to work.
I can’t stress this enough, looking after kids is hard. Even with my wife at home, if there are two kids, I can’t do any work. I see articles with people saying that they work from home while looking after kids, I reckon they’re either full of shit, neglecting their kids, or their job is looking after kids.
So in summary, I keep a running list of to-do items in my head, sometimes I use tools like Asana and Evernote, but I have an okay memory, so I usually go with that. When I get my window of free time, I go for it, it can’t be wasted.
I gave up commercial TV about six years ago. I have a TV in my apartment (it’s almost 20 years old), I only turn it on to put a DVD on for the kids. I watch Netflix and stuff I buy on iTunes on an iPad (more on that later)
I used to drink a lot of coffee because everyone else did. I changed my drinking habit to use coffee as a tool instead of a social drink. I try to wait until I have some free time coming up and need to work. That’s when I have the coffee.
I’ve also set up personal rewards for doing work (more below).
Guilt… that’s actually huge. I was headed in a downward spiral a few years ago while working as an aerospace engineer. It was a terribly boring job and made me depressed. I decided to study at uni while still working full time so that I could change careers. I imposed a lot of hardship on my family, particularly my wife, while I was distracted by multiple priorities. If I sit around and don’t use my time in the most efficient manner, not only do I waste my own time, but I make her contribution less valuable. Guilt drives me everyday, to not let myself down, but also to not let others down.
I also chose computer science. I love coding. I’ve never experienced such joy in study. This makes me want to do my assignments the day they come out.
With the business, I got in to it because of the fact that I would build the website and booking system. Now I do all the other admin stuff. I don’t particularly love it, but I like being in control. What motivates me to do this stuff? If I don’t do it, who else will? If I put it off, that just makes my job harder.
I like to set rewards for myself. Recently while studying, I set myself a goal of two hours of study after the kids go to bed. If I managed that, I watched an episode of X-Files on Netflix. I like using Netflix as a reward because there’s no wasted time with commercials. I know what I want to watch, I watch it, and leave.
Lifehacker posted an article about Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘don’t break the chain‘ rule. I heard about that a few years ago and thought it was great idea, but never bought a calendar. I kind of keep the chain in my head. If I don’t do any productive work in a day, I will feel all kinds of guilt and just feel terrible and anxious by the time I go to bed. I hate that feeling, and I work to avoid it.
I don’t. Kids get sick a lot, so I get sick a lot. I take cold and flu tablets, drink juice, go to bed early and get over it.
Dealing With Stress
I get some exercise, cycling to and from work.
Generally, I try to avoid stress by planning far enough in advance and completing all of my work well before the due date. That said though, you can’t avoid all stressful situations. Shit falls in your lap sometimes. But if it’s in my lap, no one will clean it up but me, and I set a reward for myself for after I deal with the situation.
If there’s an urgent problem I need to deal with, usually I’ll take a moment and break up the solution in to smaller goals so that I feel as though I’m achieving something as I progress to the solution.
Our thanks to Barry for his time!