Tuesday, September 13, 2005

balancing act

Please permit me to reflect for a few moments on the use of time. Time is the most valuable currency we all have. We can choose to spend our time in many ways. There is constant tension in our lives with competing demands on our time. I believe these fall into four major buckets.

Our families require time in the form of attention, affection, and assistance (help on homework, help around the house, etc). This time remains fairly constant with the exception of periods of crisis (which may require most of our time).

Our jobs require time in the form of physical or mental labour to help produce something of value. This time requirement is most likely cyclical where it has some lower bound but ramps up around events or seasons. As companies grow larger these cycles tend to be more predictable as the business achieves it's natural rhythm (this is offset by periods of economic uncertainty where layoffs may place more of a time burden on the employees who remain). The smaller the company, the more chaotic are the demands that get placed on time capital.

Then there are hobbies and socializing. My hobbies are triathlon training and golf. I've also become addicted to the television series 24. Thanks Brad ;)

The last time bucket is sleep.

I haven't quite figured out the balancing act in my life as much as I feel I should by now. My current inclination goes in this order.

  1. Sleep is a necessity for me. I try to get around 7 hours of sleep per night. I can run on less for short periods of time but fairly soon (around a week) all of the other time suck activities start to run in slow motion (that is they take some multiplier of normal amounts of time for the activity) and they rarely run smoothly.
  2. Family - These are the most important people in my life. I try to give them the attention and affection they deserve, but often fall short. I have learned to recognize the warning signs and head off trouble early. If this area is not maintained properly it will affect all other areas of your life (sort of like not getting sleep but in much more painful ways). When I'm not traveling (which joyfully is the predominant case currently) I try to honor mornings before school and early evenings (6-9pm) as sacred.
  3. The working out part of hobbies - My triathlon training is necessary therapy for me. It relieves the day to day tension and forces me to have better eating and sleeping habits. I probably work out 1 to 1.5 hours per day. I don't let this interfere with work or family for the most part but occasionally sleep gets sacrificed.
  4. Job - My work is fairly flexible, which I admit has a great deal to do with maintaining the first 3 priorities. My schedule does fill up with meetings and as a startup, will go through rapid periods of lots of meetings and then transition into execution time. In periods where many meetings are not necessary (i.e. we're not fund raising or refocusing the business model) I will push back on extraneous meetings. I let execution time fill in the reasonable sized chunks in my day (1 hour or more). Most of my socialization time requirements are also met at work (My guess is that this is likely one of the most important things that gets taken away from Moms who've decided to stay home - and why play groups get created)
  5. Other hobbies - These I consider regenerative therapy (like right now). There are other things I could be doing currently than writing this blog entry, but doing so gives me a chance to reflect and helps me do those other things better. This could also be golf or snow boarding or something else that offers the other side of being reflective and forces you to live in the moment.
I would say I'm far from being well balanced, but I'm trying to understand, and perhaps one day it will all become clear (i.e. make enough money and the mandatory part of the job time sink goes away making lots more room for the other activities)

I appologize for double linking to Brad Feld, but do think he has some good insights into life balance that he published in a recent blog entry as well.

Any other thoughts or insights out there?


Anonymous said...
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Ben Casnocha said...

Tim, I reccomend reading "The Power of Full Engagement". See my post:


which comes from that book.

Todd Vernon said...

All sound advice. I too found that carving out 6pm to 8 or 9 was the single biggest contributor to family happiness.

Another great one is getting your spouse a blackberry (obviously only if you have one yourself). It allows you carry on an “all day” conversation that heads off the pent up ass kicking at the end of the day.

Tim Wolters said...

Thanks for the book recommendation Ben. I'll check it out.

Mike Horn said...

Hi Tim,

I've been reflecting on the same thing recently as my work load has been ramping up and the other areas of my life have been feeling the squeeze. A good friend once noted that "balance is dynamic, you never quite reach it". I think this is very true, we have to constantly rebalance as we go through different phases in our lives. Key to this is the self awareness to recognize the decisions, both explict and implicit, that will impact your current life balance.

Keith Pape said...


As a father, triathlete, and entrepreneur (I own a small interactive agency in southern california), I'm really in your boat and balancing act is a great subject. I like your priorities and hope I can one day master them to my and my family's satisfaction.

I'm sure you know that your blog was mentioned in inc magazine, and I'm glad, as I I'm now going to be a regular reader. Good luck and there are lots of us out there rooting for you.



Rich Molumby said...
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jgn said...

To Tom and Tim,

As Triathletes / Entrepreneurs / Parents, when in the day can you train? Is it pre-dawn, lunch, evening. I too am an entrepreneur and run marathons but with 2 kids under 3, just can't seem to get the time in to run.

Keith Pape said...

Hey JGN,

I run or bike in the mornings - get up at 5:30 and am running by 6:00 or so. I use wednesday morning as my 'long' run day and run 90 minutes and however far that gets me. this keeps me to a limiited number of workouts on the weekends - which is family time. I swim at lunch - twice a week and just give it a priority that there can't be lunch meetings every day.

Good luck.


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