The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you stay sane with little to no free time?” is written by Warren Webster, president and CEO of Coveteur.
Part of the reason I love startups and growth-stage companies is that there is no shortage of instant gratification. They offer a seemingly endless supply of sprints, blitzes, fires, and email grenades from clients that cause you to drop everything else. Knocking down 20 or so of these mini crises a day is extremely satisfying, and to me a lot more fun than a job with a “routine.”
The downside for some people—including my younger self—is that it’s almost impossible—no, totally impossible—to go home in the evening feeling like you crossed everything off your to-do list. There is always more to do. And you could, and sometimes do, work 24/7 if you let yourself try to chase that “one last thing.” But that’s not good for anyone in the long run.
Here are some tips that have helped me get better at managing it all without letting it all fall apart:
Remind yourself that it’s not strategic to manage only in the day-to-day
Being on the front lines is important, but if it consumes you, you won’t be pushing ahead the two or three most important long-term projects. Set aside time to get out of the office and away from distraction to think about long-term goals and make plans.
Coveteur’s New York office is on Broadway in Soho. At least twice a week, I’ll block an hour to get out and walk, and if it’s nice out, I might have lunch in Washington Square Park. This allows me to escape from the back-to-back detailed meetings and email overflow, and put some thought into the bigger picture.
Put free time on your calendar and honor it, whether it’s during the day, nights out with friends, or doing nothing at all
I make a point to schedule one lunch or after-work drink with a friend every week so it’s not all business all the time.
Find something else you’re passionate about and devote some time to that
Two years ago, I joined the board of trustees at Northfield Mount Hermon School, a college preparatory school in Massachusetts. I also help out at a small nonprofit in New York City—The Adventure Project—that helps create jobs in developing countries. It may seem counter-intuitive to add to your list of commitments, but I’ve found it to be clarifying and rewarding to solve totally different problems for a few hours a month.
Take your vacation
I’ve never had a problem with taking vacation—I look forward to travel and time off—but I’ve noticed some people don’t do it, often because they think they’re going to disappoint their boss for being out of the office for a few days. But that’s what vacation is! Your boss will be more disappointed about you burning out than missing a little work. You’re not doing anyone any good by being the good soldier, and you’ll come back with renewed enthusiasm and energy.