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 Tai Lopez, business advisor and investor.
We all have 24 hours a day, but the difference between ordinary and extraordinary success lies in how we use those hours.
Many business leaders and entrepreneurs often say to me, “Tai, I’ve got no free time. How do I stay sane?” It’s like saying, “Tai, how can you be happy in a bad marriage?” You might have glimpses of happiness, but it won’t last long term. Likewise, you might have glimpses of sanity with no free time, but eventually you’ll go insane.
You don’t want to create a life of no free time. Just look at Warren Buffett, who runs Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) with his business partner, Charlie Munger. Buffett spends much of his day reading, and once explained how proud he was to show Bill Gates his daily planner: For weeks and even months, Buffett prided himself on it being empty. He famously said, “Lethargy bordering on sloth remains the cornerstone of our investment style.”
Since the 1960s, Buffett has made only a handful of investments with Munger via Berkshire—it currently holds 46 publicly traded U.S. stocks. But 15 of Berkshire’s common stock investments had a market valuation of over $122 billion at the end of 2016.
The lesson: If you have no free time and are always distracted with emails, social media, instant messaging, and meetings, you’re not going to build the life you want. And the stress will take its toll, leading you to be overwhelmed, miss deadlines, and make less money from producing poor-quality work. If you don’t take charge of your life, someone else will.
Here are four ways to stay sane by creating more free time:
Most of your biggest innovations in business will come from sitting in a chair daydreaming—even if it’s boring. Make sure you sit in a chair for 10 to 15 minutes a day with just a yellow notepad. I call it a deep-thinking session. Just brainstorm and diagram. Don’t create another to-do list—that just creates more activity and distraction.
Think about what drives you. Map out your vision. Set some targets; otherwise, your vision is just a dream. The targets could relate to the direction of your business. It might be what skills you want to master like chess, piano, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. (The problem-solving skills these disciplines develop absolutely carry over into business.) It might be how to give back to others through mentoring or charity. Or it might be what kind of legacy you want to leave. Start with the big stuff and see where it takes you.
Ask the right questions
In The One Thing, Gary Keller says that if disproportionate results come from one activity, dedicate disproportionate time to it. Ask yourself, “What’s the one thing I can do that will make everything else easier?” Ask this question for your health, personal life, relationships, career or business, finances, and spiritual life. You’ll begin to focus on what truly matters—which will give you more time—rather than trying to major in minor things. Remember the Russian proverb: “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
Take business meditation road trips
It’s scientifically proven that international travel triggers creativity and boosts brain power. I’ve found that even traveling 150 to 200 miles from home at least once a month has similar benefits. Rotate the locations and stay in a cheap hotel or Airbnb. Bring a stack of books and a notepad. Catch up on reading and strategize your life like an army general. Create some contingency plans for when you return home.
For example, if you know you’ll be busy with your kids during a certain period, plan to wake up earlier or say no to more obligations. Even if you can only be away for two days because of other obligations, a short road trip is enough time to impact the direction of your life.
Don’t forget the fun
Most entrepreneurs reward themselves too infrequently and experience a false sense of efficiency by working 12 to 16 hours a day. A neuroscientist who works for me said, “The brain needs frequent small rewards to keep going and not procrastinate.”
For me, the small reward is socializing at night five or six days a week. It might be visiting the comedy club, catching a movie, or going out to dinner. Toward the end of the week, I’ll go to a bar or club or travel out of town with a small group of friends. I tell myself, “Tai, work hard now. Because in a few hours, you’ll be having fun.”
Lopez is an investor of Berkshire Hathaway.