entrepreneur's tips for growing your business without giving up your life
outside the office.
About a year ago, a CEO I know well was on the verge of burning out so she
decided to set about transforming her business-life routine. She wanted to work
less and yet still see her company continue to grow rapidly. Who doesn't, right? In
fact, her goal was to double her business and at the same time work only four
days per week. A year into her quest, I caught up with her and asked her how
things were going.
She said that the business was doing surprisingly well, even ahead of the
aggressive projections for growth she had set. How did she do it? The key was in
changing some long-established habits. Below, she explains some of the changes
she enacted that allowed her, and her company, to get more efficient.
1. Check email 2-3 times a day and never first
thing in morning--As CEO, I found I was spending entirely too much time
on busywork and other people's priorities. Cutting back the number of times I
checked e-mail freed up a significant chunk of my time every day. I also learned
how to utilize the functionality of Microsoft Outlook (especially e-mail rules) and set
up automated filing of routine e-mails into folders that I can batch and read at
my convenience and not be distracted by them individually.
2. Establish rules about communications:
a. E-mail is not for urgent issues.
My rule is "If you need to speak with me urgently, call
management. Meetings are 30 minutes by default (instead of 60) unless
otherwise needed and justified. They also are not accepted on the calendar
without an agenda 24 hours in advance.
c. Meetings are for
decisions only. That means they are not just for communication--that can
be accomplished more efficiently by other means.
3. Keep a running list of
items to discuss with your team--Often times being in attendance at the
office every day of the week creates an environment of "drop-in" availability
which is inefficient. By keeping a running list of items to discuss with key
team members and then using scheduled time to unpack all of the issues at once
limits the frequency and inefficiency of one-off meetings. You also get the
added benefit of more self-reliant people.
What she learned along the way:
productivity--Freeing up the time also freed up my mind. One of the great
values that CEOs can bring to their company is clarity and decisiveness. This
requires time out of the snowstorm of the day-to-day operations.
2. Focused on doing
important things rather than everything--Setting the rules for
communication not only changed my perspective on my day-to-day contributions but
also changed my team's approach to their workload and productivity.
3. An improved work/life
balance--It may seem like a little change, but that extra day per week
has really helped my mental and physical health.
It's possible. You can do this. In this case, the transition took about 3
months to complete, and there have been some exceptions to the 1-day off
schedule because of conferences and clients. However, I have a 75 percent
success rate of taking Mondays off and things are getting
By Tom Searcy