Would you like to leave the office at 5:00 p.m. today to make it home for dinner? Would you like to do it without feeling guilty?
Early in my career I was constantly overworked and overwhelmed. As the founder and president of a fast growing startup, I worked long days, slept too little, and literally jogged down the office corridors rushing from meeting to meeting. When I was at home, my mind was still at work. Going through the motions of date night, stacking blocks with my daughter, but thinking the whole time about the million dollar pitch I still had to work on.
My life changed when I read High Output Management, by then Intel CEO, Andy Grove. In the book, he describes how he always arrives to work by eight in the morning, but never leaves later than six, and he never brought work home with him.The CEO of a major tech company clocks out at 6:00 p.m. every day? How is that possible?
Later I would read about other highly successful people:
- Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, leaves work at 5:30 p.m. every day so she can have dinner with her kids at 6:00 p.m.
- Doug Conant, as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, made the time to hand-write twentythank you notes each day.
- President George W. Bush held an annual reading contest with Karl Rove; although he lost the bet, President Bush read 95 books in one year.
The leader of the Free World has time to read 95 books in one year?
You just know the President of the United States of America has a million things to do. At the end of each day, there are more foreign leaders to call and influence, more CIA briefings to read, more campaign contributors to suck-up to, more veterans to visit, more voters to rally, more, more, more—and by the nature of the job, he had a limited number of days to make an impact! And yet President Bush “found” time to read 95 books in one year.
In his book, Grove described a fundamental time management truth:
My day ends when I’m tired and ready to go home, not when I’m done. I am never done…There is always more to be done, more that should be done, always more than can be done.
That simple realization—there will always be more to do—hit me like a ton of bricks. The ultimate secret:
There will always be more to do; I will never be done.
Highly successful people don’t just burn hour after hour trying to cross more items off their to-do list. Instead, they think through their priorities, schedule time for each, and then enough is enough.
Bush probably valued reading two books a week because it was a way to relieve stress, get smarter, and he knew that recharging was, in itself, a valuable task. Sandberg is committed to Facebook’s success, but also values her family and thus schedules time (invests her time) with them. Conant once told me that writing thank you notes was his ritual for daily gratitude—it enabled him to see all that was going well, after a day of putting out fires.
Yes, your work is important; your career is important. And there will always be more to do in these areas.
What else is important to you? Exercise? Family? Sleep?
Looking back, I view my always on the go lifestyle as a form of laziness. I wore “crazy busy” like a badge of honor (“Look what an important entrepreneur I am! Busy, busy, busy!”)
But once I contained the number of hours I spent on work each week—and it was still a lot of hours—I had more energy, more focus, and ironically, achieved better results.
Now is the time to send a txt message to your spouse; say you’ll be home for dinner.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com