STORIES FROM THE DRIFT – How founders drift away from their friends, family, health, hobbies and sleep

In these unprecedented times of (using the word unprecedented) uncertainty, many of us are contemplating taking the leap of faith and becoming a fulltime entrepreneur. In this edition of the Zymurgist Diaries, let’s aim to understand why most Founders (and most humans) often fall prey to the “Future-positive”, “Present-hedonistic” and “Past-pessimistic” time perspectives.

And, it is these perspectives that are co-related to outcomes such as approach to one’s family and friends, mental and physical health, risk-taking behaviours and approach to co-workers and their personal situations. Founders drift away from some of the basic necessities of a fulfilled life such as friends, family, health, hobbies and sleep; and how some simple techniques can help.

Countless litres of ink (and pixel space) have been expended articulating the impediments of having a work-life balance for startup founders. As Randi Zuckerberg famously described the entrepreneur’s dilemma:

“Maintaining friendships.

Building a great company.

Spending time with family.

Staying fit.

Getting sleep.

Pick any 3”

There are trade-offs – some good, some bad, and some ugly that founders make to pursue their passions. Countless litres of ink (and pixel space) have been expended articulating the importance of “time management” and how it is possible to have time for all of the above and more.

As Apurva Hendi aptly put it – “Every aphorism has its antithesis”. However, not many founders are successful at “time management” despite the intent.

Instead, founders need to consider “time perspectives” and act accordingly.

Have I piqued your interest? Read on…

In my last article – “STORIES FROM THE PFFFFFT: The unlikely likeness between running start-ups and raising children”, we saw the juggling funambulists that startup founders are – something like the below:

Founders often tend to have a case of Groundhog Day, every day; in that, every day is a Monday.

Founders often don’t seem to have control over their schedules and end up either fire-fighting or gold-plating. “Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant: Where they create desolation, they call it peace.” – Calgacus

Be aware of the “Completion Bias.”

It is one of those human biases when your brain specifically desires the pleasure that completing a task brings.

For many people (including myself sometimes), the activity of list-making is an important ritual of staying organized. However, completion bias tricks your brain into “focusing on only small tasks because you will want to experience more positive feelings.” Consequently, you spend your days on tasks like answering emails, or attending meetings or worse, creating more lists of worthless tasks.

Time is the only real capital anyone has.

It is also the only asset we are almost criminally negligent about, and that there is no greater tragedy than our need for procrastination.

Procrastination is not the same as scheduling, though.

We have been conditioned to think that there is clearly no greater tragedy than our need for procrastination. However, we are not trained to look at “time perspectives”. Hence, we try to make sure that we do not waste time and are constantly engaged in some or the other activity. However, a few one soon realises there is a very thin line between procrastination and scheduling, and that; my Founder-friend; is what makes all the difference.

So, how can Founders prioritise what they do?

Let’s start by mapping the key stakeholders in their lives, their expectations and finally, the priorities across 2 basic dimensions:

  1. Power – the power they exert in your life – both present and the future
  2. Interest – the  level of interest you have in engaging or managing them
  • High Power, HIGH Interest:  such as your startup, and family.  Keep them close to your heart and give them all the time they need.
  • High Power, LOW Interest:  such as health, learning and managing finances – BLOCK SOME TIME! Keep them satisfied, else they will come back and bite you.
  • LOW Power, HIGH Interest:  such as your friends, hobbies, and community .  Keep track of them, block some time on a monthly basis – but do not let go of them.
  • LOW Power, LOW Interest:  OUTSOURCE!!

Set and enforce a personal HOURLY RATE for your time outside work.

If OUTSOURCING a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.

But first, what is “time”?

To quote the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu – “Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time,” is the same as saying, “I don’t want to.”“

Consistent with the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, we define time as a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and as the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them. I was able to start painting again after a hiatus of 20 years, just because I chose to block time for it. I realised that life was just slipping away and one had to make time out of the 24 hours (The paintings can be bought here with all proceeds going to charity.)

In that case, can we create a 25th hour in the day?

Back in the spring of 2014, one of my classmates at LBS: Vicki Boaden (Hunt) presented her assignment on creating the 25th hour in the day by bringing in operational efficiencies in whatever we are doing, thereby freeing up time for other things we want to do. That thought stuck with me and ever since, have been looking at ways of creating the 25th, 26th and 27th hours of the day 😊 (I wish…), but you get the drift.

So, that begs the question: how does one create that 25th hour in the day?

Simple activities such as the use of productivity tools to manage repeatable tasks, autocomplete tools to write emails, AI-based note-takers in Zoom meetings(Gong), using email/calendar templates in Outlook, shortcuts to commonly used folders, VBA to sort, outsourcing to Fiverr, using ONENOTE for maintaining key information/shortcuts/commonly used data, blocking time out in your calendar etc. can save a few minutes every day. Am sure everyone has their own methods of saving time (and in turn, making time).  The main principle of lean project management is delivering more value with less waste in a project context. “Lean” is a systematic method for the elimination of waste (“Muda”) within a manufacturing system.

Extra monitor(s)? HELL, YES!

Get a second/third/fourth/fifth monitor. It goes a long way.

Using different web-browsers for different activities

Another time-saver that I’d like to share is using different web-browsers for different categories of work. There are 10 browsers out there in the market and here’s an example of how I use them:

  • Google Chrome – Personal browsing
  • Microsoft Edge – Work-related project 1
  • Mozilla Firefox – Work-related project 2
  • Waterfox – Work-related project 3
  • Vivaldi – venture capital
  • Opera – venture studio
  • Opera Neon – Research
  • Brave – Blogs and writing
  • IceDragon – Others
  • Iron Browser – Others

So, even though I have 500 tabs open, I know exactly where to place ‘em (and find ‘em)

Efficient booking of meetings

And given Founders spend about 10-15 minutes every single time they have to book an external meeting (finding common timeslots, sending out meeting invites, rescheduling other slots), using tools such as Calendly, Hubspot etc. meetings.

Such Outlook add-ins make it easy to schedule meetings without ever leaving your inbox. From your Outlook toolbar, you can access your scheduling links or create a customized invitation for your invitee to choose from.

Here are the links:

1) Hubspot Calendar: https://knowledge.hubspot.com/integrations/use-hubspots-integration-with-google-calendar-or-outlook-calendar

2) Calendly:  https://calendly.com/blog/outlook-com/

So, going back to “TIME PERSPECTIVE”:

Time matters at the micro (individual), meso (firm), and macro (context) levels

To quote Moren Lévesque, and Ute Stephan in their paper “It’s Time We Talk About Time in Entrepreneurship”: time perspectives result from cognitive processes partitioning human experiences into past, present, and future temporal frames. Based on one’s past experiences and current situation, one falls into one of the below traps (as a Founder too):

  1. The Time Scarcity  Trap – Poor time management often leads to the need to accelerate the pace of time to get more things done within the same period of time, which is typically experienced as time pressure.

Time pressure, in turn, can shift time perspectives to the present to deal with tasks that become increasingly urgent, rather than engage in future-oriented planning or reminisce about the past.

2. The Time Affluence Trap – Time Affluence (compared to time scarcity) broadens the individual’s cognitive perspective, reduces negative affective states, and enables individuals to develop a balanced time perspective profile. Conversely, the experience of decelerated pace of time―a sense of time affluence whereby individuals feel that they have enough time to pursue what they want.

However, even experienced Founders think they have the time to do everything and end up falling into this trap. Also, prioritisation, pace and quality suffer the most

3. The balance of TIME PERSPECTIVES – A past-positive time perspective can facilitate learning by enabling entrepreneurs to look back at what worked, what did not work, and how they can tweak processes. This balance of time perspectives in the entrepreneurial team and its consequences on time management can be achieved by creating regular opportunities for time affluence.

Diversity (Culture, Gender, Age, Background,  etc.) in the entrepreneurial team can be used to exemplify another connection between time perspective and time management.

When Founders are able to apply TIME PERSPECTIVES in their approach to their startup, investments, family, health, friends, and hobbies; they will realise where their priorities lie. For better or for worse, there is no “One-size-fits-all” approach to have an epiphany here. It is an extremely personal undertaking, and one must go through the grind to be able to appreciate what matters to them.

Founders (and most humans) often fall prey to the “Future-positive”, “Present-hedonistic” and “Past-pessimistic” time perspectives. And, it is these perspectives that are co-related to outcomes such as approach to one’s family and friends, mental and physical health, risk-taking behaviours and approach to co-workers and their personal situations.

Parting thoughts till the next blog:

I recently had the privilege of hosting Heidi Roizen on my podcast – A Done Deal, where I had 2 key takeaways:

  1. Find a fellow co-traveller in your journey (as a Founder, parent etc.) who is in the same space/situation as you are in, and explore each other’s approaches to similar situations.
  2. Happiness in life (and entrepreneurship) often boils down to “Meaningful work, meaningful relationships”

#TheZymurgistDiaries #GrowthMindset #Leadership #EntrepreneurialMindset #EntrepreneurialChallenges #covid19times

See more from this series here.


About the author: 24x Founder, 3x Success, 2x VCExit, 19x Failure, 100x Resilient, 14x Sectors, 6x Continents, $2+bn deals originated and advised.

Chennakeshav Adya (Keshav) is an eclectic value creator for mid-sized firms and PE/VC funds on Fund-raising, M&A, growth, corporate strategy and deal-making (currently, as co-founder of Adan Corporate). He is a resourceful entrepreneur with 20+ years of global experience in building businesses from a concept and growing global teams from 2 to 200+.

A deca-lingual, multi-talented zymurgist, Keshav is skilled at using the founder’s mentality and thrives in uncertainty and chaos, directing teams through the “Unknown” in the initial 1-2 years of setting up any type of new venture.

As an Entrepreneur Mentor in Residence (EMiR), Keshav is associated with London Business School’s experiential entrepreneurship activities supporting students and alumni who are interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship, whether launching or growing their own ventures.

PS: As a part of the Movember movement, Keshav is raising money towards raising awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, and men’s suicide. Suicide in men, as most of us do not know, is the LEADING cause of death among men under 45. That number should feel horrifying because it is horrifying.

The money raised by the Movember movement will help make a tangible difference to the lives of others, through the world’s most promising cancer research and mental health support programs that support adults and their families battling and surviving mental health problems.

Link to donate: https://uk.movember.com/mospace/10132933 . Thank you.

#mentalhealth #prostratecancer #suicide #cancer #movember

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