Work-life balance as an entrepreneur

This is an increasingly interesting topic for me, and after my last post reflecting on my 2015 overview, I think it deserves a longer post.

One of the best work-life balance gurus in Spain and a great friend, Jose Carlos Hualde, once told me that the secret of happiness lies in 2 simple principles:

Humbleness: to understand and be thankful for the privilege one has to be here and now, with the capacity to control your own destiny and enjoy it fully, while so many others unfortunately cannot.

Possibilism: which relates to the fact that we need to aim for the stars in our goals, but feel happy when we reach what is under the reach of our very own capacities. Always wanting more, needing more, which cannot be achieved, both in our personal or professional environments, only leads to frustration and unhappiness.

And he suggested I should make a list of the things that make me feel whole: my green book, and also the list of things that make me feel at unease: my red book. So that I could use it as a guide of what is right and wrong in my life.

It is not that I should just focus on doing the things that make me feel better, since you always have responsibilities, constrains, etc in your life, but at least you should understand how far off you are from your own goals and what is the path towards reaching them.

These where my Green Book items:

  • Spend quality time with my girls in some interesting, rich activities: zoo, discovering the nature, building stuff.
  • Practice more sports: Paddle, Fitness, Skying,
  • Have time to spend with my wife, alone, to do the things we both like: hiking, cinema, plan & build our family´s home (both physically and metaphorically).
  • Building impactful projects, being involved with innovative technologies.
  • Have insightful conversations with my folks to share my challenges and get their vision of life and learnings.
  • Travel more: show the girls the world, visit exotic places with Elena which enrich our perception of the world.
  • Give back to the entrepreneurial community: blog posts, talks, teach.
  • Host dinners at home, enjoy insightful conversations with my closest friends.

And my Red Book had this:

  • Working over 60 hours per week.
  • Excessive pressure on results, which are very difficult to achieve, which leads to fear of not being able to deliver to the expectations.
  • Divergence of risk aversion and work-life balance with my wife.
  • Always be looking for more repercussion of what I do: blogs, tweets, growth… continuous in-satisfaction after reaching new milestones in my life.
  • Tense relationships in the professional field, where blame is looked for instead of how to solve the issues.
  • Big responsibility on the team, the funding, the customers, family relationships, friends.

I have one of these types of personalities who has trouble being completely happy, even if I have all the ingredients to do so. Too bad, I definitely need to work harder on this.

Excessive sense of responsibility, perfectionism and the feeling of not delivering to the expectations both personally and professionally can be a driver of action but also an insidious pain.

Now that I look back to that list, it mostly goes tied to the lack of time to do what I like more, and the stress of managing an hyper-growth startup. At the same time I feel incredibly excited about the possibility of building something really big and unique with global impact with CartoDB.  What I like most (building disruptive technologies, changing the status quo of an industry) is also producing collateral damages of what I dread most.

Entrepreneurs are not only sick optimists but also bi-polar mad individuals.

How can a better balance between the tsunami of tasks and thing to get done daily and the need to spend time with your family and devote time for yourself to rest and be healthy and fit?. I have not the best answer there, many others around me perform better. I feel Arrola is a great example of being on top of hundreds of things and still having time for family and his passions.

My two cents here are:

  • Delegate more
  • Think more about what needs to be done, to prioritize what is important vs what is urgent, and let go what is not really relevant. It will come back in the future.
  • Block time for yourself and your family in your daily calendar, and be strict about it.
  • Stay away from your email, slack, mobile phone after a certain time daily, and avoid going to sleep or waking up with your phone in your hands.
  • Avoid being a chaos monkey, where your opinions and suggestions create more workload to those around you, instead of solving issues.
  • Avoid time sinks, where you spend endless hours in meetings or tasks which produce little results
  • Enjoy what you do, at work and at home, and remember the two principles I cited in this article: Humbleness and possibilism.