With the New Year approaching, you’re probably thinking about what you can improve on in 2017.
If your resolution is to get better at maintaining a balance between your busy work schedule and personal life, read on. We’ve been collecting advice on managing everyday work and life from Seattle-area tech execs over the past year, as part of our regular Working Geek series.
Continue reading for advice, tips, and tricks from some of the Pacific Northwest’s top geeks, and click on any person’s name to read their full Working Geek profile.
Sanjay Puri, co-founder of 9Mile Labs: “You need to have a clear statement of priorities, which arise from core values; the way I think about that is, ‘When push comes to shove, what do I value most?’ My priorities are quite simple — family, health, work, in that order.”
Nicole Piasecki, VP and GM at Boeing: “Surround yourself with people you trust and who have the strengths you lack. I’m very blessed to have a network of people who prop me up and allow me to devote my all to my family and work. Also, stay healthy and meditate to clear your mind.”
Eric Ringer, co-founder of Skyward: “One, I start every work day with some alone time prior to diving into any meetings. During that time I review the tasks I want to get done for the day and read through my email.
Two, I treat my inbox as a task list. If there is an email in there it is because I have action on it. I try to be real with myself about whether I will actually take that action soon. If I won’t, I’ll dismiss the email and have Google remind me about it at a time when it would be more relevant or a higher priority. Inbox zero is the goal.
Three, I try to schedule as much as I can in advance and be forward with friends, family, and coworkers about when I’m available in that respective role.
Four, My wife and I take a Sabbath one day every weekend where we do no work and ideally get outside to hike, camp, bike, or run. Respecting that day gives us dedicated time for each other and is pretty important for emotional and spiritual health.”
Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow Group COO: “Accept that in a given day, you’re not going to be awesome at everything on your plate. In fact, you’ll probably suck at something, that’s the balance of life. As long as it’s not the same thing every day, you’re doing pretty well.”
Julie Larson-Green, Chief Experience Officer at Microsoft: “I often get asked, “How do you do it ALL?” I’m not sure that it’s ever possible to do everything you expect of yourself or what others expect of you. However, I do think you can create your own definition of “all” by deciding what is important to you and prioritizing it. There are always many different inputs telling us what we should and shouldn’t do but I’ve always believed you need to define what balance is for yourself. Figure out what really matters and works for you.
There are things that invigorate me and things that drain me. I focus on making sure I maintain a healthy mix of each on any given day. I also always try to carve out time to refresh and reset, even when things are really busy and I need to be ‘on.’ Scheduling small bits of downtime means I am not always just reacting to problems, but also have time to think and focus on solutions.”
Peter Hamilton, CEO of Tune: “Everything is about prioritization and focus. It is easy to become completely reactive throughout your day, only doing what is being asked of you. I definitely subscribe to wiping the slate clean as often as possible, starting over with priorities and making sure you’re really on the right track. I have to schedule time to crank through tasks. My best days are also days when I keep the right perspective on the problems and challenges that come along. This is not a life or death business, but every problem we solve is interesting. Every day we should remind ourselves that the things we’re working on at TUNE are fascinating and fun, and not something you’d find in a textbook. We get to tackle big data, learn from real marketers, and improve an industry by building more technologies for more transparent measurement. Everyday work life has to have a vision, or else what’s the point?”
Adrienne Gemperle, VP of Partner Resources at Starbucks: “One of my mentors shared a phrase that’s always stuck with me: The power of your yes can only be as strong as the power of your no. I’m purposeful about what I spend time on.”
Dave Parker, CEO of Code Fellows: “There are the things you like to do and the things you have to do. Do the have to do items first, everything else gets easier from there. You can always find time for the things you like.”
Monica Williams, CFO at Avvo: “Identify the time you are most productive in the day, and prioritize your most important things for that time. I like to come in super early and get the important stuff done by 9:00 a.m.”
Scott Baker, VP of Human Resources at INRIX: “At the beginning of each day, I write down three things that I absolutely want to complete that day – I focus on completing them in the morning when my energy level is higher. I group together all items that take less than 10 minutes and schedule an hour on my calendar to complete them. I find that I can crank through several short tasks if I group them together rather than completing them intermittently throughout the day. I try to only read and respond to emails three times a day. Many of these ideas are from a book titled “The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey. My best advice is to surround yourself with a great team. I am blessed to have a great HR Team!”
Scott Porad, CTO of Rover: “My overall strategy for managing life is to create less things to manage. I make systems and processes and schemes in my life, so that I have fewer things to stay on top of. The systems just take care of it for me. I keep lists, use checklists and put reminders on my calendar for far out in the future. I do many things the same way each time, so I don’t have to think about what I’m doing. A little, teeny example would be that I put my car keys in a specific spot at home, so I don’t have to think about where I left them.”
Tim Porter, Managing Director of Madrona Venture Group: “Try to focus on the important and not just the urgent. Be intentional about managing your calendar. From a work perspective, I try to prioritize portfolio companies first, entrepreneurs/prospective investments second, everything else third — with the overarching mindset that Madrona exists to provide great returns to our limited partners (investors). I also try to leave some time to read, think about trends and how I can be more strategic and proactive, and not just react to the flow. This last part is the hardest. Our strategy is to meet and invest in the best entrepreneurs attacking the biggest markets in the Pacific NW and I’m on 10 boards. There are fortunately a ton of interesting things happening in our region these days. So there is a lot of flow.”
Grant Goodale, CTO of Convoy: “Startups are intense, demanding things. I leave for work before my family wakes up, so I’m very protective of what little time I get with them when I get home. My general rule is to automate anything that can be automated and hire or build process around the things that can’t. Be ruthless in eliminating distraction.”
Katie Bardaro, VP of Data Analytics at PayScale: “In terms of advice, I think knowing which battles to fight, who to go to bat for, and who to have go to bat for you are the most important things to figure out for how to manage work and life. There is not enough time in the day to do everything, so you need to determine what’s most important and accept you won’t get to everything.”