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Captain's log, startup-day 142: Work-Life Balance

by Evren Ozkaya on 18 July 2014

I have been waiting for this day. Finally, I could have the chance to look back and analyze all of my time-tracking (last 142 days to be exact) and see "how much" I was working vs. well, enjoying life's other tasks during this early start-up phase.

I got scared from all the horror stories of demanding work, over-worked founders, sleepless nights... and so on. Just check these EntrepreneurInc and Forbes articles out and you know what I mean.


From day 1, I already felt building something from scratch was quite hard and exhausting. You have to be the business developer, administrator, analyst and project manager (besides the Accountant, CFO, Strategic Planner...) all at the same time.

So I was pretty sure that I was going to find the analysis of my time quite skewed towards "work" rather than "life"... I was wrong! This is what I got as a result: 40% work, 60% life!

I said to myself, this was a calculation error or I was really not working as hard as I thought.

On one side, I counted the work items & hours: 1377.5 hours

  • Administration
  • Travel & commute
  • Clients, contacts
  • Marketing & Outreach
  • Product & Service Development
  • Professional development

On the other side was my life items & hours: 2094.5 hours

  • Healthy life (eating, sleeping, exercise..etc.)
  • Family time
  • Household work
  • Personal time
  • Friends
  • Time-killers (facebook, TV...etc.)

An old friend/colleague asked me a question few days ago: "how is it to start your own company? Is it hard?". I was mentally getting ready to answer: Yes, that's very hard. It is fun, but a lot of hours, long days, which would make my ego feel good, because I wanted to believe I am working hard...but, wait a second, my own data did not support these conclusions. or has it?

So.. what is the conclusion from this data? There are 3 possible options, and I can argue all of them:

1. Balanced: Great work-life ratio

  • My "life" (60%) is 1.5X more than my "work" (40%)
  • Work to-dos are still getting accomplished
  • Family is not complaining that much (for the moment)
  • Conclusion: 40/60 work/life ratio is an excellent one: keep it this way!

2. Imbalanced: I am working too much

  • Regular employees work 40hrs/week (out of 168 hrs in a week): that's 24% work only (vs. 76% life)
  • This means I am working ~1.7X more than typical employee (that sounds a lot)
  • Conclusion: 40/60 work/life ratio is too much work: get a life or a regular job!

3. Imbalanced: I am working too little

  • I don't fit the profile of "hard-working" tech start-up founders in Silicon Valley
  • I am sleeping an average of 6.95 hrs/day, well above average
  • Conclusion: I am a lazy founder, need to work much more to be even close to being successful: get your boots back to office, now!

Which conclusion is the right one? What is the perfect score anyway? Or is there one?

I think it is very early to tell whether this is a balanced way of starting up a business, and how this ratio will change over time as I get more client projects/engagements, while possibly adding more resources to balance up.

However, here are some additional insights on the data that was most interesting to me, and what I am planning to change based on this. I hope these learnings will give some guidance to you (other start-ups and founders) out there, which I am also interested in hearing back on your "work-life balance" and how you measure it.

  1. Too much travel: #1 time sink after sleeping with 448 hrs (13% of my entire life). Last week I booked an entire 30+ hours on commute & flights. This deserves a second look, and a better way to manage remote work to reduce unnecessary travel.
  2. Little time for friends: a mere 1% time spent with friends, which I am embarrassed while writing this. I would make an extra effort to leverage some of my commute/travel time to call friends and catch up. Also more lunch & weekend get togethers, I promise!
  3. Household work is staggering: at 157 hrs (5% of time), which is a prime target for further outsourcing and simplification/automation.

I think this topic is a constant struggle for many, hence the thousands of articles, blog posts on that. However, I haven't seen one yet that tries to quantify this mythical " work/life balance equation". Toggl helped me collect the data for a good start.

Similar to Captain Kirk, I will continue to update my log regularly and share my insights from time to time.

What is YOUR work-life balance measurement? Are you satisfied with your status quo? How would you improve it?

________________

Picture source: Google images - Captain Kirk (William Shatner) from Star Trek

About the author: Evren Ozkaya, Ph.D. is the Founder and CEO of Supply Chain Wizard, LLC, a management and technology consulting firm focusing on designing strategies to improve operational performance of companies with complex supply chains. Dr. Ozkaya writes about various topics such as Productivity, Consulting, Communication & Presentation Skills, Technology & Data Analytics, Supply Chain Security and Supply Chain Transformations.

 

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